Thursday, March 29, 2018

Those Places Thursday: Nativity BVM Catholic Church, Chicago

At the corner of Washtenaw and Lithuanian Plaza in the Marquette Park neighborhood of Chicago (home to many Lithuanian immigrants in the mid-20th century) is Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary Catholic Church, usually called just Nativity BVM.   We were not able to go inside the church on our visit to the old Lithuanian part of Chicago on August 8, 2017, and even my picture of the outside of the main church was not as good as this one:

Below:  Mosaic on east exterior of Nativity BVM depicting the "Baptism of Mindaugus, King of Lithuania, Precursor of Christianity"

Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Chicago was founded in 1927.  The present building was started in 1953 and completed in 1957, and is of Lithuania Folk Baroque style.  Photos of the beautiful interior of the church are available on its website gallery.  It features, above the main altar, a reproduction of Our Lady of Šiluva, often called "Lithuania's Greatest Treasure."

The church still offers Masses in Lithuanian.

© Amanda Pape - 2018 - click here to e-mail me.

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Easter Eggs – Margučiai in Lithuania

One of the displays at the Balzekas Museum of Lithuanian Culture in Chicago, which we visited on August 8, 2017, was full of decorated Easter eggs.  These colorful eggs are called margučiai  (mar-GOO-chay) in Lithuania.  Decorating eggs is a folk art still practiced today.  Colored eggs are made for Easter and for St. George’s Day (April 23).

A variety of techniques are used to decorate the eggs.  According to Antanas Tamošaitis in his book Lithuanian Easter Eggs, people gathered natural dyes such as oak or alder bark, sprigs of budding birch, and other twigs and mosses, and collected onion skins, beet roots, apple peelings, nutshells, herbs and dried flowers for boiling as a dye. Vinegar or alum enhanced the colors. The eggs were either boiled with the dye, or the dye was applied to them after boiling, in one or more soakings in colors.

Some eggs were left white, for the application of patterns, others were dyed for scratch-patterning. After drying a dyed egg, a penknife or shard of glass was used to create an etched-on pattern.

The other major technique is wax-resist.  A stylus (sometimes a pin, small nail, fishbone or shard of wood) is dipped into hot wax and then immediately applied to the egg. Beeswax is preferred because of its low melting point, but tallow is also used. Typical patterns involve teardrop shapes and dots.

The eggs are then immersed in dye, then dried and heated gently in a hot towel to melt the wax, or the wax is carefully scraped away. For multicolored eggs, more wax is applied to dyed areas of the egg, which is then placed in another color. All the wax is then removed to reveal the final pattern.

Many of the more unique eggs in the collection were the work of Ramutė Plioplys (1953-2007).  For example, she "pioneered a method of etching eggs.  The design was applied with melted wax, and once dry, the egg was inserted into a corrosive bath.  The resulting etched patterns are extremely delicate and subtle," as in the example pictured below (quotation is from museum label).

Some of the eggs had those etchings enhanced with color.

Ramutė also created drilled eggs: teardrops and dots delicately carved through a drained shell.
I can't imagine how she was able to do this without breaking the egg!

Finally, Ramutė also created beautiful hanging birds with decorated eggs as bodies and paper wings.

© Amanda Pape - 2018 - click here to e-mail me.

Sunday, March 25, 2018

Verbų sekmadienis - Palm Sunday in Lithuania

I saved a couple of posts about our visit to the Balzekas Museum of Lithuanian Culture in Chicago on August 8, 2017, for this week, Holy Week, the last week of Lent. Today is Palm Sunday, a week before Easter, and here's a little about how the day, Verbų sekmadienis, is celebrated in Lithuania.

One of the displays at the Museum in the Women's Guild Room were these unusual dried floral items.

A label said these were Palm Sunday bouquets from the Vilnius region.  On Palm Sunday, 

...plant branches (palms or others), called verba in Lithuania, are blessed in churches.  In some countries (for example in the U.S.) everyone entering the church is given a blessed palm frond or sprig of leaves.  In Lithuania, the people brought the verba to church themselves.  
These verba could be simple: bunches of juniper and pussy willows, or sometimes quite elaborate, plaited from dried plants, flowers, and bent-grass (Vilnius "verba").  It was considered a disgrace to arrive at church without a verba.  It was said that the devil himself gave such a person his tail to hold all through the services. 
After these verba were blessed in church, they were brought home, dried and put away.  When the dried juniper needles fell off, they were stored in a small box or bag and used to scent the house during a heavy storm or other occasions.  The bare branches were placed under the roof as protection against lightning.

