Jonas B. and Bronė B.

Jonas B. and Bronė B.2019-12-21T12:48:14+00:00

Jonas B. (1943-2017) came to Vilnius from Liškiava, Varėna region, in 1964. Graduated from the Vilnius University. A researcher and lecturer. Subsequently a professor in philosophy at the Vilnius Pedagogical Institute. Author of research publications and a number of poems. Nationality: Lithuanian. (Interview carried out in Lithuanian by L. Būgienė and R. Racėnaitė. Transcribed by L. Būgienė. Translated to English by A. Gedžiūtė. Translation edited by L. Būgienė).

Bronė B. (born 1945) came to Vilnius from Biržai region in 1964. A former deportee. Graduated from the Vilnius University. An editor and translator. Worked in the publishing houses: “Vaga”, “Vyturys”, and afterwards, “Alma Littera”. Nationality: Lithuanian. (Interview carried out in Lithuanian by L. Būgienė and R. Racėnaitė. Transcribed by L. Būgienė. Translated to English by A. Gedžiūtė. Translation edited by L. Būgienė).


B. B. We arrived to Vilnius in 1964 when I entered the university […] to study the Lithuanian language and literature. We were accommodated in a student dormitory that was nicknamed “Stuokynė”. There was a myth that Stuoka-Gucevičius1 must have lived there and then afterwards they made that student dormitory… And now there is a department of the university’s human resources there. After all renovation, after all anniversaries, the student dormitory is no longer there at all. But each and every one who lived in “Stuokynė”, [mostly] philologists, were very happy because lectures took place nearby, and you could sleep until the very last minute. While those who’d come from the monastery, that is [from another dormitory established] in Čiurlionis Street 1, or from the one in Tauras [Street], they had to rush half an hour earlier. Now… Vilnius, what did Vilnius look like? Well, as for one coming from the middle of the countryside it, of course, looked like a very big city. Yet, when one of my course mates […] conceived the idea to rent a room in Žirmūnai2/span> , the construction of which had only begun, [and she settled] close to the [former] “Minskas” shop, we’d say “Gosh, you’re going to some kind of Chukchi Peninsula, [it’s far] as hell… How are you going to come to the lectures, to the university?” Of course, there was no Žirmūnai bridge yet […].

But there was a bus, wasn’t there?

B. B. Only via the Green bridge. One had to cross via the Green bridge to the university, to go around. That was it. Shortly, at the time there was only the very beginning of Žirmūnai, not a single sight of Lazdynai3 yet, and the city seemed to be relatively compact. [But] when my course mate V. and I got the idea… we both conceived the idea of a hiking tour – to walk around Vilnius, to circle it, so we, of course, got into a terrible trouble. We started walking from Užupis4, from the Bekesh Hill, and went around, across the hills of Antakalnis5, across Rokantiškės6, across everything, and finally we got out somewhere near the Second Beach in Valakampiai7. And that was it, we had to stop. There was the river.

There was no bridge?

B. B. There was no bridge, the ferry was not working too, because it was early… This all took place early in the spring. So, we did not circle Vilnius, we realized that it was a venture for more than one day. The more so that if to start from another side of the river, from Verkiai8, in that other direction, that would have been completely awful.

How did you get the idea of walking around Vilnius?

B. B. Well, we just conceived the idea of such a hiking tour. We had many ideas. We used to go the present Bernardinai Garden, then it was called the Garden of Youth, to study. We used to go to do sports behind the Vilnelė River where there is now the Hill of Three Crosses and Bekesh, there we’d go to do sports, so what? We used to do many things. […]

That’s how it was. That’s how we lived. Well, what’s next? We used to get a stipend, 35 roubles in total. We paid 2.50 roubles for the dormitory. They counted that [amount] out of the stipend. It was absolutely sufficient for us to live on, can you imagine? Of course, the purchasing power was immense. Lunch would cost from 35 to 50 kopeks in the students’ cafeteria. Well, if [you paid] 50 then [you got] the soup and the second course and… You could eat as much bread as you wanted. You could take soup and eat it with the bread. […] Then, if you got only 50 kopeks left until the [next] stipend, you’d think of what to do: whether to go to eat or buy “Karakumai” [sweets], hundred grams cost that much, or to go to the cinema. Cinema would usually win, “Karakumai” would be in the second place [laughs].

