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"Un Canadien errant,
        banni de ses foyers"
- Traditional 19th century song

Editor's Note:

It is a matter of common knowledge that we Québécois constitute a nation
that traces its ancestry from the soil, from a dynamic colonizing
peasantry deeply attached to soil. Too often, we neglect to realize that
we Québécois are the products of innumerable soils: not only the heavy
soils of the St. Lawrence valley, but Irish peat and Breton rocks,
Lithuanian loam and Flemish marshlands, and innumerable others. In the
course of our nation's modernization, we have absorbed as our own
individuals from dozens of different peoples to become an authentically
planetary people.

_Le Devoir_'s award-winning journalist André-Philippe Maeterlinck is a
Québécois journalist whose ancestry--_habitant,_ Irish, Flemish, and
Lithuanian--reflects the diversity of our nation. Here, in the pages of
_Le Devoir,_ M. Maeterlinck shall explore in five parts the sources of
his nation and himself. We can only understand ourselves if we
understand all of the component strains of the Québécois nation; these
articles are intended for the benefit of all Québécois.

Gratien LA BONTÉ,
Editor-in-chief, _Le Devoir de Montréal_


_La Presse,_ 31 August 1972
Section E
"Séjour on the Daugava"

My mother Joanne Marie Malinauskas was the daughter of a good habitant
woman from Trois-Rivières--Marianne Trudel--who went to the West End of
Montréal to marry a Lithuanian Catholic, Leonas Malinauskas. I knew that
my grandfather was Lithuanian, and I could find Lithuania on atlases of
the world. What I knew of my grandfather's ethnicity, though, came from
things that I learned in passing: He spoke French with an unusual
accent; his brothers' and parents' name sounded Latinate; he was even
more Catholic than his wife; and, the closest major city to his home
farm was Daugavpils. Leonas Malinauskas wasn't interested in talking
about his life before he came to Québec, and so when he died one bright
spring day at the Hospice St. Sulpice in 1955 his family remained
ignorant of that part of his life. 

I never suffered from this vagueness--this ignorance--with respect to my
other grandparents. This lacuna in my family history made it inevitable,
then, that I would go to Lithuania before I visited Brittany, or
Ireland, or Austrasia, and so I went. Coming to Lithuania was easy:
Scandinavia is a free-trading state par excellence, and the Baltic grand
duchies that are part of that happy kingdom in all but name and
sovereign are even more committed to limiting passport checks than the
Kingdom proper. As the customs officer in Kaunas said to me with a smile
when I handed him my passport at the aeromobile tarmac, "Where would
Lithuania be without the Russian transit trade to Germany and the
Ukrainian trade with Scandinavia?"

Or without its emigrants. Lithuania is a nation of emigrants. There are
five million Lithuanians inside the country of Lithuania, another
half-million in the Memel, Suwalki, and Vilnia districts, and two
million Lithuanians living outside geographical Lithuania. As elsewhere
in central Europe, this emigration was driven by poverty, and, in the
generation after independence, by no small measure of political
instability. Quebec received a few of these emigrants around the
beginning of the 20th century--one hundred thousand, the Congrès
lithuanien du Québec estimated in last year's report--but far more went
elsewhere, to the Confederation of North America and the United States
of Mexico, to Argentina and Australia. The Global War closed down most
of Lithuania's traditional outlets of emigration, and the current
generation of Lithuanian emigrants now makes its home in Latvia and

The province of Latgale has produced more than its share of Lithuanian
emigrants, since Latgale is the poorest province of Lithuania. As it so
happens, not only is there a Latgalian genealogical research centre of
some kind hard by the Daugava [1], but Latgale's capital is Daugavpils.
I wrote a letter to the Genealogical Institute requesting the
institute's help in tracking down one Leonas Malinauskas, a man who
emigrated from Latgale in 1908 at 21. Marija Himputas, the centre's
director, wrote back to me in excellent French to inform me that if I
could come to Daugavpils, she would be more than happy to help me
navigate the centre's files. 

And so I left for the Old World.


I spent ten days in Lithuania, and this proved to me that Lithuania is a
distinctive country that rarely, if at all, fits into a single category
imposed on it from the outside. Unlike the other two Baltic grand
duchies, and certainly unlike the Kingdom of Scandinavia, the Grand
Duchy of Lithuania is an overwhelmingly Catholic country; of its five
million citizens [2], more than 90% profess Roman Catholicism.
Lithuanian Roman Catholicism is quite fervent; I spent two Sundays at
Kaunas Cathedral, and on both days the church was filled, almost to the
point where the crowds spilled out on the Rotusès aikstê plaza. 

