SMETONA, ANTANAS (10 Aug. 1874-9 Jan. 1944), who came to Cleveland in Apr. 1942 as the exiled president of Lithuania, was born of peasant parents in Uzulenents, became an ardent promoter of Lithuanian nationalism as a youth, and as a result was expelled from college and later from law school in St. Petersburg, where he was also jailed. Upon his release from prison, he settled in Vilna, where he worked in a bank and later edited a small periodical.
Persisting in supporting Lithuanian freedom, Smetona was one of 3 ministers chosen to head the provisional government after Russia renounced its claim to the country in 1918. He served as president of the country from 1919-22, and was reelected in 1926 and 1930. He and his wife were forced to flee the country on 15 June 1940, during the Soviet invasion. They escaped first to Germany, then to Switzerland, and traveled to other countries before arriving in the U.S. in Mar. 1941, greeted by Pres. Franklin D. Roosevelt upon his arrival.
In Cleveland, Smetona and his wife, Sophie, lived in an attic suite above the apartment of their son, Julius, a grinder for Standard Tool Co. Smetona travelled to Lithuanian communities throughout the U.S. and wrote and spoke on behalf of his Soviet-controlled homeland, using the home at Ablewhite Ave. as his base, until his death in a house fire. Smetona was buried in Knollwood Cemetery and then reinterred in a family crypt in All Souls Cemetery.
Cadzow, John F. Lithuanian Americans and Their Communities of Cleveland (1978).