So, this was our “material” life. As they paid the stipend for summer months as well, for the vacation, we used to buy something serious for that [sum] – either a dress, or a coat, or shoes. And that’s how I lived on that stipend all the time, because my mother did not even get a pension. In a word, there was no support from anywhere.

Because she was a [former] deportee?

B. B. Yes, yes. And afterwards when we came back [from Siberia], she could not work in the kolkhoz either, because of her weak health, so she wouldn’t even get that small pension that amounted to 12 roubles in those times. That’s how it was. Now, what did I want to tell? One thing was especially good. If you were interested in some book and you had no money at the moment, you could wait until the stipend and then go and buy it. It was only later that this nonsense occurred that they would buy out any edition instantly, with the speed of lightning. Second thing that was terribly good: you could go to the theatre whenever you fancied to. Because tickets were always available. Well, always available. If there were no tickets, you could buy a ticket to stand. For 50 kopeks and you could stand [through all the performance. That’s how it was like] in all the theatres, even in the Theatre of Opera and Ballet, even if there was some famous singer or a dancer on tour. […]

Oh, in that “Stuokynė”, what a life we had! Officially, there were seven of us living in a room. But then, there were also four “hares”9. […] To rent a room in Vilnius in these days – that was impossible! Firstly, everybody lived terribly crammed, secondly, even if someone would let [a room] and […] the authorities would get to know, they would instantly “scalp” that person. So, no way! […] And these “hares”, you know, it would be like this: they could not rent [a place], and they had nowhere to live, and they didn’t get a place in the student dormitory. You would not get a place in the dormitory if you were considered to be rather well-off for those times. As […] our families were without any income, so we got that place. I also got it, because… well, I was an orphan. […] And then it would be like this. The superintendent of the dormitory […] was a very funny man, he’d come rushing, and say, “Hares, little hares, you have to vanish tonight! Either to some friends or to the station, go to spend the night! Tonight, the raid is arranged! Tonight, they’ll be catching you!” And the “catchers” would be some people from the trade union or something. Representatives of the communist youth committee and such, or from the dean’s office… And if they caught a “hare” living in a room, all the occupants of that room would be kicked out. So, we were all seriously scared. And those “hares” felt very uncomfortable because… well, if the whole room risks being kicked out, you can imagine… How should one feel? […] 

So that was it. Who was that superintendent? He was really a nobody. But he, you see… When he’d turn out those “hares”, he himself would quickly collect all those camp beds, mattresses, and carry everything to the warehouse. And he would bring everything back the next day. We lived terribly squashed in there. […] 

That how it was, that’s how we lived. And this “Stuokynė” place hadn’t been renovated for ages, the parquet was up, so we’d collect those floor boards, soak them in a bucket, wash them and then lay them back out [laughs]. […]

There was a kitchen with boilers for hot water, so you’d go there, make some hot tea… There was, of course, a gas stove and you could fry potatoes. [My friend] V.’s brother would bring a sack of potatoes. If we had any fat then we’d fry them, if no – we’d pour some water, add some salt, buy some kefir… Sometimes, even [for long periods], for several days until the stipend we’d live like that and nothing [happened]. Everything was fine! So that’s how it was. I tell you, until approximately nineteen years of age I was a vegetarian! [laughs] A forced one.

That was that, that’s how we lived. In that student dormitory. Well, somewhat joyfully we lived, we used to make some noise as well, everything…

I am still curious to hear about that first feeling when you came from the countryside to Vilnius.

B. B. It was very strange for me. You see, I first got to Vilnius for a longer time during the Song Festival of Schoolchildren. That was the very first song festival of schoolchildren in 1964 and our dance group won the first place in the region, and thus we went to [participate in] the Song Festival. We lived in [Vilnius] in Liepkalnis School, it was very strange there… We did not know that Rasos10 was nearby, that one could go and visit, we just sneaked here and there. But some very strange people would gather nearby and crawl around. Towards the evening we’d already be afraid to peep our noses out, and teachers would not allow us either. So, at that time it seemed that Vilnius was quite neither this nor that. And yet when we got some time, my friend and I, we went to the university, we looked where that university was, how it looked like, [because afterwards] we’d have to bring our documents there. You see, during the Song Festival I hadn’t got my graduation certificate yet. […]

And later when I came… Well, I don’t know, maybe because we were all from the countryside living in the same room, maybe because we were… Well, everything was so familiar, so simple, and the teachers were so nice… Well, I wasn’t afraid of the city, not at all. 

