Interviewer: Zhanna Litinskaya
Date of interview: June 2006
Yakov Furmanas lives not far from center in a five-storied building of the soviet times. His apartment is large and light and well –furnished. The owner meets the style of the apartment. In spite of his age, he looks very good, has a neat hair-do and elegant house clothing. When I came in he was sitting in an arm chair in the drawing room. His calm and serene wife, a Lithuanian, served tea to us. Yakov looks young for his age. When he starts talking, I understand that the years have left the imprint. Yakov often could not recall the simplest things, the names o his close people and relatives. Nevertheless, his story seemed very interesting to me and even unique- the story of the person from rich family who actually rejected his class. Yakov gladly told about his past and present, pointing out to the fact that Lithuanians treat Jews well. When I left Yakov’s place, I saw a bright contrast to Yakovs’ story- demonstration of the fascist party in Lithuania on the occasion of the Victory day  they were dressed in black suites, riding the bikes and holding flags with fylfot.
My family background
There are almost no indigenous Siauliai [about 200 Km from Vlnius]denizens. I should say that I am an indigene of Siauliai. My maternal grandfather, Mikhail Ragalin was born in Siauliai in 1870. He most likely got both secular and religious education. He was a rather modern man with democratic views. He had a wide circle of acquaintances. My grandpa Mikhail owned a large tannery in Siauliai. During the soviet time bike plant was built in place of grandpa’s factory. He often went to Moscow. He had his own sales representative there before revolution . Grandpa was one of the richest and the most respectable men in Siauliai. He had his own honorary seat in the synagogue. Though he was not a zealot, he sacredly followed Jewish traditions. Like many Lithuanians he wore a small beard and a nice kippa on his head.
I remember my grandma Nina Ragalina very well. I do not know her maiden name and her Jewish name. at any rate, she was Nina according to the documents. Great grandmother also lived in the house for several years. I cannot recall her name or how she looked. She died when I was five. Grandma was several years younger than her husband, but still she was the leader in family and business issues. She was tall and stately, with authoritarian character. Her adult kids strictly obeyed her. Like all Jewish ladies she covered her head. When she walked to people, she wore a wig, at home she had a lacy kerchief. Grandma ran a big house, where a large family lived –children and grandchildren. Grandma died shortly after grandpa. Both of them died in middle 1930s.
Mikhail and Nina had 5 kids- two sons and 3 daughters. All of them got good education. The eldest Meyer Ragolin, who was about five years older than mom, was grandfather’s right hand in business. During the last years of grandfather, Meyer actually ran the factory, which was demised to him after grandpa’s death. Meyer had a Jewish wife and a son. I do not remember their names. All I remember that his son, my cousin, was several years older than me. Meyer and his wife perished in Siauliai ghetto during occupation. Their son survived. He is currently living in Israel.
Mother’s sister Rachil was born after Meyer. She married a dentist, Jew Ruderman. He practiced medicine in Lithuanian town Utena, and Rachil moved to him. In several years the Rudermans family moved to France, where aunt’s husband opened up a dental office. They did not have children and she helped out her kin a lot.
Younger sister Nina also moved to Rachil in France. She finished dentistry department and also opened her own dental office. She married a local Jew and gave birth to son Abram. Nina also made very good money and invited younger brother Meishe to come. He came in France with his wife Margolina. He worked as a dentist’s assistant for couple of years. All my relatives apart from mother’s elder sister Rachil, survived occupation in France and lived a long life. Aunt Rachil and her husband died in late 1930s in Paris.
My mother Anna Ragalina was born in Siauliai in 1890s. she got a good education for that time- she finished Russian lyceum. She was fluent in written and spoken Jewish, Russian and Lithuanian. She was very witty and grandpa decided to involve his favorite daughter in business. He even took her on business trips. During one of such trips in Moscow mother met my father.
My paternal grandpa, born in 1860s, was the merchant of the fist guild . He lived with his family in Moscow. His name was Dovid Furman. I cannot recall grandmother’s name. Dovid was a very wealthy man. He owned stores and he was somehow connected with Mikhail Ragalin. Father had only one brother Ilia. He reached 100 years old and died in Moscow in 1990s. During soviet time Ilia worked as an accountant in some soviet enterprise. I had been friends with his son Eduard. I went to Moscow with my wife and Eduard with his wife and two sons came to see us. Several years ago Eduard died having survived his father by less than a decade.
