University of Vilnius
My fascination with Lithuania began in 1979 when I met my soon-to-be wife's grandmother, Bregetha Benonis, of Lithuanian parentage. She grew up in Schuylkill County, Pennsylvania, one of the early destinations in America for Lithuanian immigrants. In the late nineteenth century thousands fled oppressive conditions in the part of western Russia comprising Lithuania and the other Baltic States, Poland, Belarus, and the Ukraine. Bregetha's father, Baltrus, fled Russia after being pressed into military service, and sought new opportunities in Pennsylvania in the 1870's. The only work available then was in the dark and dangerous coal mines that dug deep into the mountains of that part of the state. Later he owned a hotel and a saloon, but religiously attended church at St. Casimir's until his death in the 1930's.
Old records suggest that he was barely literate in English, and it is not likely that he ever hoped for a university education. His descendants, though, and there are many in Pennsylvania, Texas, and the rest of America, did aspire to an educated life, and have succeeded beyond any measure that Baltrus would have thought.
This print of a stamp from 1920 Central Lithuania features the University of Vilnius, a city now the capital of Lithuania. Had Baltrus not immigrated, he may well have had many descendants in the area. If they stayed in Lithuania, they might have attended the University in their national capital. More likely, though, many would have perished in the catastrophic wars that ravaged Central Europe from 1915 until 1940 and all the other struggles of those peoples.
Image Size: 4" x 5"
Paper Size: 9.5" x 13"
Paper Type: Rives Lightweight
Edition Size: 50
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