Was there any cultural shock? 

B. B. No, no cultural shock at all! On the contrary, I used to think for a long time before: if I were in Vilnius, if I studied (I was craving those studies like crazy!) I’d go everywhere, oh, I’d go!… Well, that was so, indeed, that we mostly spent time in the evening either in the theatre or in the cinema, or sneaking somewhere else. To tell the truth, there were no concerts. To the classical ones, to the Philharmonic House, we would seldom go. In general, everything seemed, well… not scary at all. Even if you’re from the middle of the countryside. Even if you did not know anything here, well, the city seemed to be so familiar… It feels much more terrible now for me. […] And back then it was cozy somehow, I don’t know.

Were there still any ruins there?

B. B. There were no ruins anymore, stop it! Ruins already…

They were cleaned up?

B. B. Yes, but there were still some ruined houses in the old town. Here, those yards were pretty ruined. But we’d go there and listen to the “Voice of America”11. Because somehow people there [listened to it] very bravely in those yards, so that “Voice of America” would sound there ceaselessly, and we’d also stop and listen.

Near the window?

B. B. Not near the window – in the yard, in the middle of the yard, that ruined one. It’s not even clear from which window it sounded. Where it came from, that “Voice of America”. But you’d listen and that’s all. […] Well, we’d sneak to various places, with any need or without it. God only knows how we’d never got into trouble. We’d walk in the evenings and whatever. And as I say, the city was completely, completely… I don’t know, at least for me it was not scary at all. I got adapted instantly as… I don’t know how.

Maybe because you wanted so much to come to Vilnius?

B. B. Yes, I wanted that terribly, and I craved those studies […]

Was Vilnius a Lithuanian [town at that time], or were there many foreigners?

B. B. There were many foreigners. When you’d go to the shop somewhere (well, we wouldn’t go to the market), and in the street as well, everywhere – that Russian language, Russian would be [heard] often. We almost didn’t hear the Polish, but Russian was everywhere. To tell the truth, there were almost no Russians in our environment. And in the theatres. We’d go to the Russian drama theatre and would be surprised that during the breaks in the lobby you could only hear Lithuanian [being spoken]. […]

J. B. They put me in the “Tauras student dormitory in Vilnius. […] For some funny reasons I got “Tauras” right in my first year at the university. And there was such a mixture of students from various disciplines. Well, they terrified me indeed.


J. B. Because they instantly elected me as the senior of the room, four or five of them. […] This means that one has to scrub the room once a week. So, it would always be me or nobody, either me or nobody… Once a commission turned up, there… […] They found those bottles under the bed, everything. One fellow would bring some disgusting wine from Anykščiai and he’d tell stories that the Queen of England buys a couple of bottles of this wine. So, they’d drink, they’d smoke, they’d play cards! I would ask them, “When do you study?” “What is there to study? A page and a half!” All the time. And the swearing – it was maddening!… (B.: Why, and we had so much to read – ah!)

Due to all this “pleasure”, I got acquainted with the rector Jonas Kubilius, the academic. They brought me there as the senior of the room and would start lynching me. Meanwhile Kubilius said, “Which year are you?” – “The first.” – “Which discipline?” – “Lithuanian studies.” – “And the rest of them?” – “Economics.” – “Ah! That’s clear! Let him go”, he said. “Don’t you understand that they pushed him on purpose to be responsible for all this mess?!” Under his decision they threw off all of them from the room, and a new cohort came – even more terrible! [laughs] Even more terrible… 

And you became the senior again?