As far as I know, paternal grandmother died very young and grandfather remarried. He had two or three daughters in his second marriage. They were half sisters to my dad. I knew only Rachil, a lonely old lady. I called on her when I was in Moscow. Grandpa died in late 1930s and we found out about it only after Lithuania was annexed to Soviet Union . Before 1941 our Moscow relatives did not communicate with us, because they lived in the USSR and in those years to have relatives in the bourgeois country it was dangerous for them .
My father Nuchim was born in Moscow in 1890s. Upon graduation from lyceum, he became a merchant and started helping father. My parents got married in Moscow in 1915. Though, both families- father’s and mother’s were rather modern, the wedding was Jewish. Parents were wed in chuppah in the central Moscow synagogue. In 1916 I, Yakov Furman, the first-born came into the world. Lithuanian ending “as” was added to my last name when parents moved to Lithuania. When the revolution was about to start my sagacious parents did not think twice and moved in Lithuanian town Siauliai, where mother was born.
Siauliai was a rather big city with developed industry. Tannery and footwear production were the most developed here. Most factory owners were Jews. The largest tannery belonged to the richest Jew of Siauliai- Frenkel. He was a very modest man. His clothes were not posh, but expensive. He chose London for permanent abode. He came in Siauliai almost every month for his managers to report to him. Plant manages were also Jews. Frenkel was the most respectable man in town. He was actively involved in charity. He mostly helped Jewish community, but he also gave monetary assistance to Russians and Lithuanians, provided money for town’s needs. He made part of his house, which looked more like a palace, into the premises of Hebrew lyceum. He founded and sponsored nursery home, where old paupers, Jews lived, and a canteen for poor Jews. Frenkel owned some trading companies. He built a rather large synagogue for plant workers. There were other rich Jews in town apart from Frenkel– factory owner Mureck Khrazinksiy, owner of soap making plant Zifa, bankers, merchants. Almost all stores in downtown pertained to Jews. Simpler Jews were concentrated in the market area. Those were craftsmen- cobblers, tailors, glazers, watch menders etc. there were several synagogues in the town and almost all Siauliai Jews were religious. Some of them were pious, others paid a tribute to the traditions like my grandpa Mikhail. On Saturdays, grandmother attended synagogue and took his honorary place.
Upon return from Russia, my parents started living in grandpa’s big house. Grandpa opened a large leather store, where father also was involved in business. In spite of good money in the family and prosperity, father felt himself a stranger. He grew up in Russian capital, where Siauliai. He had to go to synagogue like everybody did, but he was a modern and democratic man in his heart.
I was the first child in the family. In 1919 a girl Irina was born and in 1921 my younger brother Dovid was born. The house, where we were living, was very large. It was one-storied mansion, where grandparents, our and Meyer’s family were living. Before departure for France, uncle Meishe with his family and aunt Nina were living here. Each had his own apartment here consisting of several room- drawing room, parents’ bedroom, study. Even I, the youngest, had my own large room facing the garden. There was a large kitchen with a huge stove, on which housekeeper cooked meals for the whole family under the supervision of mother and grandmother. The three families got together at the table. A large Russian stove  was in the kitchen, nice tilled heating stoves were in each room. We had all conveniences in the house, which was very rare. We had a toilet and a bathroom in a separate corridor. The water was pumped from the well and it was distributed between bathroom and kitchen. We had an expensive, nice solid furniture. I remember carved cupboard and a wardrobe, nice beds with the tester, sofas, a huge table with velvet cloth, pictures and Chinese porcelain vases. There was a large garden, where I spent my childhood. There was an orchard with apple, pear trees.. In summer and spring mother cooked jams, I still remember that sweet aroma which was felt in every room. There was also a husbandry –chicken and geese. Housekeeper took care of all chores, but at times we hired people for harvesting.
Our house was breathing with Jewish culture. The food was cooked by kashrut. There were separate dishes for milk and meat, even separate utensils which were never mixed. It was even stored in different drawers. Chicken, geese and other poultry were taken to shochet. His shichta was next to synagogue in the downtown. It was close by.we bought meat at the slaughter house, there was a special Jewish Siauliai slaughterhouse, where cows were killed in line with kashrut, and blood was drenched so that the meat became kosher. We never had pork at home, though w always wanted to taste pork ham and sausage, sold by Lithuanians, but there was not way to do that.
