Antanas Smetona was the last president of the Republic of Lithuania. Forced into exile in 1940, Smetona eventually settled in Cleveland, Ohio.
Smetona was born on August 10, 1874, in Uzulenents, Lithuania. As a youth, Smetona demanded that Russia forsake all claims to Lithuania. Smetona's views caused Russian authorities to arrest the nationalist. Upon release from prison, Smetona continued to advocate Lithuanian nationalism, and in 1918, after Russia ended its control of Lithuania, Smetona became one of three ministers who lead a provisional government. Well respected by his fellow Lithuanians, Smetona served as president of Lithuania from 1919 to 1922 and again from 1926 to 1940. On June 15, 1940, Smetona fled Lithuania, as Soviet Union forces occupied Lithuania.
Upon fleeing Lithuania, Smetona and his wife traveled to Germany, Switzerland, and eventually to the United States of America, where President Franklin Delano Roosevelt welcomed him. In April 1942, Smetona settled in Cleveland, where he lived in the attic of his son's apartment. Smetona's son was an employee of the Standard Tool Company. Smetona traveled across the United States, speaking to numerous groups about his native country. Smetona died in a house fire on January 9, 1944.
- Van Tassel, David D., and John J. Grabowski, eds. The Encyclopedia of Cleveland History. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1996.