Tomas Venclova – Our fortunes are altered by Hitler’s invasion of Lithuania (6/88)


Well, and from Kaunas we moved to Vilnius
because the Ministry of Education was moved there. And that was where World War II began. That is to say it began earlier,
but Hitler invaded Lithuania, and began the war with the Soviet Union
in the month of June, June 22nd 1941. Well, within several days there was no Soviet army
in Kaunas and Vilnius, nor were any Soviet activists left there. All of them retreated, ran away, one might say. Amongst them was my father as well
since the new government most probably would not have forgiven him
for working as a minister. Well, he found himself in Moscow. Then during the war he served
on the front for some time and later returned to Lithuania
in 1944 with the Soviet army. Whereas my mother and
I stayed on in Lithuania; because of the chaos at the start of the war –
the bombing, the confusion – we got lost. My father had taken us to a suburb of Vilnius, later he wasn’t able to get to that suburb
and had to pull back to Minsk, then to Moscow, and my mother
and I were left in Lithuania, while he found himself on
the other side of the front line. My mother, as the wife of a Soviet minister and,
well, one might say a communist, even though, as I’ve already said,
he wasn’t a party member then, was arrested. She was arrested and they were almost
getting ready to shoot her. She left prison with grey hair
even though she was only 20… I think, 28 years old.
A young, beautiful woman. Her interrogator tried to show
that she was Jewish and that would have meant a death sentence. But she wasn’t Jewish,
she was an ethnic Lithuanian, a Catholic, and she found witnesses who attested to that. Then, after some time, they released her from prison
under police supervision. She had to report to a police station. Then that demand was lifted but for some time, she was under police supervision
and our life wasn’t easy. But we lived in a suburb of Kaunas
in Aukštoji Freda with my grandfather’s family, with my grandfather Professor Račkauskas and his wife. They had a house, they had a garden, and there was enough room for everybody there. Not just for me, there was also my cousin Andrius, the son of the writer Petras Cvirka. He was a bit younger than me. If I was just over three years old
at the start of the war, then most probably he wasn’t even two years old.

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