Saturday was the most important day of the week. Factory was closed on that day as well as other Jewish places. Lithuanians, who worked for grandpa, had a Sunday off as well. On Thursday challachs were baked in oven for Sabbath. On Friday everybody was busy mother, grandmother, Meyer’s wife, housekeeper. All of them were getting ready for Sabbath. Our house was always clean, but it was sparkling on Fridays. There was starched table cloth. The table was laid with challachs, wine, festive dinner. Grandpa and uncle Meyer went to the synagogue. At times my unreligious dad joined them. We were looking forward to see them back. When the first evening star appeared in the sky, grandmother being the eldest woman in the house, prayed and lit candles on the antique sconce. On Saturday we had the tastiest dishes. The mandatory dishes were gefilte fish, chicken brother, boiled and friend chicken and all kinds of tsimes. All of those dishes required heating. Thus they were served by a Lithuanian housekeeper. The most important Sabbath dish was cholnt- meat with beans and potatoes, which was kept in heated oven since Friday. On Saturday adults did not work. They spent time having conversations, took walks on the broadway, in the park with their children and families. In general, it referred mostly to rich Jews like our family. As for poor Jews, they also had to celebrate Sabbath, but they did not have money for it. There was a special charity committee and my grandpa was also a member of it. On the Sabbath eve, some of the Jews came over to us and got necessary things –money and products. I had never seen those people as they came from the back door. Our housekeeper and grandma fed them there.
We had a posh celebration of all Jewish holidays at home. On those days my father, and later I obligatorily went to the synagogue. On Jewish holiday Rosh Hashanah everybody went to the synagogue and on that day shofar were blown, which made the air of festivity. Fish was served on that day and the head of the family –grandpa- ate the head of the fish. After his death, uncle Meyer did. There were a lot of deserts- all kinds of cakes, pies, imberlakh and tsimes. On Yom Kippur, adults fasted and even kids were given scarce food. On Yom Kippur each was given a poultry- boys were given a rooster and a girls were given a hen and we went to the shochet, who made kaporez rite- rotated the hen with while saying a prayer. –I liked autumn holidays. Sukkah was set up in the garden. If the fall was warm, children had meal there with the adults. If it was cold, we stayed in. Grandparents and the rest members of a large family had meals there for a week being shrouded with warm blankets. Simchat Torah was the most mirthful holiday. I will always remember those festive with the dances and songs around the synagogue on that day. We played treylakh on channukah and ate tasty potato latkes and doughnuts with jam during the holiday period. Besides, the adults – grandparents, uncle and aunt gave us money the so-called channukahgelt. Purim was also very joyful. I remember the carnival- the so called Purim spiel when I was a lyceum student. The tastiest were pies with poppy seeds- hamantashen, the deserts – the presents which we took to each other – shelakhmones. We experienced all those things in my childhood. When Purim was over, we started getting ready for the most important holiday of the year- Pesach. I did not take part in any preparation, but I remember that the house was shining. There were lacy tablecloths, the silver was shining. Huge baskets with matzah were brought from the synagogue. Pascal dishes were taken from the garret- set of dishes, tableware, antique china, crystal goblets and tots, kitchen utensils. Grandpa carried out the first sedder. He reclined on the head of table, read prayers and was the leader of the holiday. He hid matzah under pillow, some of the younger kids found it, and got the present for it. We asked four traditional questions about the holiday. First it was my task and when Dovid grew up, he started asking question. When grandpa died, uncle Meyer started carrying out seder and took up the responsibilities of the head of the large family. The table was laid with all traditional hagad dishes as well as the most scrumptious dishes cooked in our house. We made our own kosher wine and drank it. We filled the whole glass with wine for the prophet Iliagu and waited for the whole day for him to come in. It turned out in the morning there was less wine in the glass and we thought it was Iliagu who drank it. When grandpa was alive, he made sure that all Jewish traditions were unconditionally observed. I remember circumcision rite for my brother. A man from synagogue did it better than any surgeon would do. Grandpa taught me to write in Ivrit. I was not a bad student. When I turned 13, it was grandfather who led my bar mitzvah. He checked my knowledge which I got from the tutor. We had a grand celebration of my bar mitzvah. I got on the elevation in synagogue and read an excerpt from Torah which I learnt by heart. The table was laid at home and relatives and friends were invited. I knew the prayers and I was supposed to pray like a man. Now grandpa made sure every morning that I put the teffilin on my hand and prayed before going to the lyceum. Though, he also spurred me on with money. He gave me one lita a day for a good behavior which implied praying.