J. B. And I was the senior again. Me [being] from a village, my God… Of course, I had seen [towns]. Let say, the first town I knew was Merkinė12, the second one was Druskininkai13 [laughter], the third town I knew was Varėna14, well, and afterwards, when I was some fifteen, fourteen years, I started going to Vilnius, to the doctors because of this problem I had. Here, beside the river […] there was such a hospital, of Red Cross, I think, so I’d sit and sit there. Oh, you could hear enough of the Polish language there! All the cleaners talked in Polish. All nurses. In Polish. So… Well, from the very beginning Vilnius was not strange to me. And still, when I brought my documents on the first day, I came and found the university, how I admired it! Luckily I did not worship it fallen on my knees. Such magnificent towers and churches! Next day I went on purpose already, I registered then. And there, behold, a crowd of students! I gave the papers. I cannot understand how I got admitted into philology, my academic achievements at school being so very poor. […]

Vilnius was not alien for me, yet I felt keenly that separation from Liškiava15, from the nature, from freedom. There was a lot of estrangement here, really. […] In a village, everyone knows everyone, greets each other, knows everything about others, while here – nothing. […]

J. B. [Sometimes in that “Tauras” dormitory] I had to sleep on such a bended bench at the end of a corridor…


J. B. There was no place where to spend the night, the room was taken. Those economists would invite some friends, they’d all get drunk. Started fighting so I went out on that bench and slept under my coat. What to do? Bended it was, couples would kiss and caress until late hours there… While the atmosphere, let’s say… I am not even talking about “Stuokynė”, because if you stood up there and rocked a bit, the walls would start fluttering like this, as the sides of a pig. Woo! Woo! [shows]. How it did not collapse, I know not. It’d flutter, indeed. There was no such thing in “Tauras” because there used to be [former] Polish military barracks there. […]

Afterwards someone, however… set the militia on, and they came and completed an act, thus forcing Kubilius to approach Sniečkus16 and ask for two buildings [to be assigned] exclusively for the university teachers. That’s how we got [this flat], by accident. […]

B. B. And Kubilius would say… He would say, “How am I supposed to get some staff,” he said, “if I don’t offer [them] any accommodation?!” […] That’s how it was. […] And then they gave one building in Pilaitė17, and one here [in Antakalnis]. And… Otherwise, we were put in a queue [to get a flat] and in three years we dropped by forty-eight places down, instead of moving forward!

J. B. They’d [the Soviet authorities] provide for the “useful” people.

B. B. Then I calculated that according to the rules we’d get the flat when we were 125 years old [laughs]. So that’s how it was! Well, then afterwards, we would celebrate the day of the Soviet militia, because thanks to them we got this flat! [laughter] […]

J. B. So that all disorder, that noise, that drinking over nights… There was a scandal in “Tauras” when one drunkard threw a bottle and hit the papakha18 of a Russian general! Just flash and like that!…

Over the balcony?

J. B. Over the balcony. Instantly they summoned a squad of soldiers and surrounded everyone. And then it wasn’t difficult to find [the perpetrators], since the bellowing and bleating from that room was really something! So came that general and his assistants. “So, these are the students?” he said. “These are the ones, these are the ones!” Well, now… And among those [students], even if any wasn’t drunk, they’d pretend to be barely alive. That was good ethics! So, they [soldiers] came, looked up, “Well, rebiata vypili19! So… Cherez chiur20… But they did not have bad intentions! Well, atstavit21” Well, they’d have expatriated [everyone] – to the very papakha it smacked!

Russians understand when someone is drunk…

B. B. You see, it used to be different in those times. It’s now that drunkenness is an aggravating circumstance, and back then it was a mitigating circumstance!

J. B. Yes! […] They [soldiers] said, “Zlovo umysla ne imel,” they said. “Po vypivke22.” And they would let him [the drunkard] go. Life was like that back then. So I say, for me, a child from a village who lays down whenever he wants – at 9 p.m., gets up… And here – roaring at 4 a.m. or 5 a.m. […] That’s it [laughs]. Such was our life back then, but… You know, there is one mitigating circumstance: everything looks different in youth. In any case, there are different highlights, different landmarks, and different motivations. Well, to go to dances with girls… […]

You’d better tell me you know what…  I remember something from the childhood23 when you told a story that some tank had arrived and targeted at…

J. B. Ah, that was before me. It was in 1962. So, they got, again, drunk, the students in the “Tauras” dormitory with the Russian soldiers. One of them was at service there at the time and now… On a drunken mind, they decided to drive a tank to [visit] the girls in “Tauras”. The most beautiful ones were there.

