The Journal of Teresė Čėsnaitė — July, 1944 to June, 1949
This is a record of the Čėsna family’s flight from Lithuania to Germany and, ultimately, to the USA. (Pictures, maps and notes in bold print were added for clarification and are not part of the original diary.) Translated from Lithuanian to English by Silvia Čėsnaitė Wenta
Terese was 16 years old when she started her journal. She began with a brief autobiography.
Members of the Cesna Family when they started this journey:
- Dad (Juozas Čėsna) — age 43
- Mom (Stefanija Čėsna) — age 41
- Teresė — age 16
- Aldona — age 13
- Juozas — age 12
- Leonardas — age 9
- Silvija — age 7
I was born on Monday, January 23, 1928 at 4:20 a.m. (The birth certificate mistakenly shows February 2, 1928, the baptism date.) I was born in village of Preikurai(H*), Kelmė district, Raseiniai province of Lithuania. I was baptized Teresė Natalija at Kelmė’s St. Mary’s Roman Catholic Church. My godparents were Vlazė Varanavičienė – Danbrauskaitė (Mother’s sister) and Stasys Danbrauskas (Mother’s uncle). My confirmation name is Aurelija and my sponsor — Stanislava Gintaraitė.
Summer vacation of 1944 was uneasy. Aldona and I had gone to visit our uncle, Fr. Nikodemas Čėsna, in Joniškis but we didn’t stay long. We returned home as the sounds of war grew louder. Our parents were ready for flight, but were still hesitating because it was so hard to leave the farm, the land and everything that was dear to us. But they couldn’t delay very long, for each day the danger grew nearer, the red snake slid deeper into our dear Lithuania, thirsty for the blood of innocent people …
July 26, 1944 (Wed)
At 3 a.m. we left Kelmė (1*) together with Miss Jadzė Puišyte (a teacher at Elvyrava Elementary School), the Kalūza family, Mr. Prekeris and his housekeeper, Onutė. With pain in our hearts we are parting with everything, perhaps never to return. But we must go, determined that it is better to die of hunger or from bombs than from the red bandit’s hand.
The beginning of the journey went fine. Around 8 a.m. we stopped to rest at Mr. & Mrs. Šapalus’ in the district of Kražiai (2). The mood isn’t bad — we are welcomed nicely and made to feel at home. Our hosts are unusually cordial. The news we hear while here seems favorable and we even start thinking that we had left too soon. But as is becomes clear later, we had left just in time.
July 27, (Thurs.)
All three men (Kalūza, Prekeris and Dad) go to Kelmė to see what is happening. The remaining people had just finished breakfast when we see the men returning, wearing white bands on their sleeves. We were all frightened. It seems that there’s a panic in Kelmė. The army is retreating toward Kelmė from Šiauliai, moving along the highway. Our mood changes suddenly as we prepare to travel on. After lunch, at about 5 p.m., after emotional goodbyes with our hosts, we head towards Kaltinėnai (3). As night falls, we stop at Mr. & Mrs. Ivanauskis just before reaching Kaltinėnai. They offer us hospitality gladly and sincerely. It gladdens the heart when you meet real Lithuanians on this journey.
July 28 (Fri.)
At approximately 5 a.m. we resume our journey, and by 2 p.m. we reach Mrs. Gotceitienė’s native land. We are welcomed warmly here also. It seems especially quiet and safe; it’s hard to believe that the bloody Bolshevik’s hand can reach us here. We might have stayed here longer, but the news we receive forces us to move on. The heart is uneasy; before us the future is unclear and foggy. Our hosts have treated us well; although they seem calm today, every Lithuanian’s heart is troubled.
July 29 (Sat.)
After a good night’s rest, we eat, say sincere goodbyes and head toward Šilalė (4). Before leaving, a strange couple from Šiauliai joins our group; he is a court secretary and she is a nurse. Along the way we meet Lithuanian military officers who give us directions. We give some of them a ride to Šilalė. We stop to rest for a little bit. The town is full of people like us. It hurts that Lithuanians who love their country, their families, who are ready to die for it — today they have no place to stay; they have to run, leaving everything to an unknown fate. Upon leaving Šilalė we turn toward Kvėdarna (5) and stop for the night at the Šimulis farm in the village of Šerikai. The place isn’t great but the people are nice. We find a stream and go swimming.
July 30 (Sun.)
At 5:30 a.m. we leave the Šimulis farm and turn toward Pajūris (6). We meet all kinds of people and hear all kinds of opinions regarding crossing the border. German guards stop us at Pajūris, check our documents, weapons and tell us which road to take. We travel on, happy that we passed the first check point easily. We reach Žvingių (7) church/village where we cross the Jūra River. Masses of people are digging trenches here. The guards let us through. We stay in the village of Gominių(8) at Mr. Paleka’s farm (he is the mayor of Vainutas).
July 31 (Mon.)
After a good night’s sleep we are spending a “carefree” day. Besides our group of about 15 people; there are approximately 25 other refugees. Among then we find the ex-police chief of Kelmė, Mr. Matukas, and Rev. Antanas Bertašius (Mom’s cousin).There are many policemen, doctors, priests, farmers, etc. here. New acquaintances, new conversations, new experiences for all of us Lithuanians here who have lost their homes…. From time to time laughter is heard, at times, heavy sighs and sometimes there are a few tears…
Aug. 1 (Tues.)
When we got up, we heard that the mayor was planning to harvest the rye today; all the refugees decided to help. At 11 a.m. we all went to the field. The machinery is noisy and the field is full of people — doctors, priests, even ladies who have never been in the field before. We are all tying up the rye. Later lunch was served to all. By dusk, the rye harvest is finished. Wreaths were made for the host and hostess; we sang while carrying them. Many had tears in their eyes, remembering their own fields and harvests. Everyone ate supper together at tables laden with food and drink.
Aug. 2 (Wed.)
After breakfast we get ready to move on. Having thanked our hosts for our lodging and their hospitality, we depart toward Vainutas (9). We stop at a sizable farm owned by Balčytis, in the village of Paupariai. We find other refugees there. Even though the welcome is cool, they allow us to spend the night. Tired out from travel, we eat and go to sleep. Due to some misunderstanding, the couple from Šiauliai leaves our group.
Aug. 3 (Thurs.)
In the morning, without eating, we leave for Mrs. Šidlauskienė’s in the same village. After breakfast, Miss Puišytė and Mrs. Kalūzienė went shopping. They didn’t get much, just 2 geese, a chicken and potatoes. We have to admit that the further we go, the less sympathetic the people are. Too bad, but what can you do.
Aug. 4 (Fri.)
Early in the morning, we were awakened from a sound sleep on the hay by our hostess — the horses had gotten into the oats. There followed a loud conversation between the hostess and Mr. Prekeris; afterwards the hostess was more cooperative with us. The day went by as had many others, preparing food and everything else that concerns refugees. In the evening, we found out that the repatriate had returned. The men went to find out what news he had. It’s interesting — he stressed that we must wait for August 7th. Why? We’ll see if there will be some miracle that day or not. The Lithuanian officers had mentioned that same thing to us.
Aug. 5 (Sat.)
Cannons are booming all day. With every volley, every Lithuanians heart quivers. Early this morning, the men went to Naumiestis (10). After lunch we awaited their return. They were not cheerful when they returned. It seems that it was announced today that crossing the border was not permitted. That whoever wants to cross the border must dig trenches for 10 – 12 days. I’d like to know as soon as possible how everything will be resolved.
Aug. 6 (Sun.)
This is the second Sunday on the road; a holy day mood. After breakfast all the women and children gather round the cross to pray; mystic mood. It’s painful running from our beloved native land, at least we find an hour of calm by the cross at a stranger’s shelter. The day flew by. In the evening we went to pick cherries with Miss Puišytė and Mrs. Kalūzienė; we got 2 liters for 15 RM.
