Part IV: The Lithuania Community of Cleveland Since World War II
Continuity best expresses the post World War II press activities of Lithuanian Clevelanders; and with the new immigration there was a general uplifting of literary standards. Dirva remained the mainstay, and since the early fifties it has been considered an organ of the Lithuanian National Alliance of America. In October, 1948, Kazys S. Karpius, who realized the abilities of the newcomers, turned over the editorship to Vincas Rastenis, who held the position until January, 1952. Shortly thereafter Balys Gaidžiūnas assumed responsibilities, with the newspaper later to be edited by Jonas Čiuberkis, Jonas P. Palukaitis, Aleksas Laikūnas, and finally Vytautas Gedgaudas, who has edited the newspaper since 1964.
A second periodical, Amerikos Lietuvių Bendruomėnė (American-Lithuanian Community), appeared in 1950. In the beginning it was an irregular mimeographed piece, but from 1958 to 1961 was printed bi-monthly. During this entire period it was under the editorship of Stasys Barzdukas (In 1962 the periodical was transferred to Chicago), who also has edited a second publication, Pasaulio Lietuvis (Lithuanian World), from November 1973 to the present. This bulletin of the Lithuanian World Community, Inc., contains information on Lithuanian activities throughout the free world.
Two other periodicals, Jaunimo Žygiai (Deeds of Youth) and Gaudeamus were also edited in Cleveland for a short time. Additionally, a new Lithuanian printing establishment, Galinda Press, was opened by Jonas P. Palukaitis in 1965. For over a decade it printed books, pamphlets, and various periodicals for the Lithuanian and Slovenian communities.
In literature two significant books by Cleveland Lithuanians have appeared in English since World War II. The first was Leave Your Tears in Moscow by Barbara Armonas. This true story deals with the tragedy of the Armonas family. John Armonas, who lived in Cleveland, decided to visit Lithuania, and while there married Barbara. The couple came back and lived in Cleveland for six years and then returned to Lithuania where they bought a farm. With the outbreak of war the two began to make preparations to return to the United States. However, with the Russian invasion, only the father and daughter escaped. Barbara and her infant son were forced to stay. The book describes her exile to Siberia and the attempts to free her. Finally, with the visit of Krushchev in 1959 and an appeal to him by Barbara’s daughter, the family was reunited. This book received nationwide recognition and was even put on the mandatory reading list in some states.
The second book, Day of Shame by Algis Rukšenas, deals with another tragedy. As mentioned, earlier Simas Kudirka unsuccessfully tried to take refuge aboard a U.S. Coast Guard Cutter but was refused. Day of Shame details the bureaucratic bungling of the government and the sufferings of Kudirka. (In 1975 the author received the Martha Kinney Cooper Ohioana Library Association best non-fiction award for this work.) This story, nevertheless, also had a happy ending when Kudirka was freed from prison and allowed to come to the United States with his family in 1974. The book and the brutality it revealed in all likelihood had a good deal to do with this.
In radio one person emerges from the post World War II period, Juozas Stempužis. In Lithuania he had spent a year as an apprentice announcer in Kaunas while attending college. Upon coming to Cleveland in 1949 he became a news editor for the Tėvynes Garsai (Sounds of Lithuania) Lithuanian radio program, which was organized by Jaunutis P. Nasvytis, Alfonsas Mikulskis, and Kestutis P. Šukys, and directed by Balys Auginas. Later Nasvytis directed the program, and then in 1955 Stempužis became producer and director. In 1961, when the Lithuanian program moved from station WDOK to WXEN-FM, Stempuzis held both the editor and announcer positions of the hour-long Friday evening program, and the following year he initiated a second broadcast; “Baltic Echoes,” in cooperation with the Estonians and Latvians. Currently, his program is broadcast Sundays on WZZP.
- Algis Ruksenas, Day of Shame, (New York: David McKay Co., Inc. 1973). ↵
- Kazys S. Karpius and Vacys Rociūnas, 1968M. Vasario 18D. Cleveland, Ohio (February 18, 1968, Cleveland Ohio) (Cleveland: Dirva, 1968). Tėvynės Garsai 1949-1974 (Voices of the Homeland 1949-1974). ↵
- Vacys Rociūnas (ed.), 1950-1970 LSK Žaibas (Cleveland: Galinda Press, 1970). Interview with Algirdas Bielskus on 21 February 1976. ↵