Irina (born 1947) grew up not far from Vilnius, in what was then a Karoliniškės village (not far from Karolinka manor), attended primary school in Pilaitė village (now a suburb of Vilnius), and high school in the Vilnius center. Her parents had their own farmstead and worked in a farm. After marriage settled in Bukčiai, worked as a painter in a factory. The family moved to Lazdynai in 1971. Nationality: Polish. (Interview carried out in Lithuanian by J. Jonutytė. Trnascribed by J. Jonutytė and R. Racėnaitė. Translated to English by A. Gedžiūtė. Translation edited by L. Būgienė).
We lived in Karoliniškės village. Three of us [three families], my parents, and also our neighbor Alberta with her family. I grew up there, my parents needed help, and the farm was nearby. Near the tower [TV tower in Karoliniškės], where there is a café, there used to be a farm earlier. There was nothing here, not a single house. Fields everywhere, with crop, and that was all. We are locals here. We have never [moved] anywhere, we were born here, and everything used to be here. I was little and my parents needed help. The garden, the school, and the farm. One must catch up with everything. There were five children in our family. I had to look after the younger children and to do everything.
You were the eldest, weren’t you?
No, there are two elder brothers, I’m the third [kid in the faily]. There is also a sister, she lives in Šeškinė. I no longer have one brother, he died. My other two brothers are deaf. Well, and I also have a son who is deaf. [His name is] Boleslovas. <..> The son and Teresė [daughter] were born here already. Well, in the beginning, I rented a flat because it was difficult to live together with my parents. There in Bukčiai [I rented it]. Do you know where Bukčiai is? So I took a flat in a house, and there we lived. There was a factory there, and I worked as a painter. They manufactured such canisters for petrol. Such canisters, you know, of capacity for 20 liters. So, I worked as a painter there.
After you got married?
Yes, after I got married. We lived in a room that was half the size of this one [around 8 sq. m.]. Well, yes, there was nothing else to do, there was little space in those times. The house was simple, wooden. We kept some animals, we had cows, pigs, hens, and one had to look after everything. […]
And that village where you lived with your parents, was it a big one?
It was not not a village, that’s Karoliniškės, it belonged to the Vilnius region [at that time], but still, [it is] Karoliniškės. Until they started building Lazdynai. Then they took off [destroyed] our house. And they gave us a flat here. My brothers live on the upper store here [in the same house], flat No. 60, and I got No. 16. My brothers are on the fourth floor, and me – on the ground floor. But you know, [in the beginning] there was some strange [woman] here, she got in here [and lived here without a leave from authorities], there even was a court trial. Until we tuned her out. She was here with a child. It could happen so at those times: people just got in and lived, if somebody turned them out that would be it, but if not – they’d stay and live there. [There was] a court trial afterwards. And then she grabbed all her rags, the child’s as well, and that was all – [she had to go] out.
Were there many familiar people here when you moved in?
No, nobody. Neither any friends nor anybody.
And what about the animals and the land – did they just took it from you, or did they compensate for it in any way?
Well, that was, how to say that in Russian, [the land and farm] belonged to the sovkhoz “Neris”. Down there, there were also greenhouses. And here, there were greenhouses as well, beside the hospital [the present hospital in Lazdynai], do you know it? There were greenhouses there as well. So, my mother worked in that farm. And then cucumbers, also here, in Karoliniškės, not far from the tower [were grown in greenhouses]. So, we helped her, we worked. When we were little, we had to keep running all the time: to the cow, to the heifer, to the farm – we had to help everywhere.
So those animals belonged to the government, didn’t they?
Yes, yes. They were not ours, they belonged to the government. We only had a cow, a pig, we had hens. We owned them. We had gardens, we’d plant everything. When we lived in Karoliniškės, we had everything. Now that I think, I could also [keep some animals]. But it’s too late already, not at my age. My health is not what it used to be. […]
But you still want to be close to the land, don’t you?
Yes, yes, yes… I’ll tell you it’s very healthy to walk barefoot. […]
What did you do as your job?
I worked everywhere. I worked as a painter in Bukčiai, later in “Velga” where they made vacuum cleaners, I worked everywhere. Afterwards [after “Velga”] there was no factory anymore, they closed it. Then I went to work in a café. I used to wash dishes there.
Was it somewhere near or did you have to go to the center of the city?
I’d go to the center. There were no [cafés] near us then. […] Where people would accept me, I’d go [to work].
Do you often go to the center now?