Aug. 7 (Mon.)
Something unusual was suppose to happen today — several people had mentioned this date. One bit of news — the men returning from Naumiestis said that everything will clear up soon and that everyone should pack a knapsack. Everyone hurried; no one knew what or how much to pack. We were all busy until evening. While eating supper, the cannons started up and were worse than ever before. Everyone listened with uneasy hearts.
Aug. 8 (Tues.)
After breakfast we went to the village to get the latest news. How hard it is to go somewhere and ask (beg?). There are people who understand you, but there are a lot of those who ask to trade in place of money. Returning from Naumiestis, the men brought back a present — cucumbers. The men went to see “mother-in-law” tonight so, we ladies, ate supper by ourselves.
Aug. 9 (Wed.)
Similarly grey days are sliding by, one day like the other. We sleep, eat, inquire about the news and we keep asking “What will happen next?” It is the question of most interest to us. Is it meant for us to be alive after this war? There is a longing to see how it will be then. But various rumors and gossip cause us all to worry. We must remember though, some good may come out of all these bad things.
Aug. 10 (Thurs.)
The men went to Naumiestis to gather news. They returned in a good mood. It seems that the news is better. It is decided that we will wait a week or two. So now we must sit and wait. Following the warm days, today it rained hard. Hopefully the mushrooms will be plentiful – o, that will be good eating! We continue to be concerned with our daily affairs. After lunch and a good nap, some sit down to play cards, others went into the villages.
Aug. 11 (Fri.)
Everyone rolled around in the hay later than usual because no one had plans to go anywhere. After breakfast we went to the villages and got 2 chickens in trade for our kerosene. There was interesting conversation with Miss Onutė at the breakfast table. Strange woman! After lunch we played cards. The men went to a blacksmith and the ladies, to see “mother-in-law”; others stayed by the wagons. It was a foggy day.
Aug. 12 (Sat.)
Nothing unusual; like any other Saturday, we did laundry and ironed. Mr. Prekeris and Mr. Kalūza went to Naumiestis and they took Miss Onutė with them. Although they had left early, they did not return by lunch, so we started eating without them. They returned while we were eating. Miss Onutė was slouched over on the seat, obviously very drunk. Everyone was disgusted. Some people left the table before finishing their meal.
Aug. 13 (Sun.)
We all got up tired because Miss Onutė kept everyone awake with her comments, supposedly in her sleep. After breakfast, mother, the children, and Mr. and Mrs. Kalūza went to church. The rest of us said prayers and made lunch. Afterwards we played cards on the grass while the horses grazed. After supper, everyone stood around discussing what to do: Wait? Or take steps to leave?
Aug. 14 (Mon.)
We slept later today then usual because it’s raining hard and it’s cold. After breakfast, we prepared lunch and played cards again. It is scary that it’s getting colder — what will happen to us without a home or warmer shelter? Is it possible that we will still be wandering in strange corners when winter comes?
Aug. 15 (Tues.)
Today is “Žolinė” (Feast of the Assumption). But what’s the difference to us refugees — the days are all alike. It’s cold, the wind is howling. We are all sitting in the barn on the hay, wearing our coats to stay warm. I don’t feel well, I have a fever. But even though I am sick, I sleep in the barn; I’m not allowed in the house. I feel uneasy. It is cold and damp. Everyone’s mood is down.
Aug. 16 (Wed.)
Today Dad asked a repatriate if we could use a small vacant farm nearby. He got approval and we moved there after breakfast. It’s more pleasant here because our things are in a room. The men went to Naumiestis for thrashing and the rest of us settled in. It felt good to know that today we would sleep in a room.
Aug. 17 (Thurs.)
Today the rye from the neighboring repatriates’ farms is being taken to Naumiestis for thrashing. We worked at “home” all day. Mr. & Mrs. Kalūza and Mr. Perkeris remain at Šidlauskienė’s. Mrs. Kalūza is very sad, but convinced that we will live together soon.
Aug. 18 (Fri.)
Well, sure enough, this morning, Mr. Kalūza said that this evening they will move in by us. After breakfast, we washed the floors, brought in some hay and made some pretty nice “beds”. After lunch, our guests arrived. Everyone settled in as if we were going to live here for a year. Who knows, maybe an unexpected bit of news will direct our lives in one direction or another.
Aug. 19 (Sat.)
How many Saturdays have been spent in strange lands? How many more? No one knows. They are sliding by, one after another into the past, never to return. Who knows what will happen next. There are all kinds of rumors and talk. Some reassure us that after a time, we’ll return home; others say that somehow we must get to Germany. But when you think about it, what is waiting for us there? We live and wait — but we don’t know what for.
Aug 20, 21 (Sun., Mon.)
We are still living on the repatriate’s farm, in the village of Paupariai. I must write, but what? The days are sliding by, one just like the other.
Aug. 22, 23, 24 (Tues., Wed., Thurs.)
Our whole group has joined the “Ernte” organization whose purpose is to help work the remaining repatriates’ farms. So we are working as much as we can. The men thrashed rye for a few days in Naumiestis. They were paid with rye.
Aug. 25, 26 (Fri., Sat.)
Dad has spent the last 2 days harvesting oats at repatriate Fetingis’ farm. The rest of us were binding wheat and oats. By the time we finished, the sun had set. We were all tired.
Aug 27 (Sun.)
We have been traveling for 2 months. Mr. Prekeris returned from Naumeiestis with a permit to travel to Kelmė. That made us a bit more cheerful. Our neighbor, repatriate Frenkleris, is leaving for the front tomorrow. This evening there was a farewell gathering for him at our place. There were drinks and hearty laughter. Everyone scattered to go to sleep rather late.
Aug. 28 (Mon.)
Today Mr. Prekeris drove the mobilized repatriates to the nearest German railroad station. Dad and Mr. Kalūza went also — to get permits to go to Kelmė. Some of those remaining killed fowl; others plucked them, all in preparation for the trip. Toward evening Dad returned with the permit. We were planning to leave tomorrow but the other men didn’t return until late. There wasn’t enough time for them to get ready, so it was decided to leave on Wed.
Aug. 29 (Tues.)
Preparations for the trip have been going on since morning. We have been washing and putting the wagons in order all day long. The mood is good because the thought of home changes a person. In the yard, the barn and the house, laughter is heard more often. How the trip will succeed isn’t clear, but remembering home and friends touches the heart. When all the work was done, everyone scattered to sleep one last night in Paupariai.
Aug. 30 (Wed.)
Our group left the village at 7 a.m. The good-byes were happy because we were going home. We passed by Vainutą and stopped for the night 3 kilometers past Pajųris (6) at the Juškevičius’ on the Kebirkščių (6a) estate. It is very neglected, disorder is everywhere. Surprisingly, there are only 2 cows… The location is very pretty but the housekeeper’s carelessness is noticeable. But you can’t blame her — that’s her style.
Aug. 31 (Thurs.)
At about 8:30 we travel on. We go past Šilalė (4), Upyna and stop for the night at the farm of J. Valentiejus in the village of Melnikai. It’s a 10 HA farm not far from Girdiškė. These people have suffered many losses (the Germans have taken their cows and horses) but they are very sincere. They shared their last drops of milk with us. It is wonderful when you meet people like that. The people here are very different from those at Naumiestis. It would be pleasant if one could find more of the nice ones.
Sept. 1 (Fri.)
At 8:30 a.m. we leave the village of Melnikai. Upon reaching Girdiškė, we visit that church which is very beautiful, bright and cozy. The side alters are unusually lovely, made of natural oak. Later we stop at Stulgiai and have lunch with the Danbrauskai. We move onward to the Dauskurdus estate where we will stay by Mrs. Prialgauskas. Mr. Prekeris was leading the way and led us into such a thick alder grove that for awhile we couldn’t go forward or back.