You can find verba today at the annual Kaziuko mugė or Saint Casimir's Fair, held in Vilnius the weekend before or including the Feast of St. Casimir, which is March 4.  As the earliest date Palm Sunday can possibly be each year is March 15, this works well.  This folk arts and crafts fair dates back to the early 1600s and includes music and dancing.  Verbos made from colorful dried wild flowers and herbs chosen from about 150 possibilities are tied around a wooden stick.  Making this traditional symbol of spring and Easter is an endangered craft, as the process is difficult and time-consuming, and it's harder to find flowers and herbs or special dyes to color them. 

In the photograph below, verba are being sold outside the Church of All Saints in the Vilnius Old Town in April 1916.

Above:  Vilnietė pardavinėja verbas prie Visų šventųjų bažnyčios Rūdninkų gatvėje, 1916 m. [9 April 1916] / Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

© Amanda Pape - 2018 - click here to e-mail me.

Thursday, March 22, 2018

Those Places Thursday - Radauskas Homes in Chicago, 1923-1973

After our visit the Balzekas Museum of Lithuanian Culture and eating some Lithuanian food at Mabenka on August 8, 2017, during our visit in Chicago, we drove around to look at sites where my Raudauskas (kin on my Guokas side) Lithuanian relatives used to live.

Leo Radauskas (1889-1973) stated on his 1926 petition for naturalization that he had been residing in Illinois since August 15, 1920.  He was definitely there on October 18, 1923, when he submitted his declaration of intent to become a citizen, and listed 3548 S. Halsted in Chicago as his address, in the Lithuanian neighborhood of Bridgeport.  Here is how that address looked in August 2017.  It's the same building; the Cook County Accessor's website says the building is (at least) 114 years old.  Leo lived here through at least September 1928, when he returned to Chicago after his trip to Lithuania to find a bride (Ona Tamošiūnas Radauskas Marcinkus, 1907-1988).  They were not at this location in 1930, and based on the Census that year, this location consisted of a single apartment above the main floor storefront.

Leo Radauskas home, from at least October 1923 to at least September 1928

I haven't found Leo and Ona in the 1930 Census (yet), but by 1935 they are living at 3258 S. Union, according to Ona's naturlization petition dated in January of that year.  This is half a mile away from the Halsted address, on the less-busy street of S. Union Avenue, but still in an apartment building.  Here's how that building looked in August 2017.  That's how it looked in 1935 too, as the accessor's office says this building is 104 years old.  Leo and Ona were here until at least 1947, so their daughter Bernice Ann Radauskas Dylo (1940-2004) spent her early years here.  

Ona and Leo Radauskas lived here from at least January 1935 to at least 1947

Leo's youngest sister, Agota Radauskas Phillips Zaker (1902-1980), was living at the address pictured below in 1930, according to the Census, with her then-husband John Phillips (b. Jonas Pilipavičius in 1889) and their son Albert Phillips, born in 1928.  John and Agota were divorced by 1938, and on the 1940 Census, Agota and Albert are living with Leo and Ona just a few addresses down at 3258 S. Union.  Here's how 3315 S. Union looked in August 2017 - the building is 103 years old, so it looked about the same in 1930.

home of Agota Radauskas Phillips Zaker and first husband John Phillips in 1930 Census

Sometime after 1947, Leo, Ona, and Bernice moved to the more residential Marquette Park neighborhood, to an apartment at 6223 S. Albany Avenue.  (Agota remarried in 1942.)  Ona and Leo were living at this address when Leo died in 1973.  Here's how this building looked in August 2017.  This building is 95 years old.

Leo and Ona Radauskas moved here sometime after 1947, and were living here at the time of Leo's death in 1973

Below are views of 3258 S. Union, 3313 S. Union, and 6223 S. Albany, showing more of each building.