Ah, so Russians, the soldiers? 

J. B. Russians. The tank came… Oh my Lord, you know – if the head is stupid, nothing doing… Suddenly the girls would run away screaming and then they [soldiers] would say, “What shall we target first – the ground floor or the third one?” And the tank would turn the tube all tattering. And there inside of the building… [laughs] Massive evacuation started, the doors got all crammed, both to the yard and to the street. Nevertheless, someone – either the superintendent of the dormitory or somebody else – got the bright idea to call to the Northern town24 and tell them that there was such a pogrom here. So they rushed here instantly, those special forces, packed everyone with the tank and everything was finished [laughter]. But there were such [adventures]! […]

B. B. I can tell you something else. We got into the period of thawing25. Therefore, it was not difficult for me to enter [the university]…

You entered in 1964, didn’t you?

B. B. In 1964. The [political] thawing lasted from 1956 until 1970 and that was all – then Brezhnev came, and all thawing was over. That’s that, we happened to get through in that short period. That’s why no one would check me or question me too much.

Tell me more, what’s your story?

B. B. I put it down very simply, as a casual CV: I was born then and there – I was born in Lithuania, you see. Graduated from the [secondary] school. Also, in Lithuania. And that’s all! I skipped that period [of the exile] simply by omitting it. And that’s all, besides… We were that course which first started reviving – because of that thawing! – reviving the old [university] traditions. Of course, the initiative came from the associated professor Balkevičius, our vice-dean. Well, we were the first ones to celebrate the medium. We arranged it with the university flags and everything. In the Yard of Philology, still under the old birch. […] That was a very, very beautiful festival. Yet another thing that we thought of, that we’d march with torches to the Gediminas Hill. […] And one student had to ride a white horse – in the very beginning of the procession! Can you imagine that? And Balkevičius had to make, to strike a passionate speech. […] The great orator he was, the golden-tongued person! He spoke exceptionally well. And everything was so very beautiful! But. Firstly, the little party26 found fault with the torches – fascism! Secondly, the white steed! There, Vytis27! […] And how they [the Soviet authorities] started about that steed, oh my… That student who was riding it – throw him away [from the university]! All others – to punish! This way, that way. Meanwhile, [Balkevičius] had a very good idea: he put on the steed nobody else but Griškevičius’ son! A student of medicine, freshman or second year – I do not know. I cannot remember which year student he was, but he was a student of medicine and Griškevičius’ son. “Who was riding the steed?!”, they started interrogating there. “Griškevičius!” [laughter]. And Petras Griškevičius was already the first secretary [of the communist party] in Lithuania. These were no longer Sniečkus times. And that’s all! Our medium was over. I do not know whether Balkevičius received any reprimand or not… […] That’s how we got away with it. […]

In general, it was very beautiful. We had also prepared “Lebedys’ Prayer”. There was a professor Jurgis Lebedys. A very tough one…

“Our father who art one of the three toughest at the university… Thy name come clear of students’ curse… Do not take away our daily bread – the stipend – on the day of the exam. And forgive us, fools, as we forgive you, the tough ones… Thys pass and exam come… We pray for mercy as before the pass, as well as during it, as well as during the exam in the future… Lead us not into the hanging ourselves but deliver us from… evil. Amen.” [laughs]. Well, in a word, such was the style of the prayer… But he got offended. […]

But this is Lord’s Prayer!

B. B. Exactly!!! [laughter]

Well, they could have “sacked” you all!28

B. B. Well, that was the thawing. […]


Tell me more about that Jew. Where you rented a flat, you said, from a Jew. How did you get there at all?

J. B. Well, I got to that Jew towards the ending [of my studies at the university], and that Jew was a very cultivated man, he worked in the publishing house “Tiesa” […]. Such a house with a fence [near former Garden of Youth, the publishing house was on the other side of the street]. So that Jew there taught me the value of money. […] A rather decent man he was. While that Jewish woman, a genuine Jewish type she was! For instance, the rent for the flat was 12.5 roubles. And the previous month I gave her 13 or even somewhat more – maybe even 14 roubles. Well, I did not have the change, so I told her, “Well, you’d subtract the difference another time.” Another month comes, and I give her less. “Ah, Jonas, that’s not all…” In Russian. “You’re underpaying me.” Why, now,” I said, “I overpaid last month!” “Ah, that was your will (in Russian). You gave; I took, and now pay what is due!” That’s all! Because she did not ask [to give her more then]. That’s how it was.