Sept. 2 (Sat.)
Early in the morning, all the men, Mom and Mrs. Kalūza went to Kelmė. It was sad staying back and having to wait for whatever news they’ll bring back. All day long, our eyes are looking toward Kelmė, but there is nothing. Cars are going by, toward Kražiai. The day went by, but the travelers aren’t haven’t returned. After supper, Miss Jadzė, I and the host went to sleep in the barn.
Sept. 3 (Sun.)
All day we waited for their return. But they are nowhere to be seen. Lunch, and after lunch, still nothing. It’s sad and lonely. All kinds of thoughts: maybe something happened on the road or maybe they found everything fine and are in no hurry to return. It’s uneasy. It’s after supper and we are still waiting. Someone says “They’re coming”. We run outside and yes, they are coming! They return with cows, sheep, fowl and loaded wagons. The news they brought back is sad: destruction, fire damage, wreckage. At least we now know.
Sept. 4 (Mon.)
Not only did the talking go on late yesterday evening, but it continues today. It seems that the front was in our home village of Preikurai (H). We were glad that we had left. It’s scary to hear about everything. They said that the school was damaged, everything stolen, torn up. It’s a pity…. After lunch Mr. Prekeris, Dad and Mom go to Kelmė again. We will again spend many boring hours waiting for their return with more news.
Sept. 5 (Tues.)
The day went by waiting for their return. We had just started making supper when we saw them coming. Again, they came with two wagons. The news is the same. The front is 5 kilometers from Preikurai. Cannons are booming without pause. Dad has resumed his duties as mayor of Kelmė. Of course, it isn’t much but his office is operating. Almost every night planes fly overhead, light up the sky and sometimes drop bombs. It is not cozy at night in the barn.
Sept. 6 (Wed.)
Days go by, one like the other. After lunch, most of us went berry picking. We gathered cranberries — found quite a lot; came back tired. Later we packed and arranged the wagons, because we have to be ready at all times. Maybe we’ll have to flee toward the border again? It would be sadder to go in that direction again, because then there would be no road back.
Sept. 7 (Thurs.)
Mr. Prekeris, Mr. Kalūza and Dad went to Kražiai to sow rye. Miss Jadzė went also. The rest of us went berry picking again. When we got back, the women had already returned. After eating we sliced apples for drying. Even though some of the men had planned to come back from Kelmė today, they had not arrived by the time we went to bed. While we slept, Dad came with Mr. Laužikas who is staying with Mr. Demskis at Paliepšai.
Sept. 8 (Fri.)
Since early morning, we have been hearing loud cannons from the direction of Raseiniai. There is talk that the Bolsheviks are nearing Vidukle and want to force their way into Kryzkalnis. The soul feels restless. After lunch we went berry picking along the roadside, past Jauniske. We found quite a few. We came back at sunset. We had just gone to sleep, when we heard the hum of propellers. There was fear that they might drop bombs. Today is the national holiday of a country that is being trampled and destroyed by the red barbarians.
Sept. 9 (Sat.)
This Saturday slid by like all the others. It is cold and foggy. Winter is coming, which forces people to be more concerned about the future. Where will we go in the winter? This is the second week we’ve been living here and it seems that we’ve lingered too long, that we should go further. But where? There’s nothing at home! Besides, we cannot, because bombs are falling not far away. But everyone is hoping that maybe the war will end soon and we will all be able to return to our homes. Even though it hasn’t been that long that the war has affected us directly, we are weary of it.
Sept. 10 (Sun.)
This morning it was decided that Miss Jadzė, Mom and Dad would go home tomorrow. Although Miss Jadzė heard what has happened at the school, she wants to see it for herself once more.
Sept. 11 (Mon.)
Parents went to Kelmė today. We were left alone since the other men went also. Everything was normal until the evening. Then, some Germans arrived for the night. They took over the other barn. We had to stay by our wagons in the barn. We all went to sleep together in a group. Every squeak of the door raised a question: “what if”…? Our wagon was in the barn, but many of our possessions were scattered around. Now everything we have is dear to us.
Sept. 12 (Tues.)
We are still alone, waiting for the men and Mother to return from Kelmė. The day went by conversing with the Prialgauskis family. These people are not too bad, just impoverished. You can see disorder everywhere. They could improve themselves but they just don’t want to work. Today, Miss Onutė’s friend, Maliuks, disappeared. Onutė became very worried, blaming the Germans who had just left. We all had a good laugh over her worries.
Sept. 13 (Wed.)
We made lunch quite early and ate. Unexpectedly, around 3 p.m. Mother returned from Kelmė and said that we would move to Mr. Šapalą’s this evening. The men were supposed to return soon. But it started getting dark and they still hadn’t returned. Finally they all came back in a good mood, especially Mr. Kalūza. They had stopped between Kelmė and Kražiai. Then there was a conflict between Mr. Kalūza and Mr. Prekeris. The secret for their getting along became clear. It seems that this saying is true “What a sober man does in secret, a drunk will talk about”.
Sept. 14 (Thurs.)
In the morning, after saying good-bye to Mr. & Mrs. Prialgauskis, we leave for Savitiške. There’s shooting along the way, bullets are flying past our ears — it’s the German war “exercises” We fall into ditches. But it is over quickly and we arrive at Savitiške safely. They assign us the granary in which to stay. We prepare our “beds”, brought in our things with the belief that this was our first stop when we left home and now it will be our last before returning home.
Sept. 15 (Fri.)
There was an unusually severe frost last night, but the day is surprisingly beautiful. The Kražantė River flows past this farm. It feels good to sit on its shores, enjoy the autumn sun and watch ducks splashing in its clean water. But, although it is lovely here, the heart is uneasy, sad and restless because there are rumors again that the front is drawing nearer, that the Bolsheviks intend to return to their previous locations. Today is the deadline for the ultimatum given to Germany by Britain and the United States.
Sept. 16 (Sat.)
Nothing new. As usual, the Kražantė River’s shores are full of people washing their laundry. It’s pleasant to splash in the still warm water. Miss Onutė is working up a sweat, scurrying around; she is making beer — she promised and has to keep it! Everyone is walking around smiling, amused at her bragging that she knows so much. A few people are preparing to go the Telšiai tomorrow to bring back a man and his child from the hospital. The child has been hospitalized for 3 weeks; his parents have been very concerned.
Sept. 17 (Sun.)
After a good night sleep and breakfast, we are preparing to go to church, which is about 3 km. away in Kražiai. The day is nice and sunny, but cool. The church is crowded, mostly women, there are only a few men. It was so good to be in church again — especially since it hasn’t been possible to attend since we started the journey. The town is full of army personnel. The afternoon goes by without any incidents. Miss Onutė went to Kražiai after tasting her unsuccessful beer recipe.
Sept. 18 (Mon.)
Today our parent, Aldona and I are going home to look around. Mr. & Mrs. Kalūza and the maid are also going to Kelmė. The rest of the children are staying back with Miss Jadzė. O yes, there are about 15 German soldiers staying here and they took over the best rooms in the house.
What a sad sight our house is: a bomb fell on the center of the house wrecking the chimney and part of the roof. When the fire is lit in the kitchen, smoke fills the house since there is no draft. All the furniture is damaged because it was pulled outside into the orchard during the front. Books are ripped up and photographs litter the garden. It is quite a job but I try to clean up everything a bit. I took some of the photographs with me. We spent the night at Preikurai.
Sept. 19 (Tues.)
