Baltic DP questionnaire cited in immigrant study

Baltic DP family history collected for the “No Home To Go To” exhibition and posted on the Balzekas Museum website has been cited in a study by Egidija Ramanauskaite comparing displaced persons or WWII political refugees from Lithuanian to economic immigrants who came to the US after the Soviet Union disbanded. Ramanauskaitė is a senior researcher at the Center for Cultural Studies at Vytautas Magnus University specializing in identity and migration issues. In “Two Patterns of Lithuanian-American Behavior: The Political Refugee and the Economic Immigrant” published in the journal Lituanus1 [Vol. 61:2 (2015)], she lists DP interview data on the Balzekas Museum website among written sources:

“Despite limited resources, hardships and an uncertain fate, the Baltic DPs created a rich and varied cultural life in the camps. They established schools for children an adults; published newspapers and books; maintained religious worship; organized choirs, ensembles, and folk-art guilds; revived scouting and other fraternal activities disrupted by war; and founded civic and political organizations to advocate for themselves and for their Soviet-occupied countrymen.”

The Semėnas family in Germany after WWII

Ramanauskaitė writes that after immigrating to the United States, DPs continued their cultural and political activities: “The DP community perceived its mission as the liberation of Lithuania, and this encouraged everybody to work towards this goal.” Ramanauskaitė cites the affiliations and activities of the Semėnas family to illustrate the extent to which DPs as an immigrant group were committed to cultural and community preservation:

“My parents were very active in Lithuanian activities in Chicago. My father was a member of ALIAS (Lithuanian Engineers Association), Lithuanian professors association, and several other organizations. My mother was a member of Lietuvos Dukterys, BALF [Baltic American Freedom League], Chicago Lithuanian Women’s Club, Draugas, Balzekas Museum and other organizations. They were supporters of children’s charities and the Lithuanian Opera. As a child, I was not active in Lithuanian organizations, but I always enjoyed going to Šokių Šventes [Lithuanian Dance Festivals] and the Lithuanian Opera.” [Semėnas Family questionnaire.]

The Semėnas family questionnaire, completed by Nijolė Semėnas Etzwiler with assistance from her mother Stasė Semėnas who has since passed away, was among the first submitted to the Baltic DP project in preparation for the “No Home To Go To” exhibition. A key objective of exhibition organizers in developing the questionnaire was to collect the individual and family stories of Baltic DPs so this history can be told and preserved for educational and scholarly purposes, such as Ramanauskaitė’s study. In an effort to continue gathering this important data, Baltic DPs are encouraged to complete and to submit questionnaires on behalf of themselves or other family members who experienced displacement. [More about the Baltic DP Questionnaire]

1Lituanus is an English language journal dedicated to Lithuanian and Baltic art, history, language, literature and related cultural topics and has featured articles about Baltic displaced persons in past issues, which are archived on the Lituanus.org website.