So, one time I avenged myself when we came back from a concert [laughs]. I was told – until 11 p.m. [I have to come back], i wszystko29! No later. So, I cannot come in, fences all around – three meters high! […] They’d lock the door. And the gates were locked. There was a closed [yard]… Go and see some time, how the hut looks like; it rests just against the Garden of Youth. Towards the Gediminas Castle. A poor house that was. So, what to do now? I had no chance to call anybody. I went to the side of the Garden of Youth, there were boxes of beer as many as you like, all piled up. So I built such a pyramid in steps, climbed it, got over the fence. And the fence, it was that thick [shows]. And some broken glass strewed there, devil take them, I [cut] my hands… And I jumped down from three meters. Right into the Jew’s garden. Pooohhh terribly! And then stumbling around I smashed more tomatoes than I could if I had only fallen down… terribly! Well, ok, later I just splashed over my shoes [shows]. I came home, found the key hanging [in the agreed place]. I unlocked the door and got [inside]… nothing. In the morning, I hear the Jewish woman screaming, “Ouch, cholera, what’s that, oh mein Gott30! Who did this?!” In Russian, in English, in German – all tongues possible. While the Jew just winked at me! Afterwards he said, “Jonas, he says, you’ve done it this time, but don’t you ever do it again!” And he gave me another key so that I could come back peacefully… […]

Yet the most interesting thing was those two little Jewish kids. I realized how they [the Jews] achieved so much and we’d never [achieve that much] … […] So, that little Jew, Misha he was, ah, a naughty rascal! His most favorite pastime was hitting his football ball into the door of my little room. Boom, boom, boom – and his parents wouldn’t say a word to him. Anything he did was fine. […] He could walk on the ceiling like a fly – no one would say a word to him. But if he got four31for mathematics or music, well, for sciences, physics and especially for the English language, the pants of Misha are taken down and what is beneath is beaten with a belt-buckle. Catastrophic bellowing! I, as a future pedagogue, would say, “How can you beat that child here? Now you allow him everything, now you [punish] him…” The old Jew says, “Jonas, you must understand one thing, if he is not at least four heads higher than a Russian student in Moscow or Leningrad, he would not be admitted!” That’s the cause of the fantastic hatred the Russians feel [towards the Jews]: whenever the Jews come, they’re uniquely prepared! […] From generation to generation they try and do four times, eight times better, they struggle as they can so that… Otherwise, he says, he would not pass! Because there, you see, the anti-Semitism is on a very domestic level – they wouldn’t admit it officially […]. Yet, unofficially the pressure was fantastic. Fantastic! They [the Jews] are very keen, very communicative; they associate with each other… Not in vain there is a story that if the devils want to take some rest in hell, they arrange a separate cell in one department – the cauldrons boil there on their own and Lithuanians themselves take care of them [pushing each other deeper] while the devils play cards in the meantime. But where there are Jews, devils reinforce the watch guards because if one [Jew] got away, he will drag the rest out after him immediately [laughter]. Such are the national differences. And they understand this very well […]

And what about the other boy?

J. B. The other one was older; he was more serious already… This [Misha] was in the sixth or seventh grade, and the older one was nearing the end [graduation] already. But they both spoke perfectly in Lithuanian, in English, in Russian and… And afterwards when here, as I got to know, Brezhnev made an agreement with the billionaire Jews from the Wall Street that for a certain sum of money they [the Soviets] would allow a number of the Jews to leave the Soviet Union, so my Jew happened to get unto that list and left – either for Israel, or for America, but… We hugged, bid farewell to each other as the best friends! […]


Have you ever felt that you belonged in Vilnius? Or do you feel like that even now? How would you describe it?

B. B. I haven’t.

J. B. Neither have I. I was expatriated for life.

To Vilnius? And where the home is? In Vilnius or still where your parents lived?

J. B. Yes, in Liškiava.

Home is in Liškiava, isn’t it?