The Church in Lithuania has earned itself an enduring position in the
hearts of Lithuanians by its defense of Lithuania's nationhood. It was
only the conversion of Lithuania's Grand Duke Jogaila that saved the
Lithuanians from meeting the same fate at the hands of the brutal
Teutonic Knights suffered by the Prussians; it was only the Roman
Catholic Church that preserved Lithuania's language and traditions under
a century of brutal Russian rule. Without the Roman Catholic Church,
Lithuania would be extinct. It certainly came close enough.

Lithuania, somewhat like France, is a country that lost its empire and
has never recovered from the shock. The historical Grand Duchy of
Lithuania was, in the 14th and 15th centuries, a vast state that
extended over all Minsk and deep into Poland and the Russias, with a
mostly Slavic population. The modern Grand Duchy of Lithuania covers
only a fraction of that territory, not even the entire ethnic population
of Lithuanians: The Polish district of Suvalki and the Minsk district of
Vilnia each have their own large Lithuanian populations, Vilnia once
having been considered Lithuania's future capital. In the German Empire,
the city of Memel has historically been peopled by Lithuanians; to this
day, they say that if you walk down the streets of this German port city
on the shore of the Nieman river you are as likely to hear Lithuanian
spoken as German. Vilnia, Suvalki, and Memel aren't likely to be
included in the country of Lithuania, though, regardless of whatever
ethnographic claims could be legitimately made on Lithuanians' behalf.

Once, Lithuania was threatened by Russia. The 19th century was the
century that saw the rebirth of Lithuanian language and culture; it was
also the century that saw the Tsarist knout, and the tsarist terror in
the Bloody Eighties. Roman Catholicism was persecuted; the Lithuanian
and Polish languages, both, with their script, banned from print and
even speech; ambitious plans made but never drafted to alternatively
resettle the Lithuanians in Siberia or to bring a million Great Russians
to raze Lithuania's forests and build their homes from the debris.
Lithuania's emigration began in the Bloody Eighties. In the goodness of
time, Tsardom fell and Lithuania was freed by its people from the
Russian yoke.

Now, always present in the mind of Lithuanians is the vast German Empire
that, directly or through its satellites states, almost entirely
surrounds Lithuania. The Lithuanian Ministry of Defense hasn't let even
the vaguest inkling of its defense plans to percolate from its brick
headquarters in Kaunas, but everyone knows that if the unthinkable
happened Lithuania would be lucky to last even a week against
overwhelming German forces. Lithuania is immensely vulnerable, and not
all of Scandinavia's security guarantees can change this basic fact. At
any moment, the latest generation of the Teutonic Knights could cross
into Lithuania and initiate a new phase of the _drang nach osten_ after
Bruning. Kaunas could become the next Metz before anyone could act on
Lithuania's behalf.


But enough of these depressing meditations on a possibility that shall
surely never come to pass. These dark prospects, though, are absent from
the fabric of Lithuanian life. Lithuania is an anomaly in the neat,
rationalized, post-Lutheran culture of greater Scandinavia, but it is a
refreshingly human anomaly. Lithuania is Central European like Poland,
but I've seen in Kaunas and Daugavpils a greater energy--a brilliant
grounded whimsiness, if you will, an ability to leaven even the most
difficult things--that is lacking in Krakow and Warsaw. Their Catholic
faith is important, of course, but it is leavened by freedom. The
Lithuanians have their imported monarch, just like the Poles, but
Lithuania's Grand Duke Michael has shed his Danish ancestry to be a
strong Roman Catholic who rolls his "l"s like any Samogitian peasant.
They say that Poland's king still speaks Polish with a German accent.
[3] The Lithuanians have a marvellous capacity for assimilation, for
enduring the vagaries of climate and cruel empires to reach the present
day intact.

Kaunas is the largest city in Lithuania, and it is the richest city in
Lithuania, but it does not lack for competitors. Memel, for
instance--what Lithuanians call Klaipeda--is Lithuanian in all but name:
When the Russian Empire banned the use of Lithuania's Latin alphabet, it
was the Lithuanians of Memel who kept written Lithuanian alive, and
daytrips into this detached corner of Lithuania are apparently quite
common. There is also Siauliai, that ancient city [4] and its magnetic
Hill of Crosses (since the 14th century, Lithuanians seeking to
memorialize their dead and their faith have contributed to what is now a
veritable forest of crosses). 

And then, there is Daugavpils.

