of the Gulag
Detailed biography of Juozas Miliautskas
Juozas Miliautskas was born in Vyčius near Kaunas in 1934. At that time Kaunas had been the capital of independent Lithuania for some fifteen years. He lived in the country with his parents — his father a workman, his mother a housewife. He saw the war pass through his village. His elder brother was killed on the front while serving in the Red Army. He remembers incessant bombing near his home. He also remembers the Jews being rounded up by the Germans to work in the forest. Then they were taken by lorry to Kaunas and shot in trenches. Then those who had dug the trenches were shot in the forest in turn and burnt.
By 1947 the family feared arrest. His father’s brother had joined the “Brothers of the Forest”, a group of Lithuanians resisting the Soviet authorities. The family hid with friends and neighbours several times in 1947 and 1948. Finally, on 17 March 1949, four NKVD soldiers, speaking Lithuanian among themselves, arrived. His father was beaten and injured. They were taken by cart to the station, taking half a sack of flour with them. There they were put into a goods wagon, he, his parents and his younger brother. They found twenty other families, on bed frames, with a stove, a little coal for the journey, hot water given when the train stopped and a salted fish for all of them.
The train took them to the Irkutsk region where lorries came from all around to disperse them. They were taken by lorry to the village of Zhigalovo and then in a sleigh to Chichek, 16km further, in the back of beyond. They worked the land and were paid by the collective farm in trudodni (labour days). His parents reported to the commandant once a month. They lived in the house of farmers who had been purged some years earlier and arrested as kulaks. Their neighbours helped them out with a few potatoes or other useful things. They spoke Lithuanian among themselves but Juozas learnt Russian from the local young people.
Juozas became a tractor mechanic, then a driver, a major step up that made his life more comfortable.
In 1956, he was released from his status as a “special resettler” and in 1957 he returned to Lithuania with his parents. But by now he was a Siberian. “There was nowhere to live”, “We didn’t belong”. Six months later he decided to go back where he came from, Siberia, and took up agricultural work again.
In 1970, he moved to Bratsk, a village that had become an industrial city when a vast hydroelectric power station was sited there that was the pride of the Soviet Union and thousands of Soviet citizens came to build it. He still lives there today.