Lithuania Strong was launched to provide a way for proud Lithuanians to fashionably demonstrate allegiance to our heritage. The designs are meant to show that Lithuanians are "overcomers" and able to thrive no matter what the circumstances. An important virtue that my mother and grandparents instilled in me as a child was to always remember where our family came from. I may have been born in America but I will ALWAYS be grateful for my Lithuanian Roots.
Now that I am the father of two amazing girls, when I look back at my childhood I have deep gratitude for my mother and my grandparents. I am a first generation Lithuanian-American who enjoyed the benefits of growing up on the Jersey Shore while learning what it meant to be Lithuanian. I wasn’t thrilled driving an hour each way every Sunday to attend Saint Peter and Paul Church with my grandparents but I thoroughly enjoyed listening to numerous stories after service at Liberty Hall.
After being forced from their home outside of Vilnius my grandfather who was an officer in the Lithuanian Army, took care of and protected his family by taking them to Germany. In 1945 they arrived in Tubengen where my aunt Birute was born. After spending over four years in the DP Camps (Displaced Persons) my family left to start a new life in the United States.
My grandparents, Petras and Ona Lanauskas along with my mother Vida and my aunt Birute arrived at Ellis Island on July 4, 1949 to "re-start" their lives in America. On July 4, 2019 we took a family trip from Colorado to New York/New Jersey, specifically to Ellis Island so our daughters could see where our family began life in America 70 years earlier.
I am fortunate that I have been able to visit Lithuania thirteen times, the first being in November of 1991. My first trip was definitely the most impactful because I heard numerous stories from my aunts, uncles and cousins on the gratitude they had for my grandparents. Because of the sacrifices my grandparents made, many of our relatives in Lithuania were able to go to college, begin businesses and buy homes.
During that first trip I was taken to Kazlu Ruda and the stories that I was told throughout my childhood came to life. Being able to see the monument that was dedicated to the partisans was incredible. When I saw the names of three of my great uncles including, "Tigras" the leader of the partisans I was incredibly proud to be a Lanauskas and Zindzius.
While I was working on Wall St., my mother, Vida Lanys Anton became the designated host for Arturas Karnisovas while he attended Seton Hall University. One of the benefits of being Arturas' "American Brother" was that I was able to attend over one-hundred of his games, whether it was Seton Hall or the Lithuanian National Team because I wanted him to know there was always someone in the stands cheering for him.
Our family will always cheer for Lithuania no matter the sport or activity.
I am truly grateful that I was raised to respect America and always remember my Lithuanian roots. As a family we have kept the traditions I learned as a kid. We celebrate Kucios, love Egg-cracking at Easter and my wife has perfected the art of making Bortsch and Kugelis. Our oldest daughter Ashlyn Ona who was named after her great-grandmother, has learned to make Varškėčiai from her Mociute, my mom, Vida Lanys Anton.
I love that our daughters had the opportunity to live with their great-grandmother. Ona Zindzius Lanys, "Nanny" is the person I most admire. I have learned so much about life from my grandmother who passed away in November of 2016, a few weeks before her 100th birthday.
Being proud of our family heritage and giving others the ability to show their pride in Lithuania is why we launched Lithuania Strong. Lithuania Strong Apparel is a division of Old Tortuga Trading Co., which began operations in November of 2012.
MJ "Mykolas" Anton
6670 Shannon Trail
Littleton, CO 80130