No, very rarely. I keep hanging around here. Near us, in Karoliniškės, [there is] the market…
How far was the school from the place where your parents lived?
[The high] school was near St. Raphael’s Church. Where the first universal shop was opened, where the Green Bridge is.
How did you go to school?
I’d take a bus to Viršuliškės, then I’d take another one to Žvėrynas, and then by yet another bus. That’s how it was. In my youth, when I was not married yet, my mother would milk the cows and I had to bring the milk to the customers. She’d pour a glass jar, I would leave it on my way to school, and on my way back I would pick up that [jar] and go to do shopping – for bread and something else, what my mother had told me to buy. Because my parents did not have time, they worked in the farm. So I would go home, and there I had to do homework, to look after the garden, and also I would go to the farm to work.
So you lived in Vilnius, and yet it was as if in the countryside, wasn’t it?
We are locals in Vilnius! There was no village in our place. We’re from Vilnius.
But you sold milk…
Yes, yes, milk and onions – we had our gardens. What was the salary? Well, a small one. So, I’d knot onions, rhubarbs, radish [into bunches]. We had everything. Father would take [it] to the market on his bicycle and sell. […] So, we lived well. We used to make some curd, sour cream. And now, I have to buy everything… I was thinking about keeping some goat here [points with her hand through a window to a meadow near the blockhouse in which the interview takes place], but someone would steal it and that’d be all. Such are the times nowadays. […]
But when you were young, would you always stay in the village or would you be tempted to go to Vilnius maybe? Did you have any friends?
I did not have any friends. Nobody. There was no time for this. There was no time. At first, the primary school was in the village, towards Pilaitė, I went there until the fourth grade. That was at first. Here, not far from the lake, do you know Pilaitė? Do you know the lake of Pilaitė? So, there was a village Pilaitė not far from it.
Were there more children from around there that would go to school together?
Yes, there were more kids from Pilaitė. Well, [it was] a village school. We’d go to school through a forest when we lived in Karoliniškės, and then back home through the forest. And later, we could go by bus to Viršuliškės, and then on foot. The bus stop was called “Pilaitė”.
So, you had to go far every day.
Every day! Well, what could one do?
How many grades have you finished?
Not many, 8 grades. […]
In your teenage years when you went to that high school near the universal shop, how did the city look to you then? Did you like it? Or did you try to have a walk anywhere else maybe?
There was no time for this! There was no time.
And to the Old Town? Did you go to any church?
There was a church in Žvėrynas. We’d usually go to Žvėrynas. There in Žvėrynas we got married in the church, so I just want to go there [to the same church]. I still go there. […]
How old were you when you got married?
Me? 20 years old. I went from the village by bus and met a guy. In the bus. So, we became friendly with each other… But afterwards… There were various problems [shows he was a drunkard]… He’d like to… I’d go to work, and he goes out with his friends, while the children run in the woods… My neighbors would say to me, “Your children run in the woods.” When we got divorced the children were still small. […] I raised them by myself.
Do you speak Polish in your family?
Teresė [daughter] speaks Lithuanian with her cousin. Well, and I speak Polish with my relatives. And generally, in Lithuanian everywhere.
Did your parents speak Polish?
And did your parents want to leave when everyone went to Poland after the war?
There was no talking about that. No, there wasn’t. Family, children, work – these were the usual topics. […]
Were your parents sorry when the house was destroyed?
Of course! Of course. Yes! There was no cow [anymore], there were no pigs, and there were no hens… We didn’t have eggs. We had to buy everything! It used to be good earlier, but well, nothing doing – now it’s different. Nothing to do about it. And later when they got a flat, they lived here already. So, they had to sell the cow and the pig. […] Neither garden nor anything. The government took it, they started the construction and that was all. Ah, by that bridge [the viaduct between Asanavičiūtės Street and Laisvės Prospect], where [the trolleybus] number three turns, our house used to stand there.
And that place was called Karoliniškės, wasn’t it?
Yes, and now it is called Karoliniškės, it used to be Karolinka earlier. Karolinka it was. […]
So, your three houses stood side by side, but there must have been more houses in Karolinka, right?
Further there, but that was Viršuliškės already. And then down – Pilaitė. And there is a lake, a small one. And there is a small house standing there. Elderly people live there. They still remained, maybe they’re fighting for a flat or something. There was a lake, one could swim in it, and a forest… not a big one but still, it was there. […]
Thank you very much! These are very interesting stories of how people used to live here in Vilnius.
Well, I haven’t told you anything…