Daugavpils was first mentioned in historical sources in 1275, when the
Teutonic Order began to build a stone castle--Dinaburg--to replace the
wooden castles of Latgale and securely administer this distant German
colonial frontier. Around the castle a trading city built up, and in the
15th century the castle was conquered by the Lithuanians. Lithuanian
Daugavpils has remained despite the inevitable name changes: The city
has been Polish Dinaburg, briefly Russian Borisoglebsk, then Dinaburg
again, then Russian Dvinsk, and only after independence Lithuanian

Daugavpils is the centre of the eccentric province of Latgale. Lithuania
is a homogeneous society, more so than Scandinavia or even Latvia with
their own well-established minorities and recent immigrants. The
near-totality of Lithuanians speak Lithuanian and practice Roman
Catholicism. There was once a large Jewish community in southern
Lithuania, but their poverty has caused most Lithuanian Jews to
emigrate, before the Global War to the New World, after the Global War
to Scandinavia. (Even now, they say that almost all of the Jews in
Stockholm and Copenhagen are first- or second-generation Lithuanian
émigrés.) The fringes of historical Lithuania are more heterogeneous,
between Germanized Memel, Polonized Suvalki, Minsked Vilnia, and the
vast territories once part of the historic Grand Duchy, but then there
are not part of the modern Grand Duchy. It is only in Daugavpils, and
its province Latgale, that this heterogeneity comes close to collapse. 

For a time in the 19th century, Latgale came close to being part of
Lutheran Latvia--Latgale is firmly Roman Catholic, but the Daugava river
that runs through it meets the sea at Rîga--but perhaps fortunately this
fate was avoided. Driving along the locopiste from Kaunas, I saw that
the Latgalian countryside was different from the countryside of the rest
of Lithuania in that it was pristine: greener, with a brighter sky, with
more contented cows feeding. It was a landscape that would not have
changed much from my grandfather's time, but would have been vastly
different from the snows and pavement of west-end Montréal. I wonder,
driving in the locomobile, how he managed the psychic shift from
peasantry to urbanity. It's always easier to think of the Québécois and
Lithuanian transitions from rural peasant societies to urban mass
societies in general, in terms of entire populations thrust forward by
inevitable forces; thinking of individual people effecting this shift is
more difficult.


Daugavpils is a pretty city, even if it doesn't seem to have any
industries. The transit trade from the Associated Russian Republics to
the German empire, and to the Latvian port of Rîga, seems to provide the
city's residents with some of their sustenance--certainly Latgalian
agriculture isn't very productive given the tariffs applied by the
German Empire and its satellites to Lithuanian meat and grain and
Scandinavia's open markets. Latgale must rank as one of the poorest
provinces in all of greater Scandinavia, but Marija Himputas for one is

"So, we Latgalians are poor," she shrugged when I ventured upon this
subject. "Our material poverty exists, but it is hardly deprivation: We
are not Vietnamese or black Victorians, we are not destitute. If the
material poverty is that bad, you can always leave, but we stay more
often than not." Himputas smiles as the breeze comes off of the river,
and continues: "We Latgalians are no longer so deprived that we cannot
recognize our spiritual heritage. Latgale--and all Lithuania--is a
frontier, is the northernmost Catholic region in Europe. We have a
special mission, to our Scandinavian friends and to our German and
Russian neighbours. We are proud."

And what of Leonas Malinauskas? I read neither Lithuanian or Russian,
and so I depended heavily on Madame Himputas and her translating skill
to understand the masses of parochial and state records that constitutes
perhaps the most complete genealogical registry to exist in all of
Europe, fully on par with our own genealogical registries. With the
meagre information that I could provide, Himputas traced the name Leonas
Malinauskas to one child of nine in a farm family in the Rezekne
district, hard by the Russian frontier. His parents were Lithuanians,
but his mother was half-Polish and their owned a country store that
catered to the needs of the peasants of Rezekne. When I left Kaunas for
Austrasia, I left with the copies and a few translations of the records
of the Malinauskas. Even as I write, I am sending the originals over to
Montréal for translation into French.

Of the man Leonas Malinauskas, I learned very little. Now, I know that I
have relatives in Rezekne, and I have at long last the statistics of
Malinauskas' family and his native Rezekne district. I only know the
reasons for his existence, the factors that formed him as a personality;
his personality remains beyond Earthly recall. But then, I never
expected to learn as much as I did.

- By André-Philippe MAETERLINCK, Daugavpils


[2] Though the Grand Duchy of Lithuania's population of roughly five
million is one-third larger than the population of OTL's Republic of
Lithuania in smaller borders, the luck of the Grand Duchy in avoiding
two successive world wars fought substantially on Lithuanian territory
by combatants prone to the indiscriminate massacre of Lithuanian
civilians helped matters significantly.

[3] Maeterlinck's sources on this matter are, obviously, biased or
truthful. It depends on your perspective.

[4] In OTL, the city of Siauliai was razed by fire in 1872.