After grandpa died in early 1930s, Jewish traditions were not as ardently followed. Now father went to the synagogue only on big holidays. Kashrut was observed of course, but as far as I could see, father could break the rules when he was not at home, in the company of his friends. Now mother showed her posh plaits to the world and stopped covering her head. On course, on Saturday parents did not work and got together at the family table like they used to. Of course, celebration of holydays was not as grand, but still it was done the way grandpa Mikhail liked. Now, the whole family went to the cinema. There were three movie houses in Siauliai. We loved movies. At that times there were mostly mute movies. I often watched Russian movies. My father and I enjoyed them. We were subscribed to Jewish papers and Russian newspaper Izvestia [one of the most popular communistic papers in the USSR, issued in the period of 1917- 1980s, with the circulation exceeding eight million copies]. Mother loved reading Russian novels. She finished Russian lyceum, where she got used to Russian literature.
I was enrolled in Hebrew lyceum at 8. It was the lyceum in Frenkels yard that I was talking about. The new premises were underway with construction, which was also sponsored by Frenkel. My grandpa Mikhail crammed me for the lyceum. When I was about to enter it, I had already known the basics of. The teaching was in Ivrit. We studied all compulsory subjects – physics, chemistry, mathematics, German an English, Latin, in a word the whole course of lyceum, which was secular since its founder was a layman. We did not study Judaism, but we studied Jewish history. We marked Jewish holidays. There was a drama circle where we staged the plays of Jewish playwrights. I found no interest in that. I was dreaming about entering the history department at the university. We had to pay a tuition so here only children of well-off people studied here. There was only one student from a poor family, my friend Berman. His mother worked in the cafeteria of the lyceum and her son was exempt from tuition. I had another friend Shichman. I also made friends with Frenkel’s grandson, who was my namesake- Yakov. We had been friends all life long. We always kept in touch and wrote to each other. Even now he is sending me letters from London. I was friends with Dora Mordel, the daughter of the lyceum principal. I did well, I only got good and excellent marks. We had a daily and ceremonious uniforms., the latter was rather expensive. I studied in the new premises in my last two senior grades. The new building was not far from train station. My siblings also studied in new premises.
Mother tried making me study music, but I was flatly against it. There was time when music teach came over to us, but I refused from playing gamut. French Madam Furshe came to teach me French as at that time my aunts and uncle were living in France and my future was associated with that country. There were a lot of political movements at that time- there was Zionists . There were also underground communists in town. I would not join any of them, though my father supported the left ones, though he belonged to the class of exploiters so to say. It seemed to him that what was happening in the USSR was wonderful and enjoyed reading Russian press. I was a good boy and friends even mocked my proper behavior. I remember seeing Dora off after prom 100 days before graduation. I decided that I should kiss her not matter what on our way home. I postponed it and postponed as long as we were approaching her house, and could not decide on making the first kiss. Though, just before graduation from the lyceum I met another girl. Her name was Lilia. We had a mutual feeling and I kissed her finally.
In 1932 I finished the entire course at the lyceum - 8 grades. Aunt Rachel, who was living in Paris did not have children and insisted that I should come to Paris. They promised to provide for my living and tuition expenses. My parents did not think for a long time as I was going to a big city, to my relatives and in summer 1932 after graduation I went to Parish through Poland and Germany. When I got off the train, I saw my aunts- Rachil and Nina with their husband and uncle Meishe. If it was not a huge city around me, I would have thought that it was Lithuania as I was given such a nice and warm welcome. It’s hard for me put in words what I felt at that moment. I was struck with Paris. I fell in love with it instantly.
