Antanas Panavas : Daily life in deportation

 

1. Work on the kolkhoz

“I was a student and suddenly, two weeks later, I was already working on a kolkhoz. And they said, ‘You’re going to work here, shifting the straw, etc.’ Since I knew about land work, I thought there was nothing for it, we would do it if we had to, and that’s how we lived. Out there we met some Lithuanians who had been taken there earlier. They had given a particularly good image of Lithuanians, the Russians knew that the people being brought were not enemies, bandits and so on as the authorities had said. The people there said, “We know you people already”. The good thing for us was that they offered us somewhere to stay at the outset, because the local Russians were leaving the kolkhoz for towns, but they were afraid of leaving their houses to just anyone, it was difficult. So they wanted to find reliable people who would look after the houses, and wouldn’t burn the fences or break the windows. They wanted to live somewhere else and said that they were leaving the place for a while. 1951, 1952 and 1953 were hard years, because they paid very little for the work. We were short of bread… bread was essential. Potatoes, people had, they planted them themselves, but getting food was hard. But there was nothing for it, people got used to it. We worked in the fields from very early in the morning. In the spring, we sowed, then there was hay-making, then harvesting until the snow fell.

2. Meeting people

“In Krasnoyarsk five of us from the same class met without recognising each other. We had studied in the same class and we saw that there was one in Krasnoyarsk and then another, etc. We had almost all been deported while we were students. We would then get together usually on Sundays, whenever we could. Here I have a photo with some of us. Some had been taken directly to Krasnoyarsk, those who had specialist training, they had formed families. Life continued, nothing to be done; some died, some were born. Sometimes there were very painful funerals when young men died after falling ill… because they had been deported very young, the work was hard physical work and that ruined their health… they died young… there were accidents of all sorts… There were some very educated Lithuanians out there. I’ve spoken about them and written more than once in Lithuania that there was one priest, Professor Gustas. He was a building worker in the camp, but he didn’t do that work long. Since he knew English and French, he became a translator in a factory. He had to translate the instructions on the machines they bought, the descriptions of how the machines worked. He told us that they would give him some work and say, “You’ve got a week to do this”, but he would finish it in two or three days and then had three days free… He would go out into the countryside, so he’d come and see us, 20 km away. At Easter and other times… or an ordinary Sunday. The Germans liked him because he spoke good German, they missed him. A very educated person.

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Antanas Panavas outside the family’s house in the Budyanov kolkhoz, 1952
© Antanas Panava


All available extracts:

  1. Daily life in deportation
  2. Daily life and meeting people