The night went by peacefully. It seems that the front is not close by; it’s quiet and peaceful. Our home looks so impoverished. Autumn winds are whistling through our war-ravaged birthplace where the lovely days of our youth had sped by. O, it was so much fun to run through the blooming meadows, picking flowers in the rye fields or mushroom hunting in the fall in our near-by woods. Happiness is gone today – what tomorrow promises, only God knows. Aldona and I went to visit our grammar school, about 2 km. away. Here too, it is an awful sight. It is not the same school where happy children’s laughter rang out. Today it is empty, neglected, without windows or doors. Books are heaped in the hallways. We pick up a few and go home.
Sept 20 (Wed.)
Today we return to Savitiškė along with Mr. & Mrs. Kalūza. News is not good — the evacuation has been speeded up. Today we found out that the German soldiers are leaving tomorrow at 8 a.m. Some of the people are very saddened. We are not to happy either because we hear that bandits are in the area and who knows if one fine day they will show up here.
Sept. 21 (Thurs.)
The Germans left. It feels so empty, empty… One feels sorry for them, their fate isn’t clear either. They’re alive today; tomorrow a small white cross may be the only mark of their existence. Some were cheerful, some serious and some were sad. The sadness can be excused. They can see clearly that the war is lost, yet by carrying out one man’s stubbornness, they still have to risk their lives.
Sept. 22 (Fri.)
While the Germans kept watch, we slept peacefully. Last night our host noticed a light in one of the barns. He awakened all the refugees. We were very uncomfortable. This morning it was clear that 2 people had slept there. Who they were, what they wanted, we don’t know. Even though the German’s presence was not pleasant, it felt safer for the host and for us.
Sept. 23 (Sat.)
Nothing unusual. Nothing to write.
Sept. 24 – 29 (Sun. – Fri.)
We continue living in Saviške at Mr. Šapalas’. Work is the same. We have become “richer”, each in our company has a cow and some have a pig also. Our parents have been home several times – they have helped Bronislavas Sirunavičius work the fields, sowing rye since it is that time now. Even I helped work in the fields one day. Stasė is doing the housework. Bronislovas, his wife and Stasė will temporarily run our farm.
Bronislavas was the overseer or manager of the family farm since Dad was in Kelmė working as the mayor.]
Sept. 30 – Oct. 2 (Sat. – Mon.)
The men go to the farms, others to their duties; every one does their everyday jobs.
Oct. 3 (Tues.)
There are all kinds of rumors flying about. But almost everyone is of the same opinion — we have to flee — there is no other way.
Oct. 4 (Wed.)
I went home with Mom and Dad today. Although I am still not a big help, I want to do what I can at home. Only an occasional gun shoot is heard from the front but then it’s still again. We spend the night at home.
Oct. 5 (Thurs.)
After getting up, we worked at this and that at home. Mother wanted to bake bread to take back to Saviškis. But before lunch, the cannons began shooting more frequently. When several shells landed near our orchard there was no more thought of baking bread. We harnessed the horses and started back to meet the others. The first half of the trip was not bad; Mother even stopped to see Mrs. Kareivienė. But at that moment, a hellish noise started — “Stalin’s Organ” began to play. Mother came running and everyone, scared to death, started moving toward Kelmė as fast as possible (which wasn’t very fast since we had a cow tied to the wagon).
Everyone was running way from Kelmė while we were heading toward it. They were all shouting: “What are you thinking? Where are you going? The bombs are falling there!” But there was no other road for us; we must pass right by Kelmė. It was the most fearful moment of my life. Mother and I lay cowering in the wagon; I crossed myself and prayed, shaking in fear. I prayed that we would reach the others safe and sound. Thank God we passed Kelmė safely. We stopped at Mr. Mockus’, left the cow and hurried on; there was no time to stop and rest. When we reached a little hill we saw fires, everything was swimming in smoke and flames. We could hear hellish noises from the front. Kelmė was burning too, though there wasn’t much of it left after the first front had gone through.
After a quick lunch, we returned to our group. They had been waiting and worrying for us. Mr. Kalūza and the maid arrived on foot. It seems they ran from Kelmė, gunshots ringing past their ears. We were concerned that Mr. Prekeris with Mr. Kalūza’s horses weren’t back. We packed our wagons. Mr. Prekeris came back that night — he too, had run through flying bullets.
Oct. 6 (Fri.)
At 8 a.m. we leave Savitiškė toward Kaltinėnai (3). Panic is everywhere. The road is full of refugees. We spend the night past Kaltinėnai, in the village of Rutelės. We find very hospitable people. We leave a cow there by Juozas Bartkus.
Oct. 7 (Sat.)
We go through Šilalė (4) and cross the Jūra River at Pujūris (6). We spend the night just past Pajūris.
Oct. 8 (Sun.)
We leave early, without breakfast. We stop at the home of Vainutas’ mayor, Mr. Paleka, cook lunch and travel on.
Oct. 9 (Mon.)
Today is a special day because at 6 a.m. we cross the German border at Degučiai (11 & E2*). We’ve lost our treasures, lost our homeland and are going into the unknown. Today is also a day of mourning because Vilnius has been lost. We Lithuanians know, in our hearts, that we are without a homeland. Some, like us, find themselves in Germany, others in far away Siberia.
Oct. 10 (Tues.)
We travel over Klaipėda’s level land. At Kaukėnai (12), we cross the Nemunas River. We spend the night by some Germans, near there. The scenery here is different. There is order and cleanliness everywhere. But our homeland is dearer to us.
Oct. 11 (Wed.)
here are changes today. Mr. Prekeris leaves us and joins another group, while Mr. Jakutis and Mr. Pašilis join us. We are happy to have lost such a companion. Everything is running smoothly now.
Oct. 12 (Thurs.)
We had the horses shoed today and we keep moving along the shores of Gilija. They have everything here is Germany, just not for us refugees. The Germans of the front were much friendlier than those remaining in Germany. We stopped for the night at a farm about 2 km from Labiau.
Oct. 13 (Fri.)
It is usually lovely today, so we decide to stay here for a day or two. We bake bread and do laundry since we really got wet in the rain and mud. We build a fire outdoor. We feel that we’ve made a good stop.
Oct. 14 (Sat.)
Some of our people went to Labiau to get news. What they heard was not good. All Lithuanians are being sent to an estate 10 km. past Labiau. From there, men and women without children are being taken to dig trenches. Where the others are sent is not clear. It is sad to think that it may be necessary to part.
Oct. 15 (Sun.)
We’re still at the same place with the same refugee existence – in a foreign land with alien and unfriendly people. Everyone is trying to figure out how to avoid the ditch digging. But how is not clear. It’s Sunday but it doesn’t feel like it. We did all kinds of work today: ripped, sewed, knitted.
Oct. 16 (Mon.)
This morning we found out that the police have announced that we must leave here. We decide to depart at 11 a.m. Mrs. Barauskienė and Mrs. Matuzevičius went to town and will wait for us there. We don’t have any permits. So we decide to spend the night not far from Labguva. We scatter and sleep under the stars for the first time. We got cold and wet since it started raining. The young ones slept in the wagon, others on straw and covered with straw and coats on the ground under the wagon. Our life is really like that of the gypsies.
Oct. 17 (Tues.)
In the morning we made coffee which warmed us up a little bit after a bitterly cold night. Later we moved to join our scattered group. There we got soup which had been brought in especially for the Lithuanian refugees. Mr. Matuzevičius, being a policeman, got permits for our group to travel to Königberg. For another permit, the women went to see our Lithuanian representative in Labiau.
Oct. 18 (Wed.)
The women returned yesterday without permits because they weren’t registered on some list. Yesterday, too, we were kicked out of the town square by a “žandaras” (police officer). We settled down for the night in a small wood. However, it was a restless night since it was raining again and we had no shelter. Today, the women went off for permits again and, again, had no luck since the doctor had gone off to Karaliaučiai. Although they waited until evening, he did not return.
