Interviews with People Who Lived under Totalitarianism


Genovaitė Sirutytė-Vaitkelevičienė, born 1943

Time she describes: 1941-1980, deported to Krasnojarskoje oblast 2nd October 1951

“There were local people, one German, another Latvian, Lithuanian, when we studied the first year. Later, we went to the centre, nearby Krasnaja Stofka, there was a big school where a lot of Lithuanians studied. We were a big family, therefore we got a huge room, where we organised dance evenings. When I was a child I easily learnt how to dance and I wanted to be invited for a dance. Talking about the sad moments… When my mother came home from work, it was our first winter. We didn’t have any food, but she had some grains stolen in her robe pocket. She baked them on the stove and we ate them one by one. And when she saw that she had nothing more to give us, she cried… the most painful moments.”

Dalytė Raslavičienė, born 1938

Time she describes: 1951-1959, deported to Siberia on 2nd October 1951

“The first working day in vast Siberian taiga, long and gloomy building, called barrack. In the room, around the walls there were twenty five barely safe, metal beds for men and women. Through the small windows the sunshine hardly ever got inside. At six o’clock every morning the warden call would wake us up not to oversleep the beginning of work. Quickly, I jump up and hurry to get dressed, so that I would still manage to drink a cup of  hot water, which was made by the cleaner of  the barrack .We all line up, grab working tools and wade into the fluffy snow,  to the working place where every single  of us had a measured piece of forest which was called “dalianka”. Our attendant accompanies us only today, afterwards we will go by ourselves. After showing us the turn from road to the right I suddenly jump and fall into the fluffy snow to my armpits and shout “Oh God, how much snow, what thick trees they are, daddy, how are we  going to deal with all this?” Daddy looks at the trees and hurries to help me get out of the snow trap. ”That’s how much I’ll be helpful to him- but I have to, since I am the eldest child.”

Marija Vitkauskaitė, born 1934. A story of a Jew

Time she describes: 1941-1944; 1944-1970

Construction  engineer Aleksandras Jarmovskis gave Marija, a young teacher, a lift to Alytus. That‘s how their friendship started. „He said he was a Jew, which surprised me a lot. Later he told me, that his father was taken by Gestapas and was sent from camp to camp where he had to pull out other prisoners‘ gold teeth . Aleksandras told “I and my mother were sent to Kaunas getto. I was getting ready to escape, so I tore the yellow stars from my clothes and stepped on the sidewalk. To my surprise, the guard brushed me away from the line and I disappeared into the dark doorway…“

Vytautas Tamošiūnas, born 1950, pilot

Time he describes: Silent resistance, The Baltic Way 23rd August 1989

“We were determined, knew the dragon’s weakness. Then I was 39 years old, I had professional, as well as life skills. In addition, I was fully aware of the consequences according to the laws of that time. If the action failed, I was meant to get at least 25 years in prison and exile: take-off disobeying the orders meant homeland betrayal, also, participating in a political campaign… Everybody understood what it meant to take the helm in the hands.

When more than 12 trucks of flowers were brought, we could not disappoint the people who delivered them. Most of them were scattered over the Baltic Way, but about half a ton would still have left. We strew those flowers over Soviet military objects, where protest actions were held.”

Regina Aleksandravičienė, born 1958, a teacher of Lithuanian at Birštonas Gymnasium

Time she describes: January 1991

„24 years have passed, but I remember the January events clearly, especially the 12th. When I was having a lesson, the headmaster came in and asked the boys to leave the room. There was some information that the 12th class students could be taken by force to the soviet army. Only girls stayed in the classroom. We also heard news that the Press House in Vilnius had been occupied and people were arrested. The first blood had been spilled. I went  to the Town Square and waited there for a bus. When the bus arrived, we went to Vilnius, to the Parliament Palace. There was a big crowd of people and they all didn‘t know  what was happening. There was no panic.  We stayed there all day and night. Only later I found out that the night of January 12th had been planned for the attack. There were tanks by the Parliament Palace, but they didn‘t dare to attack . Indeed, it was very scary, because the ground was shaking and you could feel it.
To say that we weren’t afraid would be a lie.“

Zigmas Vileikis, born 1954

Time he describes: 1980-1990, “Silent resistance”. The founder of Birštonas Jazz Festival

“35 years ago, I started working as the Head of Culture Department in Birštonas. And then, aged 24, I came up with the idea of  music of freedom, jazz, which at that time was popular in Klaipėda, in the faculty of arts. After meeting a musicologist, Liudas Šaltenis, who at that time worked in the Ministry of Culture, an idea came up to me, to hold a Jazz Festival in Birštonas. The Chairman of the Executive Committee, and later the mayor, Antanas Zenkevičius asked me: “What is jazz?” I realised that the progress of the festival would depend on my answer. I told him that “it‘s quiet, calm music.” “Do it,” said the mayor, “but if something goes wrong – I know nothing of it”. That’s how the festival, which has been taking place for 35 years now, was born. Every cultural event had to be dedicated to “achievements of the Communist Party”. Asking for support from the Ministry of Culture, we “dedicated” the first Jazz Festival to the 25th convention of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union. That was the only way we could set a path for free music, free ideas.”