Census At Holyoke Shows Colony of 1000 Lithuanians

by Laurel | January 30th, 2014

29 January 1928

Holyoke St. Charles Society

Here is a group of Holyoke Lithuanians, members of the St. Charles Society, wearing the society regalia. Front row, left to right: P. Zebrowski, K. Pranaitis, J. Vickis, G. Jaugis, J. Alukonis; second row, left to right: V. Stepanaitis, J. Razinenas, J. Brueus, M. Zebrowski, J. Jaugis, S. Arenta and P. Zaleckas. Note that the names are more like Greek names than like Polish names, the Zebrowskis being an exception which is explained by the fact that some of the Lithuanians took Polish names or added Polish final letters at a period in Lithuanian history when the nation, as a nation was about extinct. With the close of the war of 1914 and the allotment of land for the nation the national spirit burned up afresh.

Organized in St. James Society — “Bill” Zebrowski Knows Three Tongues
Organization Names Undergoing Changes

The other day “Bill” Zebrowski, who is working his way through the high school in part by “covering” high school sports happened to be referred to as a Pole. It stirred him to positive denials and the statement that he was a Lithuanian. It appears that the Poles and the Lithuanians do not mix in Holyoke to any great extent, the feeling between them in Europe being in a way carried to this country. Racially and linguistically, also, they are different and in inquiry it was stated that there were over 1000 Lithuanians in Holyoke.

In interviewing Michael F. Zebrokski, who is secretary of the St. Charles Society, an association of Lithuanians with rooms at 328 Park Street, it was found that a census taken at the request of Rev. William E. Foley of the Sacred Heart Church some time ago showed that there were 175 families and even then some of the Lithuanians were later found to have been omitted. Allowing five to the family and there are at least 200 families, the 1000 mark is easily reached.

Most Work in Paper Mills

Unlike to Poles they do not as a rule work in textile mills, although there are a few in the Farr Alpaca company, but for the most part in Holyoke’s paper mills. The Lithuanians are entirely Catholic, and as a result of the census they were allowed to have a Lithuanian priest visit Holyoke twice a year. The nearest Lithuanian church is in Westfield, although a large part of them now in Holyoke came down here from Northampton. A number in the suburbs are engaged in farming, to which the Lithuanians take naturally as their country in Europe, is largely a farming land.

Lithuanians aver that the Poles, being stronger, have “grabbed” more or less of their territory and they also hold that Vilna, now the capital of Poland, rightfully belongs to them. Vilna has been a city fought over for many centuries’ and it was through Vilna that Napoleon passed to his memorable Russian campaign that practically sealed his fate as master of Europe. Before the World War affairs among the Lithuanians were at a low ebb indeed. The Russians, then in power forbade the use of their national language in their schools, and there was danger of their being lost as a nation. At the close of the World War, however, they were assigned territory and are building up again a national existence as well as a national feeling and are using the Lithuanian language again.

Society Includes 100 Members

In school Mr. Zebrowski learned Polish and Russian and also has command of Lithuanian and he can talk readily in three languages. The Russian and Polish are much alike, but the Lithuanian language is very much different. A Pole can generally manage to understand a Russian, or a Russian a Pole, but neither can understand a Lithuanian or a Lithuanian understand them either. The printed language to a stranger looks more like the Polish than the Russian, which is very peculiar in its written or printed form. The St. Charles Society comprises about 100 of the most prominent Lithuanians in the city. They have under consideration the purchase of the Alsace-Lorraine building. Their officers are as follows: President, Ludwig Matuliama; vice-president, Jonas Krusas; secretary, M. F. Zebrowski; treasurer, V. Kmelius.

Adapted from The Springfield Republican.

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