I recently came across this striking and significant reminder of our local community’s Cold War history resisting Lithuanian captivity within the Soviet Union. “Lithuania Behind the Iron Curtain” was a float that took part in a downtown Springfield parade, possibly on Columbus Day or Veterans’ Day, circa 1955. In this photo, Violeta Abramikas Abad, then in high school, is standing at rear, representing the captive nation of Lithuania. Violeta is wearing her mother Stephanie’s Lithuanian national costume, which Mrs. Abramikas had worn on her wedding day before the family was forced to flee Lithuania. (The costume continues to live on in the Abramikas-Abad family, worn by Violeta’s granddaughter Catalina, now a freshman at Purdue University, when she was just 12 years old for a school report on how her great grandparents Walter and Stephanie and her grandmother Violeta immigrated to the United States.)
The girls in white with Violeta on the float represent “Vaidolutes,” vestal virgins guarding the eternal flame of Lithuania’s national spirit and independence. The flame is represented by a symbolic campfire made of sticks in the center of the float.
The girl in white sitting right in front and wearing glasses is Ramualda Sidlau Capranica. Behind her is Bernadine Staken Mikels. Other girls on the float include: Pat Urbanckas Mathews, and across from her to Violeta’s right, Pat’s sister Donna Urbanckas Frost. In front of Donna is O’Tilija Uzgiris, and in front of O’Tilija is Marilyn Urbanckas.
Tree branches decorating the back of the float signified Lithuania’s many forests, and red, green and yellow crepe streamers around the sides of the float represented the colors of the Lithuanian flag. There was probably a sign on the front of the float identifying the sponsoring Lithuanian-American patriotic and religious organization, The Ateitininkai, which is still in existence today. Mrs. Stase Sidlauskas was the originator of the Springfield chapter.