And here is a map showing the locations of the buildings - the first three in Bridgeport in the upper right corner, and the last is the green peg near the bottom of the page in Marquette Park.  The diamonds mark other features in the area, such as the Balzekas Museum in West Lawn, and a couple more sites I'll discuss in a future post.

© Amanda Pape - 2018 - click here to e-mail me.

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Travel Tuesday: Mabenka Restaurant, Chicago

So after spending a few hours at the Balzekas Museum of Lithuanian Culture on August 8, 2017, during our visit in Chicago - we were hungry!  I found a nearby restaurant whose online menu indicated it served some Lithuanian food.  Mabenka opened in 1992 and also serves Polish dishes.  The Polish immigrant founders, Joe and Janina Galica, made the name of the restaurant from the first letters of their children's names.

First came a basket of bread:  rye, pumpernickel, and a sweet white bread that I think had dates in it.

All the soups are homemade.  I don't think it's Lithuanian, but I ordered the red borscht - hot beet soup.  I wish the cold beet soup (šaltibarščiai in Lithuanian) had been in season!

My husband ordered the soup of the day, which was oxtail barley.  This is a common Eastern European recipe, but one we'd never had before (of course we shared everything).

I had to order the Lithuanian Combo Plate (liet. kombinacija)!  From the top left in the photo below, it contained:
  • a cepelinis (literally, a "zeppelin"), a potato dumpling stuffed with ground meat, and served with bacon bits and sour cream;
  • a Lithuanian sausage (perhaps a skilandis or kindziukas) with sauerkraut and horseradish; and
  • a slice of kugelis, a potato pudding baked and served with bacon bits and sour cream.

For dessert, we shared a blintz made with sweet farmer's cheese and topped with blueberries and whipped cream.  We were so full though that we ended up taking most of this with us.

© Amanda Pape - 2018 - click here to e-mail me.

Saturday, March 17, 2018

Sibling Saturday: Happy 60th to My Sister

My sister Karen's birthday in 1968.  Clockwise from front left:  brother Mark, grandmother Sara Melzina Wolfe Guokas Archibald (1907-1997), sisters Karen and Mary, and dad Frederick Henry Pape (1929-2017).

© Amanda Pape - 2018 - click here to e-mail me.

Thursday, March 15, 2018

Those Places Thursday: Balzekas Museum - Traveling Exhibits

The third (top) floor of the Balzekas Museum of Lithuanian Culture in Chicago had some traveling exhibits during our visit on August 8, 2017.

The first, "No Home To Go To: The Story of Baltic Displaced Persons, 1944-1952," originally opened at the museum on August 23, 2014, and then traveled to other cities in North America as well as Lithuania.  It came back and now supposedly will be at the museum indefinitely, which is fitting as the Balzekas Museum was its primary creator.

The exhibit discusses the events and circumstances which led the refugees to leave their Baltic homelands (Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia), their flight from their homelands and life in the displaced person (DP) camps, and their later immigration to and settlement in the United States and other countries. Viewers, especially those who are DPs themselves or their descendants, are invited to share comments, stories, and photographs, many of which are included on the exhibit's website, through a questionaire.

Former DPs or their families donated many of the artifacts in the displays, such as these items of luggage many DPs actually used when they came to America:

Above:  Doilies embroidered by Ursule Lipčius in Lithuania and brought to the United States, donated by Nijolė Lipčiūtė Voketaitis to the Balzekas Museum collection.

Below:  Hand-woven linen towel brought from Lithuania by the Vebra family, donated by Romana Vebra Karlove to the Balzekas Museum Collection.  Below it is some sort of indentification papers, perhaps a passport.

Part of the exhibit was in front of a permanent exhibit at the Museum of a stained glass piece called "Daughters of the Sun," according to a museum postcard, by the artist Adolfas Valeška, although another source says the title is "Spring Time."

Another traveling exhibit on the third floor was called "Lithuania in the Mail Parcel."  The exhibit consists of ten wooden boxes meant to represent mailed boxes, each of which presents an aspect of Lithuania’s natural and cultural heritage. The exhibition also evokes the idea of "cabinets of curiosity" (Wunderkammern in German), which emerged in Europe during the Renaissance and became the prototypes of contemporary museums.

