Lithuanian Americans of Cleveland

According to the Encyclopedia of Cleveland History, Cleveland's Lithuanian community "is recognized as one of the most active and productive in terms of organizational activity, community consciousness, political and civic involvement in the general affairs of Greater Cleveland, literary activity and the arts, and folk art ensembles, and is the home community of numerous persons prominent in various fields among the Lithuanian nation worldwide."

Lithuanians began arriving in Cleveland as early as the 1870's, soon establishing St. George's Catholic Church, which eventually rose in its present location at E. 67th and Superior. A second church, Our Lady of Perpetual Help, was founded in the former Nottingham Village (now Collinwood) in 1929. Dozens of Lithuanian businesses, newspapers, benevolent groups and community organizations began to thrive in the area surrounding St. George's, including Cleveland's Lithuanian Club, founded in 1920. Although the Club's original building was burned down in 1971, the Lithuanian Community Center and Club continues to thrive in its new home on East 185th Street in Cleveland. By the mid-1980's, the Lithuanian community numbered about 16,000.

Photos, documents, and media in this collection originate from the holdings of Cleveland State University's Special Collections, from the Lithuanian Village, and from individual donors and contributors.

Exhibit Features:

Oral Histories

  • Grace Kudukis interviewed May 1, 1986 for Cleveland Memory's Ethnic Women in Cleveland series
    This oral history, collected in 1986, provides a look at one of Cleveland's leaders. President of Belkin Kudukis Film Production Services, Grace Kudukis has headed the League of Women Voters and was instrumental in bringing the 1980 Presidential debates between Reagan and Carter to Cleveland. After Lithuania's independence in the early 1990s, she helped CNN and the Peace Corps establish themselves there. Klaipeda, Lithuania and Cleveland, Ohio are sister cities due in part to her efforts.
  • Milda Lenkauskas interviewed May 22, 1986 for Cleveland Memory's Ethnic Women in Cleveland series
    An active member of Lithuanian community, the Cleveland representative of the Lithuanian Foundation for 12 years and the Vice-president for Cultural Affairs. She was also involved with the World Lithuanian Community. Moreover, Mrs. Lenkauskas spent 6 years on the Board of Directors of the Nationalities Services Center. Milda Lenkauskas is also a mother of three daughters, and each one of them contributed significantly to the Lithuanian community. All of them belonged to various cultural groups, such as folk dance group "Grandinele" and the Lithuanian girls singing ensemble "Nerija".
  • Frank Lucas interviewed September 15, 2011 for the Sacred Landmark Series of the Center For Public History & Digital Humanities Oral History Project
    This is an interview conducted with Frank Lucas, Parish Council President of St. Casimir parish, formerly Our Lady of Perpetual Help. The interview begins with talk of the formation of the parish in 1929 to accommodate the growing Lithuanian community in the Collinwood and Euclid neighborhoods. The first part of the interview traces the location of the parish in the early years along with a growing parish community. In 1953 a new church was dedicated and the school and auditorium were built later. As the interview continues talk of parish life and Lithuanian culture continues. In the later part of the interview discussion is over architectural details of the church, merging parishes and balancing Lithuanian identity.
  • Roman Zorska interviewed November 30, 2009 for the Cleveland Cultural Gardens Series of the Center For Public History & Digital Humanities Oral History Project
    A delegate of the Lithuanian Cultural Garden, Roman Zorska discusses the history of the Lithuanian Cultural Garden and reflects on his own life. An immigrant from Lithuania, Mr. Zorska came to Cleveland in December of 1949 as a young boy. He discusses where he went to school, where he lived, and his life in Cleveland growing up. He also discusses the areas Lithuanians lived within Cleveland, the changing demographics within city limits, and Lithuanian history and culture. The bulk of the discussion revolves around the busts within, history of, and future plans of the Lithuanian Cultural Garden. Other topics include the Cultural Garden Federation, restoration of the gardens, and the Cleveland Cultural Gardens as a whole.

Image Collections:

Off-site Resources: a Pathfinder


    Lithuanian Americans of Cleveland, supported in part by a bequest from Charlotte Adomaitis, is part of the Cleveland Memory Project, and is one of a growing series of websites developed by the Michael Schwartz Library at Cleveland State University to explore the ethnic influences that helped shape the history and development of Cleveland.