Saturday, May 29, 2010

Sepia Saturday: Lithuanian Immigrants

Who knows what dreams immigrants
carried with them on to ocean-going vessels,
ships that spirited them away from the land
of their birth, their families, their known world?
Certainly they imagined a better life
for themselves and their children,
born and not yet in being.

What did they bring with them?
What were they forced to leave behind?

Pranciskus Kremenskas from Lithuania  
was a handsome, curly-haired 33 year old
 when he brought his pretty 23-year old
wife Manki Vaitekunaite Kremenskas
to the land of dreams
aboard the ship Kroonland.

Manki, who became Monica in the U.S.,
  was pregnant with their first child.
They had the princely sum of $25 in cash
when they arrived at Ellis Island.

Their destination was East St, Louis, Illinois,
specifically 443 Collenwell Avenue.
Though the passenger manifest is hard to read,
it looks like their "American" contact in Illinois
 was a member of Manki's family. 

It also appears that a brother or cousin
 of Pranciskus (Frank or Franz)
named Kasimier Kremenski sailed on the same ship
and accompanied them to East St. Louis.
What happened to him, I don't know. 

 This photo of Pranciskus and Manki must have been
taken in 1911, the year
after the young couple's arrival.
 Daughter Valarie is seated on her daddy's lap.

Frank worked as a builder and carpenter,
among other things. He built the family
home in an area of Chicago near Midway Airport
and the Lithuanian National Cemetery
where he and his wife are buried.

Daughter Bertha arrived in 1915.
Son Alphonse was born in 1925.
Were there other children conceived
in between? I don't know.

Frank died in 1933
when Alphonse was only seven.
He didn't have time to teach Alphonse
the skills he'd need to be a good husband and father.

Manki died in 1955, having done her best
to raise her Lithuanian-American offspring 
to be American. 
My sons are some of the great-grandchildren
she never knew, 
grandsons of her son Alphonse,
who never knew them either.

For more Sepia Saturday posts,
click HERE 
or on the Sepia Saturday button to the right. 


Alan Burnett said...

It is the American story in words and pictures isn't it. Simply wonderful.

sEAN bENTLEY said...

Hi Meri from Gig Harbor! Great post. As Alan said, a poignant, succint summary.

Some of my folks hailed from Lithuania as well.

Vicki Lane said...

The bravery of the immigrants is staggering to me!

Martin H. said...

"My sons are some of the great-grandchildren
she never knew,
grandsons of her son Alphonse,
who never knew them either."

Yet, your sons will know Manki and Alphonse, because you've kept their memory alive. Excellent post.

Nana Jo said...

The great beauty of immigrant spirit pulses in your post. Your story is that of so many others, a part of the fabric which connects us all.

willow said...

Fascinating story. I love all the tales of our great melting pot!

Barbara and Nancy said...

Such a handsome man, beautiful wife and darling baby. I wonder what $25 would equate to today.

Meri said...

Barbara and Nancy: I did some research online and the best I could come up with was a 1910/2006 comparison. In 2006, a 1910 dollar was worth about $21.65. So they came with about $540 in hand. Perhaps $550 now? Not a lot.

Barry said...

A wonderful testament to the strength and adaptability of the human spirit.

L. D. Burgus said...

It is a wonderful post. History of the strength of those who made this country.

Nancy said...

I try to imagine what courage it must have taken to leave what was known to live so far away in the unknown, with, mostly, hope to sustain one. I don't know if I would have/could have done it. Yet all of my ancestors did at one time or another. How sad for Manki to lose her husband when she was so young, and then to live without him for more than 20 years and have to raise her children alone. Great post. Thanks for sharing.