“Destination – America” expedition is on the road to the US

On 18 September, the “Destination – America” team embarked on the expedition to search for Lithuanian cultural heritage locations and to create an interactive map. Volunteers who will spend 16 days in the Northeastern USA will describe Lithuanian locations, listen to the tales of local Lithuanians, and publish all of this online.

Project leader Augustinas Žemaitis was delighted that the project attracted the attention of Lithuanian Americans as well.

“We received a lot of letters from people whom we did not approach and who learned about the project from online portals. Many of them not only contributed themselves, but also found additional people in other cities,” said A.Žemaitis. According to him, thanks to all these people it will be possible to “bring to light” forgotten, but very important Lithuanian locations. “When we planned the project, we thought that we will visit approximately 100 locations in eight states of the region. Today we know about more than 200 Lithuanian locations in eleven states. We will do our best to visit as many of them as possible. We have prepared a very tight schedule. On some days, we will start our work early in the morning and finish it only at about midnight,” said the traveller.

Participants of the “Destination – America” project will visit major cities (New York, Washington, Philadelphia, Boston, Baltimore) as well as small regional towns that are particularly famous for their Lithuania-related locations. Among them is Shenandoah in Pennsylvania, where the first Lithuanian novel, V. Pietaris’s “Algimantas”, was published in 1904, and, as of the US census, as many as 14.65% of people consider themselves Lithuanians (more than in Šalčininkai).

According to Andrew Popalis, a local history researcher of Lithuanian origin, in 1898 Lithuanians in Shenandoah owned 59 taverns, 17 shops, five meat markets, four tailor shops, eight quarries, three barber shops, a metal-worker’s workshop, five funeral homes, five stables and two publishing houses! It is doubtful if any city in Lithuania itself could match this as at the time the population of Lithuanian cities consisted on mostly foreigners.

Material collected and photographs taken during the project will become an interactive map for everyone to use. The goal of the project is to allow any countryman who travels to the US and has a spare day or two to learn about Lithuania-related landmarks nearby: to visit the cinema founded by Jonas Mekas, to see the inscriptions dedicated to Arvydas Sabonis and Šarūnas Marčiulionis in the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame, to take a walk in a district where all street names are in Lithuanian, to see monuments to Lithuanians who died for their homeland, or to visit the airport where Steponas Darius and Stasys Girėnas took off in the direction of Lithuania.

The interactive map will be available in English as well, so the descendants of Lithuanian Americans who do not speak Lithuanian or Americans interested in the heritage of minorities will be able to use it, too.

It is planned that the map will be completed by 1 December 2017.

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