Vladislovas B. (born 1933) came to Vilnius from a village in Utena region on 27 04 1949. Studied in Vilnius and worked in agriculture not far from Belmontas. Having graduated from studies worked as an engineer, later – as a university teacher. Nationality: Lithuanian. (Interview carried out in Lithuanian by J. Jonutytė and R. Rcėnaitė. Transcribed by M. Lukošienė and R. Racėnaitė. Translated to English by A. Gedžiūtė. Translation edited by L. Būgienė).
I happened to get to Vilnius in such a way. […] In spring of 1948 our mother was listed for deportation. Dad was a very hard-working person, he bought land twice for his own misfortune. He bought the last parcel of land of 5 hectares […] between 1939 and 1940. And thus, shortly, he became the enemy of the people1. Yet, we did not get exiled to Siberia, we simply escaped. Dad had a cousin who was a prosecutor. So, he started inquiring what to do, that is, about that deportation. At last we stayed, but dad had to register anew for living. Well, following the cousin’s advice, he left his native place and came to Vilnius looking for a job. And there was such a situation back then: it was 1947, monetary reform, chervonces2 were gone, roubles occurred, fortified ten times but still life was extremely poor. Not only for the employees but also for, so to say, the authorities. Therefore, every serious institution – ministries, trusts – had support farms. By what means? There were many free parcels of land around Vilnius, including this one. There was the settlement except for this little house – I built this little house myself [shows]. While all these little buildings, these two little buildings [shows] were dwellings for the farm-hands. Shobat there was, a Jew by nationality, he’d undertake gardening and he needed workers. So, these houses were built for them, each house was cross-shaped, consisted of four rooms and a family of a farm-hand lived in every room.
So, when dad came to Vilnius he had to wear out two pairs of shoes walking around in search for job. That was an absurd situation. Workers were required everywhere and so in those support farms as well, but, if you’re not registered in Vilnius, you’re not accepted to work. And they would not register you if you did not have work. A closed circle. So, there was a chief of a farm here who really liked my dad because he was hard-working, smart, you know, he had had his own farm and managed it successfully. Well, so he [the dad] first invited me, afterwards my mother and both sisters arrived. We lived together in one room in a farm-hand house. No facilities, nothing. That’s how my life in Vilnius started. […] On April 27 in 1949 I came here.
How old were you then?
Sixteen. […] A sixteen-year-old. Without a passport yet. Dad in fear, because we moved illegally, registered only those who had passports. I did not have a passport, however. Partisans would sell those [registration] stamps illegally; they’d copy them with a boiled egg. […] When shelled the egg has some kind of membrane. So, he [a partisan] rolls it over a drawn stamp and then onto your passport. Here you go, now you are registered! So when I needed a passport, dad urged me to write in the forms – there were five forms to fill in in order to get a passport – Bilinskiy Vladimir Vikentyevich instead of B. V. a son of V. It was not acceptable for me, but you know, [I was] a sixteen-year-old. And that was really handy. No one would disturb me and no one would touch me with such a surname3. And, just imagine, even though my birth certificate data was quite different, they liked those forms and that there was a Russian surname and patronym. And I suffered this way from 1949 until around 1956-1957. That is, when there appeared an opportunity to build this little house, I did not agree to register it on such surname. I told my dad that enough was enough. And then I changed it, although I had to go to a court in order to. […]
When I came here [to Vilnius], I had only finished four grades. I graduated from a primary school in [the village] in 1944. German occupation was over there, and the Soviet government came. And just as the Germans were withdrawing, German headquarters stayed at our place, and there was some high-ranking officer. […] And the planes appeared. […] Our house was tiled, dark blue, white windows. The primary school was a kilometer away, it was exactly similar, painted in the same way. And so the planes came. […] And in the school, there was a confusion, people started running about. And they hit the school, set other buildings on fire, scattered throughout the whole village, the school burned down while our certificates had not been handed out to us. And thus I remained not only with four grades [education], but even without a certificate. I also had a problem to start studying at an evening school here [in Vilnius]. One way or another I got a fake certificate; the teacher was still alive. […] And thus I started turning around in a triangle home-work-school for thirteen years [in Vilnius]. Seven years in high school and then six more years in higher education school. There should have been five in general, there was a division of Kaunas polytechnical institute for evening courses in Vilnius. Since I attended evening courses, I had to study one year longer. That’s how I started going to the fifth grade in 1952 and graduated from the sixth year of higher education in 1965. So, that’s the life. […]
If we go back to those times when you and your family moved to Vilnius, as you’ve said, six people in one room, so you instantly started looking for a job, didn’t you?
