Let Us Not Leave Our Homeland: Anti-Emigration Activities of Juozas Tumas-Vaižgantas

  • Daiva Dapkutė
Keywords: Juozas Tumas-Vaižgantas, emigration, Lithuania, USA, immigrants, agitation


Mass emigration of Lithuanians at the end of the nineteenth century and at the beginning of the twentieth century became not only a considerable loss to Lithuania but also a serious concern for the leaders of the national rebirth movement (e.g., Jonas Šliūpas, Vincas Kudirka, Jonas Basanavičius, Antanas Smetona, and others), who frequently expressed their negative attitude towards emigration. An active anti-emigration campaign took place in Lithuania, and the press urged Lithuanians to stay in their homeland and not to go to the USA, while those who had already emigrated were implored to return to Lithuania. One of the most significant representatives of the anti-emigration policy was Juozas Tumas-Vaižgantas, a writer and one of the founders of the Lithuanian Christian-Democratic Union. In 1911, he and priest Konstantinas Olšauskas visited the USA where they collected donations for the construction of the “Saulė” Catholic gymnasium in Kaunas. After visiting most of the Lithuanian colonies, Juozas Tumas-Vaižgantas was well acquainted with the difficult situation of the immigrants and urged them not to forget Lithuania and return home. Upon return to Lithuania, he gave approximately thirty anti-emigration speeches in various cities and towns, in which he spoke about the difficult life of the immigrants and urged people not to leave for America. In 1912, he published the book Ten gera kur mūsų nėra arba neapleiskime Lietuvos (The Grass Is Greener on the Other Side or Let Us Not Leave Our Homeland) in which he attempted to prove that immigrants did not become spiritually richer in exile, while emigration impoverished Lithuania.