As winter fades and we start to think about summer at Dainava, let’s take a minute and remember those whose hard work and dedication created our stovykla. As many of us know, Dr. Adolfas Damušis was instrumental in turning the idea of a summer camp ground for Lithuanian youth into reality. However, Dr. Damušis always reminded people that he alone could not have created stovykla. The following paragraphs are excerpted from a longer article that chronicles the history of Dainava, published in Ateitis in 1984. In the article, Dr. Damušis was asked questions about Dainavos founding by Raminta Pemkute. Here is his answer to the question of “Who were the people who did the hard work of making Dainava a reality?”
My wife, Jadvyga Damušienė, and Bronius Polikaitis, who was the president of the Detroit Finance Committee, were my strongest support. The three of us thought through, debated and implemented all those daily decisions that needed to be made immediately, that couldn’t wait for the board’s consideration or our next meeting. We worked together to address questions from contractors about construction-related details, to find people to help us with construction and outdoor work, to put information about Dainava in the popular press, and so many other small but important decisions that would be hard to list. It would have been impossible to have accomplished any of this without their friendship, support, and help.
The list of people who conscientiously worked to build Dainava is long. The Sisters of the Immaculate Conception from Putnam, Connecticut, were instrumental in finding a location for Dainava, as well as maintaining the camp and stewarding the youth who spent their summers here. The local finance committee chairperson, Dr. Petras Kisielius, Reverend Viktoras Dabušis, and Simonas Laniauskas were the organizers of numerous fundraisers. The camp business managers were Reverend Bronius Dagilis, Dr. Petras Celiešius, Reverend Petras Patlaba, Jonas Urbonas, Česlovas Bankauskas, Jadvyga Damušienė and Jonas Buitkus. Our accountant was Dr. Vladas Bublys; our Treasurer was Ignas Skirdaugas and then later, Stepas Smalinskas and Algis Bražėnas. Dr. Leonas Bajorūnas, Pranas Baltakis and Juozas Kazlauskas were responsible for the cleaning, upkeep and maintenance of Spyglys. Finally, Jurgis Mikaila, Jonas Dunčia, Jonas Valukonis and Mykolas Abarius were instrumental in starting and supervising the construction work.
Sometimes the work of building stovykla was overwhelming and sometimes we lost hope, but this tough and tenacious group took strength from each other and we kept at our work. We also took strength from the support of Benediktas and Vita Neverauskas, Vacius and Ada Lelis, Regina Pikūnas, Antanas Lelevičius, Adolfas Vasiulis, Danutė Doveinas, Viktoras and Birutė Veselka, Jurgis and Elvyda Idzelis, Vytautas and Marija Petrulis, Juozas Duoba, and Vladas and Anelė Bajelis.
All of these and many, many other remarkable people are mentioned in five Camp Dainava publications (issued in 1958, 1959,1961, 1971, and 1981). These people helped to make Dainava a reality and continue to work to keep it in existence. We are grateful to the individuals who contributed to the founding and maintenance of Dainava.