Lithuanian Life and Landmarks in America

For 150 years, successive waves of Lithuanian immigrants have come to America seeking a new life and opportunities.  In celebration of Lithuanian immigrants and their contributions to this country, the Balzekas Museum of Lithuanian Culture is excited to launch a new project entitled: “Lithuanian Life and Landmarks in America”.  Collecting and preserving oral histories of Lithuanian immigrants and their descendants throughout the United States is integral to this project.  These histories and archival materials from the Museum’s own collections will be used to develop both physical and online exhibits as well as interactive maps and guided tours documenting where and how Lithuanian Americans lived, worked, studied, prayed, and played. 

To ensure the history and contributions of Lithuanian Americans are preserved for future generations, the Balzekas Museum invites Lithuanian immigrants and their descendants throughout the United States to fill out the following questionnaire:

The Vakaris Family

vilija_vakararis
The Vakaris family poses in Marquette Park, Chicago.   
  • If possible, please send us photographs (originals or digital copies, 300 dpi) that would illustrate each section of the questionnaire. Please number your photographs and include the following information with each photograph (if known): when and by whom the photograph was taken, location pictured in the photograph, names of people in the photograph. 
  • If you would like to arrange an audio or video interview for you or a loved one, please contact us at info@balzekasmuseum.org or call at 773-582-6500.
  • To submit a questionnaire in writing, please complete the agreement on this page and the attached questionnaire and email both to info@balzekasmuseum.org 

Questionnaire

  1. Please download, review, sign, and email the questionnaire instructions and agreement form here. PDF (Required for all interviews)
  2. Select the questionnaire version  (I or II below) that best describes you and your circumstances. 
  3. The questions below are intended as guides only. If you do not wish to answer a question, please omit it. 
  4. Fill out the supplementary detailed genealogy chart. (Optional)

I.

You were born in the U.S. or you came here as a child. 

About You
  1. What is your name?
  2. Why did your parents choose this name? Did you have a nickname and who gave it to you? What did your parents call you? What did/do your friends call you now?
  3. When and where were you born?
  4. What were your parents’ names? When and where were they born? Who were your grandparents? When and where were they born? (Optional: please download and fill out the supplementary detailed genealogy chart.)
  5. When did your family or ancestor(s) immigrate to this country? When and why did they leave Lithuania? Did they all come at once or separately?  
Home & Community
  1. Where was your first home (in the U.S.)? When did you live there? Why did your family move to this community? Was this an urban, suburban, small town, or rural community; was this an established community or brand new development; do you remember addresses or major roads/intersections; what other details come to mind?
  2. Describe your childhood home. Was it old or new? Did you live in an apartment, duplex, high rise, single-family home? Did you have a yard or garden and what did you grow?
  3. Was your house decorated in any particular style? Which possessions or family heirlooms were displayed about your home? Who looked after your home? Did you have any chores?
  4. Who lived with you? Who were your closest friends and neighbors? Were there any memorable characters in your neighborhood? Were there Lithuanians nearby?
  5. Which neighborhood events or occasions stand out in your memory?
  6. Were there any Lithuanian businesses, services, or professional offices in your neighborhood? Do you remember their names? Did you shop at any Lithuanian stores? What kinds of products did they sell?
  7. How often did you venture outside of your community? Why?
  8. How long did you live in this home and community? If you moved, when and why did you move? How old were you when you moved away? Where else did you live and when did you live there?
  9. Where do you live now and why? How do this home and community compare to your childhood home and neighborhood?
Family Life
  1. What is your earliest childhood memory?
  2. Describe a typical weekday during your childhood? Adolescence? Now?
  3. Which schools did you attend and when did you go there (e.g., preschool, elementary school, high school, college/university)? What were they like?  Who were your favorite teachers? What were your favorite classes? Did you attend Lithuanian classes or heritage schools?
  4. Who worked in your household and how did they support the family?
  5. Describe a typical family dinner. Who did the cooking? What were your favorite foods?
  6. Did you learn any skills (e.g., cooking, carpentry, crafts, playing an instrument) and who taught them? Have you retained those skills and passed them on to others?
  7. What did you do on the weekends? What activities did the family do together? Did you have any hobbies or interests? What hobbies or interests do you have now? Which games did you play in your free time?
  8. What were your best and worst subjects? What did children do after school? Did they play any games? 
  9. What did you do during the summer?
  10. What was important to your parents and to you then? What is important to you now? Were there any conflicting opinions, such as cultural differences or world views, between you and the adults in your family?
  11. What is/was your occupation and how did you choose it? Do you still work? If yes, where do you work now?
  12. I you were or are married now, when and where did you meet your spouse? What was your wedding like? Did you incorporate any Lithuanian traditions into your ceremony? What memory stands out the most from your wedding day?
  13. If you have children, what is most satisfying to you about raising them? What was most difficult? What values do you/did you try to impart in your children that your family passed down to you?
Religion & Traditions
  1. What was your religious life like growing up? Where did your family attend religious services? Are those churches still there?
  2. How were religious, national holidays, other special occasions (Lithuanian Independence Day, Christmas, Easter, Thanksgiving, birthdays, etc.) celebrated in your family? Did your family have special traditions or rituals at these times?
  3. Do you remember attending funerals? Do any stand out in your mind? Where are your loved ones buried?
  4. Which traditions and rituals from childhood do you still maintain in your adult life? Which traditions have disappeared? Do you miss any of these traditions?
  5. Do you recall any traumatic experiences from your childhood? Did you have any heroes? Was there anyone or anything you were afraid of?
Social Life
  1. Where did you go to see a movie, play, or concert? Was there a neighborhood music or theater group? Did you perform in song and folk-dance festivals? Who were the favorite local performers?
  2. Where were favorite gathering spots in your community? Was there a neighborhood bar, restaurant, or community center that you frequented?
  3. Did you play any sports? What were the most popular sports? Did children play games in the neighborhood?
  4. Did you belong to any fraternities, societies, clubs, scouts, or other community organizations?
  5. What newspapers did you or your family members read? What radio programs did you listen to? What TV programs did you watch? Do you follow developments in Lithuania? 
  6. What were your families political beliefs growing up? What political or community organizations were your family or you involved in? Did you participate in demonstrations or events that supported Lithuanian causes and freedom during the Cold War? Which ones?
  7. What events impacted you the most while growing up? What historic events to do you remember? Were you ever scared or worried about the news? Conversely, what gave you cause for celebration and why?
  8. Do you speak or read Lithuanian? Do your children or grandchildren speak Lithuanian? What challenges have you faced speaking the language. If you don’t speak Lithuanian, would you like to learn the language?
  9. Did you ever visit Lithuania? When and why? What was your impression of the country? 
  10. How has your Lithuanian heritage shaped your identity? What do you want others to know about you?
  11. Is there anything else that you would like to say now that you haven’t yet been asked?

