From the Irene Balzekas Memorial Map Collection
Over the decades of the late 19th and early 20th centuries, Lithuanians in America never lost the desire to see an independent homeland. Many had come to the U.S. to escape oppression or conscription in the Tsar’s army. News of revolts and unrest in Russia raised the hopes of many both in the U.S. and in Lithuania itself. The dynamics of World War I both intervened with and magnified the hopes for independence. Lithuanian American leaders and activists organized to support the struggle for independence and to push for it from this side of the Atlantic. This independence movement lasted for years. Independence was declared by Lithuania in Vilnius on February 16, 1918. It took several more years for Lithuanians to gain their adopted country’s recognition of that independence.
On January 6, 1917, Lithuanians met at the Divine Providence (Dievo Apvaizda) parish to organize their support for Lithuanian independence. The church, the community, and the leadership of the Lithuanian organizations prepared to do what was necessary to obtain freedom for Lithuania from Russia.
This project is partially supported by grants from the Illinois Arts Council Agency, Illinois Humanities, the City of Chicago, CityArts, and other Museum donors and members. The Balzekas Museum gratefully acknowledges them for their support and welcomes everyone to contribute to its mission: to preserve and perpetuate Lithuanian history, culture, and traditions.