The boxes have interactive components, including audio and video.  Each represents a site or tradition that is on a UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) list or register:  World Heritage Site (four, including the capital Vilnius Historic Centre, pictured below), Memory of the World Programme (three on the register), and Intangible Cultural Heritage (Baltic song and dance festivals; Sutartinės, Lithuanian multipart songs; and Lithuanian cross-crafting).

More information about the exhibit and the ten subjects of the boxes is here: and an example of a box unfolding is here on the designer's website:

© Amanda Pape - 2018 - click here to e-mail me.

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Travel Tuesday: Balzekas Museum - Lithuanian Costumes

On our visit to the Balzekas Museum of Lithuanian Culture in Chicago back on August 8, 2017, we spent a lot of time in the Women's Guild Room, which featured Lithuanian folk arts, including examples of clothing and regional costumes.

Above:  Costume representing the Aukštaitija (Highlands) region, which is the area my ancestors are from.  It was purchased in 1930 in Kaunas, Lithuania and donated by Mrs. Joana Andriulus.

Below:  This costume was created by the famous folk artist Anastasija Tamošaitienė (born 1910) and belonged to Juzefa Daužvardienė (1904-1990), the Lithuanian General Honorary Consul in Chicago from 1971 to 1985, who was one of the sponsors of the museum.  Note the elaborate designs that were woven into the linen on the collar, cuffs, and sleeves of the blouse.  

Above and below:  Hand-woven aprons made with wool and linen yard made in Lithuania in the early and mid 1800s.  From the Cultural Treasure Collection of the Lithuanian University Club of Chicago.

More information on Lithuanian folk costumes is here:

© Amanda Pape - 2018 - click here to e-mail me.

Sunday, March 11, 2018

Church Record Sunday: Sacramental Records for Roy Lee Guokas

Recently I stumbled across some unindexed records at for Catholic churches my mother and her ancestors were parishoners of in Houston, Texas.  Using some indexes built into the documents, as well as some paging to appropriate dates, I found records for a number of relatives.

Here are the sacramental records for my great uncle, Roy Lee Guokas III (1917-1959), all at at St. Joseph Catholic Church, Houston, Texas:

Above:  Baptism record - Roy Lee Guokas is on the last line.  He was born on July 5, 1917, and baptized one month later, on August 5, 1917.  The godparents appear to be Mrs. H. Snider and Stanley Biechi.  There's also a note that Roy married Maxine Hooks on June 21, 1942, at St. Joseph in Houston.

Below:  First Communion record, on May 9, 1926.  Roy's date of birth is also shown.

Above left:  Roy Lee Guokas (far right) with his sister-in-law Sara Melzina Wolfe Guokas Archibald (1907-1997) and his nephew Charles Guokas III (1927-1999), probably in early 1928 and probably at 1717 Shearn, Houston, Texas, where Roy was living with his family.  Sara and Charles were down the street at 2215 Shearn.

Above right:  Roy Lee Guokas (far right) with his brother Charles Peter Guokas Jr. (1903-1967) and his nieces Geraldine Margaret Guokas Pape and Jo Ann Guokas.  Easter, probably about 1933, in Houston, Texas.

Above: Confirmation record for Roy Guokas, May 12, 1929 - he is third on the list.  His confirmation name - like that of all the other boys - is Joseph.

Below:  Marriage record for Roy Lee Guokas and Maxine Hooks, on June 21, 1942.  Note that there is no record of baptism for Maxine, and that they are already living at the same address.  Under the annotations (which include dispensations) to the right there is a note that says "revalidatis," which indicates that a non-Catholic marriage ceremony had already occurred.  (There are other notes indicating "mixtae [mixed] rel[igion]" and "disp[arity of] cult ad cautelam." This is in the case of a doubtful baptism, when a person says he/she is baptized, but can produce no certifcate proving the claim.)  A little more searching turned up a marriage license and return in adjacent Fort Bend County, Texas, for a marriage between Roy and Maxine on June 21, 1937.

This record was particularly valuable to me because I had the wrong maiden name for Maxine.  The 1940 Census had Maxine's younger sister living with the couple, and listed her last name as Cook, not Hooks (she was 16 and single).  I was able to trace Maxine particularly with her parents' names listed on the church record:  Henry C. Hooks and Lucy Lee.  The record also spells my elusive Lithuanian maternal great-grandmother's name as Bonewitch, more evidence for that phonetic pronunciation.  The witnesses to the church ceremony were what looks like Mrs. Elizabeth Gouldg and George some-initial Rabroke - neither of those names are familiar, and they could just be other people in the rectory at the time this record was made.