Ačiū! Thank you!

II.

You came to the United States as an adult.

About You
  1. What is your name?
  2. Why did your parents choose this name? Did you have a nickname (or term of endearment) and who gave it to you? What did your parents call you? What do your friends or acquaintances call you?
  3. When and where were you born?
  4. What were your parents’ names? When and where were they born? Who were your grandparents? When and where were they born? (Optional: please download and fill out the supplementary detailed genealogy chart.)
  5. Why did you decide to leave Lithuania? Did you come alone or with your family?
  6. How long have you lived in the United States of America? What were your first impressions of this country? Did they conflict with what you thought it would be like?
  7. How do you feel now about your or your family’s decision to leave Lithuania? Do you want to go back someday?
Home & Community
  1. Where did you live when you first came to this country? Why and how long did you choose to live there? If you’ve moved since then, where do you live now? Why did you choose this community? How would you describe your neighborhood (e.g., city, suburbs, country; old neighborhood, new neighborhood; close-knit or people keep to themselves? 
  2.  What surprised you most about this country? About your new community (e.g., residents of Chicago or its suburbs, could talk about their impressions of the city of Chicago in general)? 
  3. Describe your current home, e.g., do you live in an apartment, duplex, high rise, single-family home? Do you have a yard or garden? If so, what do you grow?
  4. Is there anything distinctively Lithuanian about your how you decorate or live in your home? Do you have any objects in your home that reflect your Lithuanian heritage (e.g., folk-art, maps, books, sports memorabilia); if so, what are they?   
  5. If you don’t live alone, who lives with you? Who are your closest friends and neighbors? 
  6. Who are the people you interact with the most in your community?  Are there any Lithuanians in your immediate neighborhood, in your community as a whole?
  7. Who are the people that have made the greatest impression on you since you moved to the U.S.?
  8. Which events or occasions stand out in your memory?
  9. Are there any Lithuanian businesses, services, or professional offices in your neighborhood? Do you remember their names? Do you shop at any Lithuanian stores? What kinds of products do they sell? Do you frequent Lithuanian restaurants or bars?
  10. Describe a typical week day? Describe a typical weekend?
  11. Do you or does anyone in your family prepare traditional Lithuanian foods? If so, what are your favorite dishes?
  12. Do you celebrate holidays? 
  13. Do you speak Lithuanian at home? If you have children, do they speak Lithuanian?
  14. Do you attend Lithuanian community events? (e.g., concerts, social events, sporting events)?
  15. Do you maintain ties with Lithuanian family and friends? How do you keep in touch?
  16. How often and why do you venture outside of your community (go downtown, for example)? 
  17. What cultural differences have been most difficult to deal with? What cultural differences have you been most surprised about?