Aunt housed me in her huge apartment, having given me a separate room. She received me like a son. She took me shopping, having dressed me with French elegance, though I had pretty good clothing before. To my shame, in spite of classes with madam Fursje, I understood nothing and could not say a word in French. I started attending French courses. Owning to my knowledge in Latin and some basic knowledge I was taught at home, I became fluent in French rather quickly. I had a great living. I was fully provided by aunt, and my parents also sent me the money. The family of Rachil was very modern. Nobody observed Jewish traditions here. Though, the products and many other goods were purchased in the Jewish block in Paris (there was a street where only Jews were living, unfortunately I do not remember its name). There were Jewish stores, kosher cafes and restraints, souvenir workshops owned by Jews. We often went here for a walk, to go to kosher café. We also walked in the synagogue, which was on the same street. It was very rare, and it was not on holidays or Sabbath or holidays. Though, the biggest Jewish holidays were celebrated at Rachil’s place. As a rule, on Pesach one Jewish couple from Paris and our relatives came over. Only French was spoken in aunt’s place, though everybody knew both Russian and Yiddish very well.
I entered dentistry department of Paris university and continued the family dynasty. There were a lot of foreigners enrolled for a course- a lot of people from Africa, Arabians, Asians. I was struck by the democratic relationship there. Nobody cared what nationality people were. People were appreciated by the personal traits. e.g. I was friends with the student from Albania. We had been bonded for five years of study. He often called on us and he was always cordially received. We traveled a lot. Paris was shown to me. We also went to other cities. I attended all historic memoranda, I became Louver habitué. I fell in love with France, in its democratic spirit. I still consider the years in Paris to be the best in my life.
All those years were afflicted by the fascism regime. Germany was close by, and of course France was also imminent with danger, but nobody could picture what atrocities fascists would be capable of. It was a crystal night  and many Jews were leaving Germany. My uncle, Rachil’s husband, received fugitives from Germany. He helped them with money, found lodging for them. He was aware of what Hitler had in store for our nation. In 1937 I graduated from the university and had the internship in the private clinic. Uncle and aunt insisted that I should stay in France. There was a way I could get French citizenship and I had to serve in French colonial troops for that, i.e. in Algeria, Tunisia, Morocco. I had to serve for a year or two to become a citizen of France. I missed my parents. I had not been in Lithuania for five years. Besides, I promised my girlfriend Lilya that I would be back. We had warm platonic feelings.
In spring 1937 planned on returning. Again I was to go through Berlin, but I had to wait for the train. During the passport control, I was fairly treated as they took me for Lithuanian, not for a Jew. I was given a warm welcome at home. It was sad that grandpa Mikhail died when I was away from home, and grandmother also died in several years after him. My sister graduated from the lyceum and worked in some organization. Brother Dovid was the student of the senior grade. I occupied the room at home which I had since childhood. I was well-off from material standpoint, but loafing was not accepted in our family. Everybody was supposed to work, so I also got a job at the dispensary of the Jewish Healthcare Organization. The consultations were free of charge and mostly poor people came here as they did not have money for medical services, which only rich could afford. So, my income was skimpy. I could always count on father’s assistance and was pleased with work- I enjoyed the idea of helping the poor and that job gave me a valuable experience.
Upon my return, “left” ideas started appealing more and more to me. I had a friend, the underground communist, who became my ideal. I was involved in underground work- took part in the meetings, disseminated pro-Communist and pro-soviet leaflets and other propaganda. In spite of the wealth of my family, I did not see any contradictions in living at the expense of somebody else and at the same time trying to reach the equality. I sincerely dreamt of the society, where everybody would be as equal as in the USSR. Though, at that time we had no idea what was going on in Soviet Union. My father knew about my passion and showed that he was displeased, but mother was indifferent to that like many other women. All she cared about was my health.
In 1939 I had to go to Germany as per request of my uncle Meyer. Some of our family companions lived there. I was supposed to get some money and documents from him. Meyer bewared going there himself as he had a typical Jewish appearance. I saw no danger in that and went there calmly. In actuality, it seemed to me that I came in a civilized country, met a Jewish companion there and took a heavy parcel from him. There was fascists symbolism everywhere, policemen had fascist fylfot,, but I was very frivolous became of my age. I got on the train the same day and went home. I do not know what happened to that man. He must have perished without having a chance to leave the country on time.