The picture above is of most of the surviving full siblings of my maternal grandfather Charles Peter Guokas Jr. (1903-1967), taken around late 1942 in Houston, Texas. Youngest brother Roy Lee Guokas (1917-1959) is at the far left. He enlisted as a private in the Army Air Corps on September 28, 1942, and was sent to Australia to work in supplies, so this was probably taken before he shipped out.

The others in the photo, moving to the right from Roy, are Philip Edgar Sayers Sr. (1901-1972), next to his wife Elizabeth "Lizzie" Wanda Guokas Johnson Sayers (1901-1980).  Next to her are my grandparents, Charles Guokas Jr. and Sara Melzina Wolfe Guokas Archibald (1908-1997).  The next woman is Roy's wife at the time, Maxine LaVerne Hooks Guokas Huett DeMarco (1919-2012), followed by Eva Louise Guokas Scott (1907-1979) and her husband, Otis Henry Scott (1901-1990).

The photograph was taken at Lizzie and Philip's home at 810 Avenue of Oaks in Houston.  Sister Agnes "Aggie" Verna Guokas Payne (1905-1974) and her husband Milton Clyde "Jack" Payne (1904-1991) are not in the picture, even though they were still living in Houston at the time.

Roy and Maxine were married through at least 1942.  In May 1948, Maxine married her second husband, and by the time of publication of the 1951 Houston city directory, Roy's wife is listed as Fay - Fay Lois Florence Boulter Guokas Nelson (1922-2005), the mother of his daughter Gloria Guokas Ahmad Stone (1941-2017).  Gloria had five children.

Sometime between 1953 and 1958, Roy and his family moved to California, where Roy died on February 19, 1959, in Los Angeles County, at only age 41.  He is buried at South Park Cemetery in Pearland, Brazoria County, Texas.

© Amanda Pape - 2018 - click here to e-mail me.

Thursday, March 8, 2018

Those Places Thursday: Balzekas Museum Dolls

The Balzekas Museum of Lithuanian Culture in Chicago had numerous displays of dolls of different types in regional costumes.  The dresses of the ones below were woven by Aldona Bobėnaitė Vaitonienė of Toronto, Canada.

From left to right, the costumes represent the regions of Aukštaitija, the Highlands; Klaipėdos Kraštas, the Klaipeda region; Vilnija, the Vilnius region; and DzūkijaAukštaitija and Dzūkija are ethnographic regions; cultural areas defined by traditional lifestyles and dialects of the local Lithuanian population (mostly rural farmers) and not political nor administrative units.

The doll below also wears a costume representing the Aukštaitija region, which is the area my ancestors came from.  The costume was hand-woven and handmade by Aldona Vaselka .

The doll above wears a traditional Lithuanian married woman's outfit.  It was designed and donated by textile artist Aldona Stasiūnaitė Pečiūrienė in 2006.

The dolls below are from the private collection of Paulina Vaitaitis, D.D.S. (1920-2004).

Unfortunately, I did not make any notes about these dolls.

© Amanda Pape - 2018 - click here to e-mail me.

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

Travel Tuesday: Balzekas Museum - Lithuanian Musical Instruments

One of the displays at the Balzekas Museum of Lithuanian Culture in Chicago was of this ensemble of figurines playing traditional musical instruments (from the private collection of Paulina Vaitaitis, D.D.S., 1920-2004):

I was curious about some of the instruments, so I started looking them up on the internet.  Below are two examples of the birbynė, a wind instrument originally used by shepherds.  The ones below are made of wood with a bell at the end of horn.

The kanklės is a Lithuanian plucked string instrument, like a zither.  As can be seen with the figurines, they come in a variety of sizes and shapes.

The skrabalai is a percussion instrument consisting of trapezoid-shaped wooden cowbells of various sizes arranged vertically in several rows.  The instrument is usually made of oak or ash and is played with two wooden sticks.

The skudučiai are panpipes made of wood, bark, or hollow stems.

© Amanda Pape - 2018 - click here to e-mail me.