This paper describes the significance of the cultural identity to Lithuanians resettled in Perth, Western Australia as part of the post World War Two diaspora. At the end of WWII, approximately 10,000 Lithuanian displaced persons were admitted to Australia. Of this number, 583 established themselves permanently in Perth, WA. Despite the desire for continuity and preservation of their original pre-war culture Lithuanians in Western Australia had to confront a new environment and a different dominant culture which required them to make adjustments. In what ways and to what extent has this process of modification affected the life of this group of people? What difficulties and challenges have they encountered in the effort to maintain or adapt (rather than lose) the core markers of their original culture? To answer these questions, in depth-interviews were conducted with Lithuanians in Perth selected according to specific criteria. The findings show that Lithuanians have retained a sense of ‘Lithuanian-ness’ but, have also adapted, to such an extent to the dominant culture, that their traditions, values and beliefs now reflect the new environment, rendering them unable to sustain their culture to hand down to the next generation. The findings reveal that the pre-war Lithuanian culture in Western Australia is close to extinction. Appreciating that it is difficult to deal adequately within the limit of a brief paper with all the core markers of the pre-war Lithuanian culture, I have restricted the discussion to looking at two characteristic elements of the Lithuanian culture: The Catholic Religion which I considered to have influenced the upbringing and the character of the pre-war generation of Lithuanians in Western Australia and their language.This paper thus offers one account to derive insights into ways the preservation of ethnic identification of an émigré population has been impacted by adaptation to their adopted cultural environment.


Published in Full, Ethnicity, migration


Further information about the XVI International Oral History Conference, Between Past and Future: Oral History, Memory and Meaning May be accessed here