Oct. 19 (Thurs.)
This morning Miss Jadzė and Mrs. Barauskas went for permits again. But they returned with sad news: the doctor had been arrested and the permits will now be issued by the police. Of course, the able-bodied will be taken off the wagons. After we ate, we harnessed the horses and started out in the direction of Tapiau. We hadn’t gone very far before stopping at some estate for the night. We got shelter for the wagons and for ourselves.
Oct. 20 (Fri.)
We were still sleeping when our host brought us coffee. After breakfast, we traveled on. We stopped in the woods for lunch. After “grazing” well, we moved on. Again, we found a pretty good place to spend the night – at a farmer’s who was getting ready to move on as well. We bought some potatoes from him.
Oct. 21 (Sat.)
It was a cold night but we warmed up after breakfast. We left at 8:30. The farmer’s daughter showed us which roads to take to Dirschau on a map. She marked the bigger towns. After passing the town of Donnau, we stopped for lunch. After that it was almost evening and we were concerned about finding a place to sleep.
Oct. 22 (Sun.)
We stopped for the night much earlier than on week-days. We cooked our dinner. A young Polish laborer gifted us with some clover. Our host is an old man.
Oct. 23 (Mon.)
We left about 9 a.m. In the evening we got bread and coffee. We spent the night at an estate; the hostess was pleasant but the host was not. We got to look at a map.
Oct. 24-26 (Tues. – Thurs.)
We travel past many small towns, Eylau (E3) and others. It was decided to avoid larger towns. Why? Because we feel that it’s important for us to stay together.
Oct. 27 (Fri.)
Tonight we sleep at a big farm according to the “bürgermeister’s” (mayor’s) directive. We slept in the barn, together with the horses. But that’s OK, we are used to everything now. Traveling is not pleasant though because it’s cold already.
Oct. 28 (Sat.)
We found a place to stay late tonight at some woman’s place. We got to sleep in a room, although it was cold. The hostess was very nice; the farm is small.
Oct. 29 (Sun.)
Last night we got some “government” soup. It’s raining. But our horses and wagons have shelter and we’re in a room. This morning our hostess gave us coffee and “government” bread. For lunch we got pea soup. We got supper also. All day it feels like a Sunday; at least we got some rest. Virginia Barauskaitė is ill.
Oct. 30 (Mon.)
After a good rest, we thank our hosts and move on. We passed the little town of Stum, hoping to be going in the direction of Vaisenburg, but we found out that we wouldn’t reach the bridge over the Vysla River this way; so we turn to another direction a pass Rehhof. We got a room for the night.
Oct. 31 (Tues.)
Around 8:30 we travel on. Today’s objective is to cross the Vysla River. We do so around 1:30 p.m. – crossing by ferry near the town of Meves. The ferry is under army jurisdiction. We cross successfully and travel on. We get lodging in a room of an estate.
Nov. 1 (Wed.)
It’s All Saints Day. It’s raining. We ask our host to let us stay another day. He agrees. This big estate was once owned by a Polish man. All day we do odd jobs. The day feels odd. We miss the times in the past.
Nov. 2 (Thurs.)
All Souls Day. We traveled all day. We passed the town on Pehlpling. We found lodging quickly today at an estate. We got pea soup for supper and a warm room. We lay down to sleep luxuriously on newly stuffed mattresses.
Nov. 3 (Fri.)
We are heading for Dirschau. We stop in the woods. Some go to the Lithuanian camp for “Marschbefehl” (marching or travel orders). It seems that the only those can get it who can show document proof of having relatives. Mr. Kalūza has a chance, while the rest of us must head straight for the camp. We have to sell our horses. We stop for that night at an estate. Everyone is sad and in low spirits. Our days of freedom are ending.
Nov. 4 (Sat.)
Today the men went to the camp for information; Mr. Kulūza for a permit. We waited for them all day. They returned after sunset without results. It seems that our Lithuanians are not that concerned and we must inquire at the police station. We were promised that our request would be looked at tomorrow.
Nov. 5 – 7 (Sun. – Tues.)
We are still living at Felgenau. Our troubles are the same — we need permits but can’t get them. Finally, with some doctor’s help Dad and Mr. Kalūza succeeded in getting “Marschbefehl”; Later Mr. Baranauskas gets it also. The horses and wagons have been sold. All that remains is to pack and get ready for the trip.
Nov. 8 – 9 (Wed. – Thurs.)
We have spent these two days preparing for the trip; we sewed sacks, wrote addresses. In other words, everything has to be sent by baggage car to Göllschau, the place where we are going. We finished our work quite late. What we have lived through is clear, but what awaits us is unknown.
Nov. 10 (Fri.)
We finished up our preparations and got ready to go to the railway station. We were brought to the station by our own horses, for the last time. We have to part with them, after they served us so long and well; they suffered along with us on our long journey. I feel terribly sad and sorry for them, even a tear rolls down. We left the Narkau station on the 9:30 train; our baggage is being shipped as well — we have 24 pieces. The day is as miserable as we are – it rained and snowed all together — wet, mud… the heart is so uneasy.
Nov. 11 (Sat.)
At night, around 1 a.m., we reached Bromberg. We spent the night at the station and at 6 a.m. we left for Gutenzalc; from there we transferred to Poznau; from there to Breslau; then to Ligonic; then, at midnight to Gollschau. We reached Göllschau around 1:30 a.m.
Nov. 12 (Sun.)
We slept at the Göllschau station. It was terribly cold. We all froze. In the morning, a railway man gave us coffee and called Mr. M. Gerulaitis, who came to get us quickly. So, we have reached the place where we were heading. But what lies ahead?
Nov. 13 (Mon.)
We were exhausted and slept late at a wonderful lodging. We waited for Mr. Stasys Matutis to come; he finally arrived in the evening. After supper our situation was discussed. It’s not too good. There are no decent places. It was decided that the Barauskas family would go with Mr. Matutis.
Nov. 14 (Tues.)
Last night, around 4 a.m., the Barauskas family left with Mr. Matutis. We are left alone. It’s uncomfortable in a strange land among strange people. If only our fate would become clear. Whatever will be, we will struggle with it, but today the heart is heavy.
Nov. 15 (Wed.)
The mood is not good. We still don’t have a place. While cooking lunch, Miss Jadzė received a letter from Mr. Jonas Bardauskas.
Nov. 16 (Thurs.)
Miss Jadzė wrote a letter to Mr. Bardauskas today. Again, a glimmer of hope; maybe we will be able to go to him and find shelter, even though under a foreign roof. I have been working — babysitting the landlady’s little daughter.
Nov. 17 (Fri.)
We found out that our hostess has permitted us to remain here only until Monday. So, we are concerned again. Miss Jadzė went to Haynau to send a telegram to Mr. Bardauskas but couldn’t do so — the distance isn’t far enough and her telegram was not accepted. It was sad, but what can you do. Maybe some good will come of this.
Nov. 18 (Sat.)
We went to the train station with Miss Jadzė to find out how to get to Schömberg. We had guests: Miss Zosė and Mr. Barauskas. Later we escorted them to the station, bought some medicine and came home late. After talking to Mr. Gerulaitis for quite awhile, we went to bed late.
Nov. 19 (Sun.)
Again, it’s Sunday. In the morning, Mr. Gerulaitis and Dad went to see the “bürermeister”. We got a permit to travel by train and it was decided that we would go to Mr. Jonas Bardauskas tomorrow.
Nov. 20 (Mon.)
Today, after a short journey, we arrived at Schömberg (E4). We found Mr. Jonas and settled down with him. We are staying with an old German woman Frau Lukisch, Erlendrf 66, Post Schömberg, Kreis Landesgut (Schliesien).
