In 1901, the growing Lithuanian community in London established its first parish: St Casimir’s in Bethnal Green, which is still going strong. The Soviet occupation forced many more Lithuanians to settle in the city during WWII and newer arrivals still favour east London – look out for delis selling šakotis: a tall, spiky Polish-Lithuanian cake cooked on a rotating spit in an oven or over an open fire.
Although we’re often lumped together with Estonia and Latvia, Lithuanians have more in common with Poles, with whom we formed a commonwealth from 1569 to 1795. However, the three Baltic countries had a defining historical moment together when they broke away from Russia 100 years ago. Our three nations will be the focus of this year’s London Book Fair, where I’ll be representing my country as a Lithuanian author who – paradoxically – lives in west London. Kristina Sabaliauskaitė
Did you know? Lithuanians are sometimes called ‘the Italians of the Baltic’ because of our famously extroverted and vocal nature and our appetite for all things beautiful and musical.
Kristina’s favourite Lithuanian spots in London
Head to Lituanica – which has branches in Stratford, Beckton, Walthamstow and Barking – for Lithuanian delicacies such as black rye bread, smoked meat and skilandis sausage.
Lithuanians love the theatre, so it’s fitting that one of London’s famous dramatic sons was descended from a family of Lithuanian nobles. Pay tribute to Sir John at the Gielgud Theatre.
The Baltic nations are a cultural crossroads between Europe, Russia and the Nordic countries. I’ll be discussing those influences with two other Baltic authors – one Estonian, one Latvian – at the British Library on April 9.
Order chlodnik litewski, a bright pink gazpacho-style borscht, at Baltic in Southwark. Then head to Tate Modern to check out artworks by Lithuanian artists such as Jacques Lipchitz, Deimantas Narkevičius and Jonas Mekas.
See the work of young artists and illustrators from the UK and Baltic states at ‘Pop Up Creators’ at the Royal Over-Seas League, starting April 10. Their illustrated stories are all in ‘leporello’ (concertina) format.
Some of London’s most prominent Lithuanians are opera singers: bass-baritone Kostas Smoriginas, tenor Edgaras Montvidas and mezzo-soprano Justina Gringytė make regular appearances on the capital’s stages.