“In honor of the Lithuanians who came to Lowell for a Better Life”
Those words adorn the Lithuanian monument in Lowell’s JFK Plaza. Lowell’s Lithuanian community dates back longer than the modern state of Lithuania. Like many other immigrants and refugees in Lowell, hundreds of Lithuanians fled oppression to work in Lowell’s textile mills, in the late 19th century,
Although they had settled in a new world, many expats kept in touch with the struggles in the old one, as the ancient nation of Lithuania struggled through centuries of occupation by Russian (and briefly German) governments. The overthrow of Russia’s tsarist regime in 1917 opened the door for the reestablishment of Lithuania as an independent state.
101 years ago this month, the Act of Reinstating Independence of Lithuania was signed. On February 16th, 1918, the transitional council of Lithuania proclaimed the restoration of their country as an independent state governed by democratic principles, with Vilnius as its capital. That document has served as the basis of subsequent Lithuanian constitutions and February 16th is celebrated as Lithuanian Independence Day.
Two years later, Lithuanian Americans in Lowell established the Grand Duke of Lithuania Vytautas (D.L.K.V.) club, named after the famous Lithuanian leader under whose rule Lithuania was the largest medieval European state.
Although the group sold their building on Central Street in 2017, the club’s charter remains intact and they are preparing to celebrate their 100th anniversary next year.
It was with the backdrop of these recent and upcoming centennial anniversaries that the Lowell City Council welcomed the Lithuanian community to Lowell City Hall on February 16th, 2019 for the annual raising of the Lithuanian flag.
Vice Chair Vesna Nuon presented a citation on behalf of Mayor William Samaras and State Senator Ed Kennedy brought greetings from the Commonwealth of Massachusetts in his dual role as city councilor and state legislator.
Vice Mayor Nuon spoke about the Lithuanian struggle for independence within the context of his own experiences as a refugee from Cambodia, (even after achieving freedom from the Russian empire in 1918, the country spent much of the 20th century under Soviet rule before finally becoming independent again in 1990). Senator Kennedy also spoke about attending the Lithuanian flag raisings during his own term as mayor from 2016-2017.
Both of the councilors were also on the Lowell City Council in 2012 when the Lithuanian monument in JFK Plaza was dedicated during the term of Mayor Patrick Murphy.
The monument’s design incorporates an important symbol of Independence the charging knight on the chield known as the “Vytis”, Lithuania’s national coat of arms. “Lietuva” the Lithuanian word for the country is inscribed below. The side banners reflect the “juosta” or woven sash in the stylized tulip design, a prominent feature in Lithuanian art and costume.
Following the speaking program and the singing of the American and Lithuanian national anthems, the flag of Lithuania was raised outside Lowell City Hall.
More photos from the 2019 Lithuanian Independence Day Celebration in Lowell:
For More: 2018 Lithuanian Flag Raising Photos