Nov. 29 (Wed.)
It seems that we have stopped here for a longer period, so we have to find jobs. If you don’t work, how will you live? Dad got a job today at the “Kramsta” textile factory.
Dec. 4 (Mon.)
Miss Jadzė and I started working at the same textile factory as Dad today. Mom and the youngest stay at home — Mom prepares the meals for us. So, all of us have to live off of our 2 paychecks (Dad’s and mine). Of course, Miss Jadzė and Mr. Jonas pitch in; we all eat together. Life is not easy. Since I am under age, I work 1 hour less than the others. The work is not hard, I have to watch 2 looms — but we have to stand all day. For awhile I work nights, which is a little worse.
We live in this small town with several other Lithuanian families — Pukelis, Radavičius and one other. There is no fear of bombings here because the village is so small. We live here for about 3 months until the sounds of war draws near. Everyone is fearful, we have to move on. The factory refuses to let us leave but all the Lithuanians here decide not to wait for permission.
March 2, 1945 (Fri.)
We leave Schömberg. We travel by truck to Trautenau. We stay overnight at a camp. In the morning we board a train together with some German refugees. We travel for 5 days without switching trains. We are brought to Bavaria. Some of the refugees disembark at Neumarkt, while we and the other refugees are taken to Beilngries. But only the German refugees can remain here. We, and all foreign refugees, are ordered to go back to Neumarkt.
We decide not to do so and deliberately miss the train. Then we get on a train going in the opposite direction and arrive at Eichstätt. We are directed to Adelschlag (a small station past Eichstätt) where we are stopped in the village of Mekenlöe. For 3 days we stay in a big hall where straw has been spread on the floor for sleeping. Besides us, there are other Lithuanian, Latvian and Polish families here.
Finally, we are assigned to various farms. We are sent to the Pfäffel farm in the village of Schelldorf (Our address is: Herr Pfäffel, Schelldorf, Nr. 38, post Kipfenberg, Bes. Amt. Eichstätt). Herr Pfäffel is the richest farmer in the village. At first I am sent to another farm but later come to Pfäffel. Except for Aldona, who is at another farm, we are all together. Miss Jadzė, Mr. Jonas, the Pukelis family, Marytė Sabaliauskaitė, Mr. Radavičius and Mr. J. Pocius also live in Schelldorf.
These are our living arrangements: Mom, Dad, Juozukas, Leonukas and Silvija get one room; I share a room with the maid – Walburga Fichtner. Dad and I work for this farmer. The family is OK, especially the old woman. She often brings Mom either bread or shortening or eggs.
April 26 (Thurs.) 1945 at 10:30 a.m.
The American soldiers arrive with news of our liberation. We continue to live in Schelldorf for about 3 months. When we hear that Lithuanians are beginning to gather in camps, we too, begin planning. The farmers do not want us to leave since their busiest time is approaching (and we are all getting along so well). So, we tell them that there is a law and we must go.
July 17 (Sun.)
We say good bye to the farmers and leave for the Rebdorf camp which is located near Eichstätt (E5).
Life in Eichstätt-Rebdorf Camp:
We find ourselves in what was formerly a prison — not a cheerful sight. (Prior to being a prison, it had been a seminary or a monastery.) We get a corner in a big hall, which fills up with newly arriving Lithuanians — about 40 people are living in this hall. Each of us gets a bed, mattress, two blankets and a storage cabinet. Soon, all the shelters are occupied; the camp is full of refugees. Besides Lithuanians, there are Latvians, Estonians, Ukrainians and Yugoslavians. Soon, however, the Ukrainians and Yugoslavians are transferred elsewhere. We live and eat, and are cared for by the American UNRA (sic).1At first, while we still received packages, the food wasn’t too bad. Later, it became very “lean”. It became necessary to go to the local farms and “tauschen” (barter) clothes for food. We visited the Pfäffel farm several times; they always gave us something. The monotonous days of exile slid by, bringing nothing good — like the hum of the water mill under our windows.
After a couple of months I heard good news — a Lithuanian high school was being organized. I hurried over with my request for admission. And so it was that on July 31 (Tues.), 1945, I started the 6th “klasė” (year) of Eichstätt’s Lithuanian High School. At first, the classes were held at Eichstätt’s Mädchenschulle (school for girls). Although conditions were difficult, without textbooks and such, it was great to be studying again in our own high school. We didn’t get to use this location for long — when school started for the German students; we were left without a shelter. Then room for the school was found at the camp itself. Here, of course, things were grim; we had to sit and write on narrow church pews. But that’s nothing; the important thing was that we could study again.
Once the high school was organized, life at camp became livelier. This was one of the largest Lithuanian high schools among the camps. Next to the school there was a “hostel”, since many students came from other camps or were without parents. We, of course, lived together with our parents at camp. Mother worked as a seamstress, Dad worked at the clothing warehouse. The carefree high school days passed quickly. There were many beautiful days, and, of course, some sad ones. It was so much fun preparing for the socials; we waited for those Saturdays just to be permitted to go dancing. Days of youth — so carefree! How many times we walked in the lovely countryside of Rebdorf, on the banks of the Altmühl River or climbed along the cliffs. And most often I went with Regina Priščepionkaitė, a very nice girl. We got along so well. In the summer of 1946, a group of us (Mrs. Priščepionkis, Regina, Ulba, Kikilas and I) went to the Alps in Mittenwald for a couple of weeks. The time flew by quickly and happily.
Scouts and “Ateitininkai” (a religious youth organization) became active after the Lithuanian high school was organized. I joined the Ateitininkai on Nov. 20, 1946 and was sworn in on Dec. 15, 1946. In May of 1947 I participated in the Reihn conference which made a big impression on me. Our group was called “Maironis”; we had our own little newspaper called “Mūsų Žygiai” (Our Steps). On Oct. 18-19 194(?), I participated in the Augsberg Ateitininku holiday.
I joined the student Ateitininkai on May 1 1948 and was sworn in on June 20. That same year, on May 7, I was invited by the MAS Eichstätt to carry out the duties of secretary for the region’s administration, which I did for almost a year. I also participated in an excursion to Garmisch from July 27 to August 5, 1948. While there, on July 31, I was elected a member of MAS Center administration presidium. I was also at the student Ateitininkai camp in Garmisch from Feb. 23 to March, 1949.
While still attending high school, I studied typing in the evenings; the class was taught by Mr. Meškauskas. I started this class on Oct. 1, 1947 and finished on May 30, 1948. Before I knew it, 3 years of high school had flown by and final exams were near. I graduated high school on April 1, 1948 and came home, diploma in hand. It was a happy day since I had accomplished something; but it was also sad because I was leaving behind teachers and friends; in other words, all of high school.
Now, a new question arose: what next? It was hard to know what to do. Immigration had started and we expected to immigrate soon. I thought about nursing school which was being organized at the Schwäbisch-Gmünd camp. However, there weren’t enough interested students and my application was returned. For awhile I worked as a typist for the camp’s committee, and studied English at night with Mr. Jodelė. A whole year went by this way.
Finally we receive our documents from Mr. & Mrs. Stanley Danbar (Danbrauskas – Mom’s uncle) for immigration to America. The process starts with filling out all kinds of forms, documents, and doctor reports — we call this “the stations of the cross”.
(By the way, on October 6, 1948, my friend Renė (Regina) and Miss Jadzė Puišytė, together with another girl, left for Canada to work as maids.)
May 3 (Tues.), 1949
At 10 a.m., after saying our goodbyes to the Rebdorf camp, we leave by truck for Schweinfurt. We reach the immigration camp (IRO2 Resettlement Center, Block 8, Line 25) that same day.
May 4 (Wed.)