B. B. It’s not so with me. I want to go back to Vilnius from wherever I am. The quicker the better.


B. B. My home is here. This or that but we created it. Plain, poor…

When did the feeling that Vilnius is home occur?

B. B. You know, when it occurred, it mostly occurred when we brought you [the daughter] from Liškiava. And when we began living here as a family. While in the dormitories (by the way, we used to call those dormitories the schools of communism), then neither did one feel as a local in Vilnius nor that it was our home nor that anything here is ours… absolutely, absolutely not. It was even more difficult for me, because I had lost my [parents’] home, one may say so. My sister with her family settled in my family home [after my mother died], and I only could go for a visit there but could not return there [to stay]. My mother died when we had just got married. My parents were no longer there, only my sister with her husband and their children, and I could only go there as a guest. Even for summer, I wouldn’t have had where to go if not for Liškiava. That’s how it used to be that summers [were spent] there, in Liškiava, and afterwards we kept you there [left the little daughter with her grandparents] until we found where to live. So we hadn’t had home until around 1973 when we moved in here. Even then, it was not instant – step by step by step I started feeling that this was our place. While for Jonas here, [it took] even longer, because his parents had lived for a long time, and he would go [to Liškiava] and there he’d instantly feel like a child… […] Strangely enough, Liškiava started feeling also like home for me, especially when your grandfather was still alive… I felt very well there.

I remember, father was kidding perhaps, but he said when you had acquired this flat, you complained that there was too much space here.

B. B. Yes, we moved here from a room of the size of a kitchen. It seemed there was so much space! We had no furniture at all, only a kitchen cupboard. That was all. And a small module – not even this one … it was of two parts, a small one, later V.D. [a colleague from the university, now a professor] took it when we bought a bigger one [laughs]. No furniture at all, absolutely, only a camping bed and an old sofa, and that’s all. And it seemed there was so much space that I even started crying because it was not cozy for me, scary rather, I did not feel well here! Now, here, that’s how it was. Later bit by bit, bit by bit, bit by bit… We started making home for ourselves, but of course, we haven’t established anything much here, except for awful piles of books and it’s not clear where to put them now. These all shelves, they’re all filled with books, nothing else, but books. No assets here […] That is all, that’s how we live. (…)


[1] Laurynas Stuoka-Gucevičius was an 18th-century architect from the Grand Duchy of Lithuania.
[2] A suburb of Vilnius.
[3] A suburb of Vilnius.
[4] A suburb of Vilnius.
[5] A suburb of Vilnius.
[6] A suburb of Vilnius.
[7] A suburb in Vilnius, on the bank of Neris River.
[8] A suburb of Vilnius.
[9] A colloquial denomination for someone using the living place or transportation illegally, or without payment.
[10] A historical cemetery in Vilnius, the burial place of many writers, artists and other famous persons.
[11] “Voice of America”, an international news and broadcast organization established in 1942 and broadcasting from USA. Listening to it was prohibited in the Soviet Union and could cause severe punishment.
[12] Merkinė – a small township in southern Lithuania.
[13] Druskininkai – another small town in southern Lithuania, now a spa resort.
[14] Varėna – a center of a region in southern Lithuania.
[15] Liškiava – the native village of the speaker.
[16] The leader of the Soviet Lithuania.
[17] A suburb of Vilnius.
[18] A wool hat worn by men, esp. in Caucasus.
[19] Rus. “Lads had drunk.”
[20] Rus. „A little too much.”
[21] Rus. “Call off.”
[22] Rus. “He did not have intentions to harm. Mere drunkenness.”
[23] The interviewer is the informants’ daughter.
[24] The military base in Vilnius in Soviet times.
[25] Period of Nikita Sergeyevich Khrushchev’s leadership in the USSR that featured de-Stalinization and slight liberalization of the country’s life.
[26] Diminutive used in ironic and degrading sense to name the Communist Party.
[27] The coat of arms of the independent Lithuania.
[28] Public religious practices were restricted in Soviet times; especially for students and members of Komsomol this could cause severe repressions.
[29] Pol. “And that’s it.”
[30] Germ. “Oh my God.”
[31] A five-scale grading system of evaluation was applied at the time, five stood for excellent, four – good, three – satisfactory, two – did not pass, one – extremely bad.