· Experience the overnight presence of military who conducted targeted and random killings and captures of civilians, and who took over your family’s manor house as officer's quarters
· The decision to flee with a baby in a buggy, my mother pregnant, and start a journey of about 600 miles along country roads with thousands of others, desperate for safety
· Finding shelter during a long trek through foreign towns and properties
· Finding food and stealing potatoes when you risked your life to do it
· My mother giving birth in a clinic about 100 miles south of Berlin, in the American Sector, in 1945
· Moving into Displaced Person camps for shelter, food, health care after the Germans surrendered, in an environment of severe food shortages, vast destruction of infrastructure, hostility and distrust between most ethnic/language groups
· Gaining permission to emigrate to the USA in 1949
· Arriving with nothing, in New York City
· Working as the night cleaning crew to make a living, having no professional credentials in America
· Moving to Utah where my father could work in a coal mine
Of course as a child I focused on what I didn’t have. I didn’t realize that what my parents gave me was life and sustenance, and a chance to do better. It was only through heroic persistence and resourcefulness that they escaped death for all of us. My child’s mind didn’t realize that, and they didn’t tell me and my siblings enough to give us any understanding.
Lithuanians who stayed behind were a) sent to starve or die of disease in the Gulag or b) lived in oppression, fear and poverty under the Soviets for 45 years, during most of which communication with the “outside” was forbidden. It was a police state.
I have been able to reconstruct the conditions of their flight from political murder, finally. There are many recent “émigré” stories. Some are self-published and might never been published if not for the recent ability to self-publish. There’s been an explosion of information and an explosion of understanding in my mind.
Here are my best sources:
Mark Wyman, DPs: Europe’s Displaced Persons, 1945-1951 (Cornell U Press, 1989)
Edward R. Janusz, Fading Echoes from the Baltic Shores (2012)
Ellen Cassedy, We Are Here: Memories of the Lithuanian Holocaust (U of Nebraska Press, 2012)
Ona Algminiene, The Crimson Blight (1968, translated to English 2014)
Julija Sukys, Epistolophilia: Writing the Life of Ona Simaite (U of Nebraska Press, 2012)
“The Invisible Front” movie (2014)
Aleksandra Kasuba, On the Way to America (2010)