We have our documents checked today. They are, of course, OK.
May 5 (Thurs.)
X-Rays, blood work, dental check-ups, etc.
May 6 (Fri.)
The IRO doctor checks our eyes and makes us read a chart, checks lungs, gives us immunizations — that’s all for the day.
May 7 (Sat.)
Today is a free day. We visit the city, the park by the Main River; the day goes by quickly.
May 8 (Sun.)
There is Mass in the morning and after lunch, a Mothers’ Day commemoration – a short speech and a talent show by the grammar school children and the Scouts.
May 9 (Mon.)
Today is an American holiday, so all their offices are closed.
May 10 (Tues.)
Saw the chief IRO doctor.
May 11 (Wed.)
We fill out our visa forms. And then, about 5 p.m., saw the consul. There we gave our oath to be loyal, and, with that, our “way of the Cross” ended.
May 12-16 (Thurs. – Mon.)
Free days. On May 16, Juozas came over, we took a few photographs.
May 17 (Tues.)
They take us by car to Wildflecken (13a Wildflecken, Kreis Brückenau, IRO Staging Center, Block M1, Zimm. 22).
May 20 (Fri.)
In the evening, we leave for Bremen by train. We arrive the next day at 13:00. (1 a.m.).
May 22 (Sun.)
After lunch, there is a meeting for all departing Ateitininkai. In the evening, a concert is held — Lithuanian soloist Nauragis and a Latvian violinist perform.
May 23 – 25 (Mon. – Wed.)
We see the consul; get inoculations and are assigned to work for half a day.
May 26 (Thurs.)
It’s “Šeštinės” — Ascension Day (a Catholic holiday).
May 27 (Fri.)
The final “Station of the Cross” An American woman doctor checks our vaccinations and our throats. We also receive gifts from the Red Cross — tooth paste, a toothbrush, face powder, lipstick, matches, soap and similar stuff.
Voyage to America
May 28, (Sat.)
We reach Bremerhaven (E6) around noon. We see a huge ship — the General McRae, in the harbor. It is this giant which will take us across the wide Atlantic to our new temporary native land — America. Here again, we wait in line to receive our cabin numbers and food cards.
Men and women are separated here. We are taken to a cabin with 24 beds. We were given soft beds, 2 white bed sheets, a pillow covered in white and 2 American blankets. The beds were doubles (bunks), some even triples. The lights on the ship are on all the time. It is hard to find our cabin, you can get lost so easily. The food is American and good — you can’t eat the whole portion, there’s so much. We slept pretty well.
At approximately 4:15 p.m., we start leaving the harbor. When we went up on deck after supper, the shores of Europe were pretty far away. It made me sad when I saw Europe’s horizon moving further and further away. Will we ever return? Only the Almighty knows!
May 29 (Sun.)
Some of the people were seasick yesterday evening. Today the weather is pretty good, so we spend most of the time on deck. The ocean is quite calm. Around 11 p.m., we sail past England.
May 30 (Mon.)
We sail out into the Atlantic. The seas are rougher here. We are still OK but more and more people are getting sick.
May 31 (Tues.)
Most people didn’t get up this morning. All the cabins are full of sickness. The kitchen is empty most of the day. I don’t have much appetite either — didn’t eat all day and spent most of the day in bed. I had gone on deck in the morning, but not for long. Parcels were being handed out. Since I was the strongest one of all, I somehow managed to carry parcels for all three of us. In the evening, I went back out on the deck for about an hour. Mom and Silvija were throwing up; Mom was especially sick. Aldona stayed in bed all day. Dad and Juozukas only missed lunch but Leonukas was sick all day. We were rocked by the waves all day. The clocks have been turned back 3 hours already.
June 1 (Wed.)
I managed to go for breakfast. The others didn’t even try to get up. I went for lunch too. Most of my time was spent on deck. I began to feel better, even though the boat was still rocking badly. After lunch, I took Aldona out on the deck. We felt pretty good by evening. However, that night around midnight, we woke up and couldn’t go back to sleep because the boat was rocking terribly.
June 2 (Thurs.)
Everyone is sitting around all day– no energy, no appetite. The boat continues to be tossed around like some tiny boat. I become uneasy and fearful. The ocean roared and foamed like an angry animal; huge mountains of water rose up around up. We had to sail through the storm’s eye. Mother has been terribly sick throughout, couldn’t eat and didn’t look good. Regina Struopytė and I tried to get deck chairs so that we could bring our mothers out on deck for some air — usually there aren’t enough for everyone. In the evening the chairs belonged to us.
June 3 (Fri.)
We have sailed out of the storm! The ocean is becoming calm again. Everyone cheered up a bit.
June 4 (Sat.)
The ocean is calm. The dining hall is full of people again. The mood is light, and the appetite isn’t bad either! The clocks have been turned back 2 more hours (for a total of five hours). This evening a band is playing, some people are dancing. A group of Lithuanians, among them a Lithuanian-American from the ship’s crew, are singing Lithuanian songs; it’s a real Saturday evening. An accordion accompanies them. A Lithuanian song disperses over the mighty Atlantic; its echo drowns in the roar of the waves.
June 5 (Sun.)
The day is lovely. The sun is warm though, as usual, it is very windy. Today is “Sekminės”. The Lithuanians do not forget. At 8 a.m., we gather together to pray and sing hymns. In the evening, the Lithuanian youth dance again. In the corner of a deck, Lithuanians find comfort in Lithuanian song.
June 6 (Mon.)
The ocean is very calm. We tidy up our cabins and prepare to disembark.
June 7 (Tues.)
The doctor checks our throats. The ship is sailing very slowly now. The day is beautiful and warm — the first warm day we’ve had on this voyage. We should see America this evening. Tomorrow around 8 a.m. we will be leaving the ship.
Arrival in America
June 8 (Wed.)
We get up early, about 3 a.m.; we turn in our bedding and clean the cabins. After breakfast, when we go up on deck, we see America’s green shores — New York Harbor. We are happy to see land again, but at the same time, it is sad — how cold and foreign it is for us. Visas are distributed and around 10 a.m. we walk off the ship.
We are met by official from NCWC3, among them, quite a few Lithuanians. Each of us receives $8.00 for the trip to Chicago. All our baggage is inspected. At around 3 p.m. we are taken to the train station, accompanied by a woman from the NCWC. We eat lunch at the train station. At 8:45 p.m., our train moves out of the station toward Chicago. How pretty New York looks, all lit up with multi-colored lights twinkling on the advertisements. We all stare out the train windows, amazed at seeing so many automobiles.
June 9 (Thurs.)
Around lunch time, we reach Chicago. The heart starts beating faster! Who will meet us? Will we have to find our way by ourselves? The train station is full of native Lithuanians and Americans waiting for their relatives or friends to arrive. It’s an odd feeling; everyone is looking at us — the new DP (displaced person) arrivals as if we’re something strange. We are looking around as well — what awaits us here? Finally, Dad spots Uncle Danbrauskas – what a relief.
We get a 5 room apartment with a kitchen on the second floor. The Danbrauskas’ just moved out of here yesterday into their new house. We look around in disbelief, eyes popping out. We are so lucky. What else do we need – our biggest worry is solved — we have a place to stay. We are living in the oldest Lithuanian community in Chicago — Bridgeport. Our address is: 2857 So. Emerald Ave., Chicago, 16, Ill.
Uncle takes us home for supper. Aunt seems to be a kind-hearted woman. After a delicious and filling meal, we sit around and talk; we spend the night there as well. Also, while we were eating, Uncle’s sister, Aunt Rymza, came over and was very surprised by the unexpected guests.
June 10 (Fri.)
Uncle took everyone home except Aldona and me; we stayed to help Auntie. There was no shortage of work since next Saturday, Aunt’s youngest son, Bobby Shuksta is getting married.