I worked here for one year in the beginning. […] Why were those support farms necessary? You see, the support farm would keep cows for milk, would grow vegetables and I’d transport everything to the trust premises. This was a support farm of verdure trust. Employees of the trust, its administration would buy [products] for low prices, as there was general shortage of food, [there were] coupons, just horrible this life was. And so I managed to suffer for a year. […] My mother would milk cows. […] Workers were needed. But my sisters did not work here. […] The chief of the farm was quite inclined to drink, and I had to drive an old frontal mare. There was a carriage with a high coachman’s seat. So it would often happen that he needed to go somewhere to the town after work. He goes and gets drunk and then staggers back to the carriage so that I would pull him up into it. […] Well, my knees would buckle, [the chief] was a stout man, weighted about a hundred kilograms or something. And me – a boy suffering from poverty and anxiety… […]
It was the deportation campaign of the 1948. Aware of that we would not spend nights at home [in the village], I’d stay at our relatives’ or at the neighbors’ [hiding], then we would hang about separately. Later, in 1949, the deportations commenced again, and I lived at my auntie’s, my mother’s sister. On the next day after they had deported people, stribai5 would come and grab the belongings of the deportees. It was easy for them, those people were already deported, there was nobody, so they’d come. And I suddenly saw my classmate running by the farmstead of my auntie. He was running, I also ran since I was scared, and yet another friend joined us. Those stribai shot one of the three of us. When my dad learned about this, he immediately summoned me [to Vilnius]4. So, then my life here started. It was somewhat strange that it wasn’t scary here at all. Even though crammed, we lived. […]
Then I was studying for a trade, as a metal-worker, then as a metal turner, later when I was in the higher school – design. And afterwards, mainly, for the longest period, for twenty-five years I had a pedagogical job. I was teaching. That is so. I was teaching, strange as it is, I was teaching technology of manufacturing the calculating machines. But I surely know nothing about the modern calculation machines. I was teaching about such a calculating machine that consists of 80 % of mechanics, and electronics is only a smaller part of it. Such a calculating machine would not fit into a room. There was a factory of calculating machines. Do you know it? It was on Dzeržinskio, now Kalvarijų Street. So, I had worked there for twenty-five years and in Soviet times there was such a legal norm that three professions – university teachers, doctors and actors who had worked twenty-five years in one place could partially retire. It didn’t matter if you hadn’t come up with the necessary length of service, the length of service at work, that is. I took that opportunity. […] That is so, and since there was no regular public transport, I bought a bicycle, later a motorbike, while in 1955 I got my first new “Moskvich”.
How did you manage to get it?6
The thing was that they started manufacturing a German model of the label “Opel Olympia”. [After the war Russians] brought an entire factory from Germany, but in time that model was no longer fitting, that was an outdated shape, such a bug, do you remember? And when they started manufacturing a new modification of “Moskvich”, they had already produced many items of the old model, and nobody wanted them anymore. So, for these they arranged a live queue; together with my family members we kept vigil for a week in this queue on Gorkis Street for day and night. If there is a check – and there would be several checks a day – and you do not call back, they’d cross you out. That’s how we managed and I could acquire a car. A telegram came informing me to come and fetch the car. I remember fifty-five cars brought to the depot station. While I was going there, I was praying lest it should be light blue. I get there – all fifty-five are exactly that. I had been driving it for some ten years, then “Volga”, then “Zhiguli”, and afterwards, well, I no longer remember all the brands.
Did you often have to go to town back then when you had a motorbike or a bicycle?
Of course, I had to, I had to very often. We did not have a telephone. If you needed to make a call, you had to go to the town to use the public phone. […]
Have you ever thought of moving somewhere to the town – out of here? Or did you decide to stay here and built a little house?
I had no such wish; I liked this place. The Vilnelė River is nearby. As we live here now we do not buy any fuel [for heating], I am an orderly man of Belmontas Wood. The trees die, they do. I’m not interested in living trees, only in the dry ones. And I carry home so many of them! Besides, no one would take maple or oak. They tried to the other year, so their stove got broken in a year. So these people gave me the readily chopped wood to take because who wants to build a new stove every year. So, you can see – there is a pile of wood. I carry wood home with a wheelbarrow, and I cut it – I have a powerful saw – and you see, so far, I haven’t had problems with wood.
You’ve said you used to get additional income from growing flowers, so did you have more land?
When I got married, my parents-in-law lived in Zarasai region, so we used to plant tulips. Well here we also have some land, and not only in this place; we truly have something like Falkland Islands [laughs]. Occupied territories. We have enough of land, there aren’t many people willing to cultivate it. I have some kind of plough that I can drag myself, thus I plough.
Do you drag it until now?
Yes, the land is cultivated, not a waste, it’s not hard. […] As well as gardening; you see, we eat strawberries all year round, there are currents as well. We plant some potatoes; you see blackberries growing there, and tomatoes grow in the greenhouses. To put it simply, we are not afraid of work. Working is absolutely necessary for a human being.
So you’ve lived the whole time here farming, haven’t you?
Never without agricultural activities, no; every year we know what has to be done and when. And we do it. […]
What would you say, have you become a town-dweller [of Vilnius]?
[Informant’s wife:] But we live just like in a village anyway!
Well, I am not sure…
[Informant’s wife:] Well, maybe we would not like living in the real countryside anymore.
 “Enemy of the people” was an ideological label for those allegedly opposing the Soviet regime and therefore facing repressions.
 Literally, “worth 10 units”, a monetary unit that circulated in Lithuania right after the Soviet occupation.
 This was a Russian name, surname, and patronym.
 Evening schools were devised for working people who had to finish their high school education, but could not study during the day time.
 A nickname (pl.) for the members of the Soviet destruction battalions.
 Simply purchasing a car was impossible under the Soviet regime; one had first to acquire a special permission (paskyra) to be able to buy a car, and these permissions were as a rule only available to the higher rank members of the Communist Party, or professional union activists, or the like.