LITHUANIAN QUARTERLY JOURNAL OF ARTS AND SCIENCES
Volume 33, No.1 - Spring 1987
Editor of this issue: Antanas Klimas
Copyright © 1987 LITUANUS Foundation, Inc.
Milda Danys. DP Lithuanian Immigration to Canada After the Second World War.
Toronto: Multicultural History Society of Ontario, 1986. 365 pp.
Milda Danys has made good use of her academic background in providing an enchanting account of the 20,000 transplanted Lithuanians who came to Canada in the aftermath of World War II. Holding a doctorate in English literature, but with a strong second suit in history, the author originally set out merely to record a large number of interviews among the émigrés. Meanwhile, to her surprise, she discovered access to government records documenting this large-scale entry over the course of several years, dating from 1947. In the end, she produced a skillfully woven saga that blends official papers with the vivid, flesh-and-blood memories of two hundred men and women, most of whom she personally interviewed.
The Canadian admissions policy differed from that of the United states. Sponsorship was the system employed in the United States. An eager inhabitant of one of the dozens of camps in Germany and elsewhere needed a kindly benefactor to guarantee living quarters and financial support sufficient to keep the newcomer off welfare rolls for a year. Throughout the Lithuanian settlements there were laity and clergy who stepped forward to play the role of Good Samaritan. In contrast, Canada was entering a postwar period of economic expansion. Canada in the late 1940s needed unskilled laborers to clear its forests and work its mines. Middle-and upper-class homes, as well as hospitals, were searching for young women to serve as domestics and aides.
Canada even sent agents to carry out interviews at the major refugee sites in Germany. There the meetings were often held in haste, and in primitive surroundings. A major problem centered around the professional upbringing of so many of those available and anxious to cross the Atlantic at a time when Canada was simply hunting for manual laborers. The Danys study explains how the mutual needs were met, despite governmental roadblocks. The basic principle centered on willingness to honor a one-year contract in whatever occupation the displaced person would be placed. There were other expected checks, such as health and literacy. The author describes this eventual "marriage" as it was consummated in Canada — often rocky and even tumultuous, but in the end resulting in a happy parting of ways. The narrative unfolds with unhesitant candor, exposing the pluses and minuses of arrival and adjustment, contract-fulfillment and permanent settlement.
Danys' book is important not only in the bibliography of ethnic studies in her own country, but also serves as an example for parallel studies here in the States. Up to now, few academics have turned to this story, so full of dramatic episodes of the uprooted. One can hardly find much beyond the study of Vytautas Gavelis, "A Descriptive Study of the Education Attainment, Occupation, and Geographical Location of Children of Lithuanian DPs ..." (Ph.D. dissertation, Southern Illinois University at Carbondale, 1975), wherein he makes a comparison of DP offspring with youngsters of an earlier period at the Lithuanian parochial school in East St. Louis, Illinois
Danys' work is also significant because, in several chapters on women, it gives an insight into their plight, an area of inquiry that has blossomed in the past two decades.
Lithuanian readers will be annoyed at the lack of proper orthographical signs throughout the text. Otherwise the volume is neatly printed in clear and attractive typeface. Genealogical devotees will delight over the short biographical notes identifying those who were interviewed. The book contains detailed footnotes, a bibliography, and an index. Appropriately, the author dedicates the study to her father, who served as an invaluable research assistant.