Dad got a job at the Silvercup Bakery starting Monday. Aldona also started working, babysitting for a Lithuanian woman. I’m still at Uncle’s but not for long — a job is found for me as well.
June 15 (Wed.)
A friend of Auntie’s takes me to a near-by glass manufacturing company — Marsco4 Manufacturing — and I am hired. I start working that same day after lunch. The work isn’t hard — sitting and cleaning glass with rags. I work 8 hours a day and am paid 75 cents per hour. I’m free on Saturdays and Sundays.
1 UNRRA – United Nations Relief & Rehabilitation Administration established Nov. 3, 1943:
Being determined that immediately upon the liberation of an area by the armed forces of the UN or as a consequence of retreat of the enemy the population thereof shall receive aid and relief from their suffering, food, clothing and shelter and in the prevention on pestilence and the recovery of the health of the people that preparations and arrangement shall be made for the return of the prisoners and exiles to their homes and for assistance in the resumption of urgently needed agricultural and industrial production and restoration of essential services.
2IRO – International Relief Organization, 1946 – 1952. The IRO was a temporary agency of the United Nations. In arranging for the care and the repatriation or resettlement of Europeans made homeless by WWII, the organization brought to a conclusion part on the work of the UNRRA. By the time of its termination in 1952, it had resettled 1,000,000 persons. It was superseded by the Office of the United Nations High Commission for Refugees.
3NCWC — National Catholic Welfare Conference; Immigration Bureau/Department 1922-1966. The Department provided a broad technical service for immigration, emigration, deportation, naturalization, citizenship and related matters. It also conducted correspondence on behalf of aliens seeking to enter or adjust their status once in the U.S. The dept. operated from offices in New York, Washington and El Paso.
4 Marsco Glass Products still exists (in 2009) at the same location – 2857 S. Halsted. Their website says: “The Company began one year after the end of WW II by providing glass for dials and gauges…. Marsco now manufactures hi-performance heat reflective and heated glass. Its parent company is Engineered Glass Products LLC.”
Life in Chicago
Teresė’s diary ends June 15th, 1949 when she started her first job – at Marsco Mfg. Siblings Aldona, Juozas Jr. and Leonardas also worked there. From her diary, we also know that Juozas had a job on the loading docks of Silvercup Bakery. Although he worked nights, it was a hot and unpleasant job. In October, 1952, he went to work for Nabisco, located at Polk and Kedzie, a job he held until he retired. He still worked in shipping but conditions were better — he worked days and it was air-conditioned. He was actively involved in several Lithuanian organizations: Lietuvių Katalikų Susivienijimo 163 kp of which he served as president, Vytauto Didžiojo Šaulių Rinktinės of which he was a board member, and Tautininkų Organizacija, to name a few.
After the Čėsna’s bought Lakeside Villa in 1954, Stefanija was the cook. Every summer, every day, from Memorial Day to Labor Day, she cooked three meals a days for however many people were vacationing there. On busy weekends, that could be up to 100 diners on a Saturday or Sunday when the day-trippers came from Chicago. During the winters she did sewing; making custom draperies on an old-fashioned pedal sewing machine. Later she had an electric machine but she like using the pedal power one because “it worked better”. Stefanija had an ear for languages. She spoke Lithuanian, Russian, and Polish from the time she was a little girl. She picked up German and English as there became a need for those languages. Juozas and Stefanija, as well as all their children, became naturalized citizens.
The first Čėsna home, an apartment at 2857 S. Emerald, was provided for them by their sponsors, Stefanija’s uncle Stanley Danbrauskas and his wife Veronica. They purchased their first home in 1950, a 4-flat at 6834-36 S. Emerald. Over the years they owned several different homes in Chicago. In the early years they often took in boarders to supplement their income. They also had a home in Beverly Shores, IN and finally retired to St. Petersburg Beach, FL. Juozas died July 31, 1987 at age 86; Stefanija died May 27, 2000 at age 97.
Brief Biographies of the Čėsna Children
Teresė worked at Marsco Mfg. Co. and later, at Nabisco. She met Jonas Mildažis shortly after arriving in Chicago. They were married on Dec. 31, 1950 at St. George’s Church in Bridgeport. Both daughter Aušra Teresė (1951) and son, Gytis Jonas (1953) were born in Chicago. In 1954, they, along with Stefanija and Juozas Čėsna purchased Lakeside Villa in Beverly Shores Indiana. Teresė and Jonas moved there permanently. Information about life at Lakeside Villa is provided separately. Teresė was an active member of the Lithuanian Club of Beverly Shores. She died on Sept. 21 1980 after a long illness.
Aldona had finished the 7th year of high school in Germany. In Chicago, she attended Central YMCA High School and graduated with honors. She studied typing and shorthand at Bryant & Stratton Jr. College and attended Daley College for business record keeping. She also attended Capri School of Beauty Culture and graduated in 1966. She worked at Marsco Mfg. Co, Nabisco, Florsheim Shoes and Martin Seymour/ Sherwin Williams as a bookkeeper. After moving to St. Petersburg Beach, Florida in 1983, she worked at Kasa (Lithuanian Credit Union) from 1984 to 1990. She also “did hair” in Chicago and Florida. She is a member of the Daughters of Lithuania and continues to be very involved with the Lithuanian Club of St. Pete’s Beach, where she has held many board positions, danced in the dance troupe and was often seen in their productions.
Juozas was drafted into the US Army on Dec. 2, 1952. He trained for military intelligence at Ft. Briggs, North Carolina and served as an interrogator in Korea. He was honorably discharged as a Corporal in November, 1954. He attended the Allied Institute of Technology, earning a B.S. in Mechanical Engineering in 1960. In 1961, he started at Speedlap/Speedfam, working his way up to Vice President of Research and Development. He has 24 patents, some of which are still active today. Juozas married Sophie Brzozowski on June 29, 1957. They have 4 daughters — Diane Mary (1958), Rita Ann (1962), Renee Marie (1964) and Stephanie Lynn (1972). They live in Niles IL.
Leonardas attended St. George’s Elementary School and Tilden High School in Chicago. He was a registered amateur boxer with the “Amateur Athletic Union of the US” competing in the Golden Gloves for the Johnny Coulon Gym through 1954. He joined the US Air Force on March 8, 1954 and was assigned to the 7th Tactical Depot Squadron in Okinawa Japan with Top Secret Security Clearance; he also served at Dow AFB in Bangor, Maine, Bunker Hill AFB, Indiana, and Tinker AFB, Oklahoma. He was honorably discharged with the rank of Airman First Class in 1957. On Sept. 12, 1959 he married Jacqueline Mae Brooks and moved to California. Son, Leonard Nick, (1961) was born there and daughter Sandra Marie (1963) was born in LaPorte, Indiana. They lived in Tinley Park, IL from 1968 to 1975. From 1960 to 1991, Leonardas worked as an independent Right of Way agent. He retired to St. Petersburg Beach FL where he died Dec. 3, 1991.
Silvija attended St. George’s Elementary School and then Wentworth Elementary; at Parker High School she was a member of the National Honor Society graduating 3rd in her class in 1951. She attended Wilson Jr. College where she was a member of the Honor Society and graduated with an Associate in Arts degree in 1957. She worked at Lakeside Villa as a waitress for a few summers; then as a secretary at Tee-Pak in Chicago. She met Joseph Wenta there and they married on May 5, 1962. Daughter, Deborah Ann (1963) and son, Robert Joseph (1957) were both born in Chicago. Joe owned Robert’s Menswear at 63rd and Pulaski and Silvija often worked at the store. They lived in Chicago until they retired and moved to Mountain Home, Arkansas where they still reside today.