The Soviet invasion of the Baltics
I was thrilled about soviet regime in Lithuania in June 1940. My comrade, a communist left prison and recommended me to the communist party. At that time the leading positions in the party were taken by the Jews, who were in the communist underground in capitalistic Lithuania. Thus, the first secretary of the municipal party community was a Jew. I joined the party very swiftly. I had a conflict with my parents in connection with that by that time our business- tannery and a store – was nationalized. Fortunately, our house was untouched, and our family and the family of Meyer remained in grandpa’s house.
I was appointed the secretary in the municipal ispolkom . I was given a separate one room apartment. I was happy for it as it was harder and harder for me to get along with my parents. The apartment was in a posh building in the heart of Siauliai. It was built by one of the managers of Frenkel Mordel. With nationalization the apartments in that houses were given to the soviet and party activists. It was a five-storied building with elevators, fridges, cold and hot running water and conditioning system. I got a great apartment in that building. After nationalizations arrests and exiles came. It usually referred to people unwanted by the soviet regime – the rich, right activists, religious activists, Zionists. There were the so-called troikas, made of the representatives of the ispolkom, military and internal affaires. They acted in every part of the city and they dealt with the confiscation and deportation . There were trains which took the whole families to Siberia. It was an unpleasant episode in my biography, but I was sincere about it. I found it important and did not do anything wrong in that. Though, the conditions in the train were terrible and many people died on their way. Fortunately, my relatives were not affected by it maybe for the reason of the lack of time.
During the war
Soviet regime in Lithuania was effective for almost one year and on 22 June 1941 fascists attack Lithuania, which was one of the first to take the hit. Siauliai was bombed on the first day. The first bomb was released in the vicinity of Murek’s plant. Early in the morning on 22 June, I and the rest of the employees of the ispolkom was called to work. We exterminated the documents for them not to be taken by the enemy, prepared most valuable things for evacuation. We confided in the victory of USSR over Germany within several days. It was official propaganda and our inner conviction. There was a panic in town- many people were leaving Siauliai. My father called me and asked to organize some transport to evacuate the family. I was very tough saying that there would be no car and there was no reason for panicking. I did not want the town to speak that the Furmans are fugitives. Father did not call me again. On Tuesday father got some cart, put mother and siblings on it and they left Siauliai. I had no idea what happened to them until the end of war. As far as I know, uncle Meyer did not leave with my parents. He was going to depart the day after, but on Wednesday, on 25 June Germans were in Siauliai.
The leaders, ispolkom employees got the order to leave the town two hours before the occupation. The member of the supreme council of the SSR came in a car, where I got in his car together with three more people. We headed to the Latvian border. We crossed it and we were let through fairly easily, but in about two hundred meters we were stopped by the military patrol. Our look- good European clothes, poor Russian seemed fishy to a Russian lieutenant. There was a spy mania at that time and we were proclaimed spies right away. Our documents and IDs did not convince him and he decided that it was the document were very well counterfeited.
Not far from the Russian border we were stopped by the Russian patrol not far from the Latvian border, told to leave the car, got aligned. They told us that we should be shot. Fortunately, there was a military commander of Siauliai was passing by in a car. He got out of car and managed to spot too much circumspect lieutenant. Commander put us in his car and we left with him. Taruskas left for Moscow. I do not remember in what Russian city we got on a train with the fugitives. We had traveled a long time, about three weeks. On our way we started exchanging our things for food. At the stations we got the boiled water, soup and porridge. In general evacuation was not erratic, it was rather well organized. We were bombed on our way, and some people died. We also had to make long stops letting go military trains first. In about three weeks we were taken to Cheboksary, the capital of the Chufas republic [about 700 km from Moscow], wherefrom we, the evacuees from Lithuanian (10 people), were taken to the regional center Ibresi, located kilometers in 80 from Cheboksary.
Here on the day of my arrival I went to the regional healthcare department. at that time there were very few people with higher medical education and they were very happy to see me. I was assigned the chief doctor of the hospital. Some of my friends from Lithuania also were hired by the hospital. Later we headed for the rear together. We were given lodging by the hospital. They brought us food from the canteen. We had a very hard living there. We were malnourished, which was common for that time. How could we complain, and there was no one to complain to. Besides, it was very cold there and there was not enough firewood. Chuvash republic was desolate. There were a lot of contagious diseases, especially in rural area. There were more and more sick people. The local population was nice to us, I was the only Jew there and nobody treated me differently.
I had lived in Ibresi until the beginning of 1942. In December 1941 Stalin issued the order on the forming of the 16th Lithuanian division . Lithuanians were drafted in the army from all ends of the country – from Siberia, Far East, Usbekistan. My friends and I got the notice. In early January we were sent in Balakhna, Gorky oblast, where our division was being formed. I was assigned commander of the military platoon at once. We belonged to the sanitary unit. All top Lithuanian people came to us as the governmental representative office of Lithuania was in Moscow, and then in Kazan. Snezhkus and other said ardent words and then called upon resisting the fascists and taking revenge on our humiliated motherland. We lived in the barracks, dugs-out. We were well nourished. We stayed in the training division for a about a year.
In February 1943 Lithuanian division was taken to the hardest part – the vicinity of Kursk [Kursk battle] . There were a lot of casualties. Many people were severely wounded. We practically had no time to sleep. My young ladies, the aides who took the militaries from the battle field, often were in the leading edge. I had to make operations in the field conditions. The most important was to stop the hemorrhage, accompanying severe wounds. At times we had to cleanse up to 100 wounded. It was very hard at first as I was not used to that. It turned out that the combatant spirit considerably exceeded the level training and equipment. That is why so many people died. In a while I got used to inhuman loading both emotional and physical. I covered the territory of Byelorussian and Baltic fronts with my division. I went through entire Byelorussia and in summer 1944 I came in my Lithuania. I was lucky, I was slighted wounded for times. I got hand injury in the vicinity of Kursk. The doctor at the hospital said that I was very happy. I had stayed in the hospital in the period of utmost “heat”. I got wounded for the second time near Vilnius in July 1944. I did not leave the leading edge. I wanted to go to Vilnius with my division. On the 13th of July I liberated Lithuanian capital. I was happy and frustrated at a time. I saw many survived prisoners of Vilnius ghetto  and understood that my kin was most likely dead.
After Vilnius my division liberated very many towns and cities of Lithuanian and approached my native town- Siauliai. Battles were very severe. There was a lot of bloodshed. Fascists fought desperately understanding that it was their last bulwark in Lithuania. Then our division came in Klaipeda and was renamed into Klaipeda Red Banner division. When our division was approaching Siauliai, I and one of my compatriots asked the commander to send us in reconnaissance. We wanted to be the first to enter our town. I hoped to meet some of the people I knew to find out about my family. We came in a small house on the outskirts of the town, beyond the train station. A young pretty Lithuanian lady was there and gave us a warm welcome. We put the rations at the table- American canned products and sausage, and she suggested that we should stay overnight. She lived there with her parents. When Siauliai was liberated I headed farther with my division. I could not forget that sweet young lady.
After the war
I was in Klaipeda when the war was over. I was demobilized after that. I had many awards- Red Banner order , Military Merits Medal , Medal for Bravery  and a lot of medals for liberation of the towns. In 1945 I came back in Siauliai straight after demobilization. I came to the lady, whom I liked so much and settled in her place. Appeared, that she also very much waited for me and very much worried about me, it was a love at first sight. I have lodged in her house. In a while we got registered our marriage.
My wife Regina Poplaskaite was born in 1922. She came of a poor Lithuanian family. Her father was a rail worker. Nevertheless, she got a good education- finished the lyceum and studied for or three years in a commercial college. During the occupation she stayed in Siauliai. She knew many Jews before the war. She studied and communicated with some of them. That is why it was painful to watch what fascist were doing with the Jews. There was a ghetto in Siauliai where Jews were living in the inhuman conditions. Once, Regina gave bread to the Jews who were driven to work. A guy with a white strap ran up to her and she was dreaded to recognize her classmate in him, he was a polizei . He started menacing the girl, but she was not scared and rebuffed him. Since that time she had given Jews some bread and products.
I went to the ministry of healthcare and was given a good offer right away. I was employed at the sanitation department of the Siauliai ispolkom. My wife worked as the cashier at station. In a while I lived in Regina’s place with her parents, who were very happy for our marriage and treated me very well. Soon I was given a very good apartment and my wife and I moved there.
I found out about my family by hearsay. Some people said that father was executed and my mother with siblings were in ghetto. I did not know what happened to them after that. Once I came in one Lithuanian house on business and my heart jumped- I saw the candlestick with the engraving АR- Anna Ragalina. They belonged to us, mother used to light Sabbath candles on it. I understood that our house was plundered and nobody would tell me the truth.
When I had just married, when Regina and I were living with her parents, the door of our small house opened, and my mother and sister walked in. Both of them were dressed in camp uniform. It is hard to describe that meeting. It turned out that mother and sister were liberated from fascist camp Osventsim by the soviet troops in spring, but they stayed on the German territory for a while. They came back as soon as the could. They found out about my address from people. Mother told about their adversity. When the war began and I refused helping father, on the 24th of June 1941 they reached Lithuanian border and their cart was stopped by fascist paratroopers. All detained Jews were returned in Siauliai. During the first occupation days the fascists made the action here. They shot Jewish men, representatives of intelligentsia, famous people. Mother said that father was among the elected in the first row. Brother Dovid managed to get rescued. He was of lower height and he hid after the first row. Dad blocked Dodik wih his body. Dovid was imprisoned in Siauliai. He was in the jail for young Jews. He could hardly leave the place. The mother and sister had to go through all adversities of ghetto and were sent in Osventsim after occupation. Only God knows, how the three of them could survive. Dovid met a German Jew Ester in the camp. After liberation they got married and left for Palestine, where they got settled in a kibbutz. Mother and sister came back in Lithuania.
They moved in with us. Irina started working as a sales assistant in the sore. It was a big help during the years of starvation. My wife worked as a cashier at the train station. I had a good job and got the ration. We lived comfortably. There was a law in the postwar years, according to which Polish citizens could come back in Poland. My sister Irina had a fictitious marriage with the Polish Jews and in 1946 she and mother left there, wherefrom they moved to France. Our relatives were living there- aunt Nina with her husband and uncle Meishe with his family managed to survive.
My wife and I stayed in Siauliai. I always had high positions. I started at the sanitation department of the town. There was a lot of work right after war. There was an epidemic of typhus fever, TB, lice and all kinds of infections. Later I was in charge of the sanitation department, chairman of the Red cross, in general I tackled administrative issues. Besides, I worked part time as a dentist. I was a good doctor and had my clientele. We lived comfortably, especially taking into account the fact that mother and sister helped us- they sent money and parcels from France.
The fight with the Jewish cosmopolites , evolved in USSR, in late 1940s-early 1950, was almost unnoticeable in Lithuania. Looks like Stalin understood that Baltic counties, Lithuania in particular lived by its own laws. There were publications in press about rootless cosmopolites and doctors prisoners . I understood that it was a provocation. There were only press releases on that in Siauliai and that was it. Neither I nor other medicals were hurt because of Stalin’s death in 1953.
My wife finished college and started working as an accountant. We did not have children. In 1955 Regina gave birth to her only son, whom she called Richardas. He finished school, entered the university and became a technological engineer. I got along with my son, but he was closer to mom as he identifies himself as a Lithuanian, and of course he is a Lithuanian in his heart and in his mind. Richardas treats Jews very well. We had a good living in soviet times. Wife and I often went to Moscow. At times we took son with us. I kept in touch with my cousin Eduard and uncle Ilia (father’s brother). they often came to us from Moscow. We went to Palanga together. Wife and I went to the all-soviet resorts in Crimea and Caucasus. I went to Paris twice, to see my sister and mom. Strange as it may be, I did not have any problem leaving the country. I easily got the permit in ispolkom. Sister Irina married a Jew Klotsman, who worked as an engineer at the plant. He got a good apartment and the family had a good life. They did not have children and she helped the family of her brother Dovid. Irina’s husband died. Fortunately, she is still alive and living in Paris.
My brother Dovid from Israel came in Parish both times when I was staying there. Dovid had a good living after war. He was rewarded for the ordeal. He took an active part in the foundation of the state of Israel. He was in charge of a large kibutz. He is currently living there with his wife. Dovid has two children. Elder son was named Nuchim after father. He became a captain in Israeli army. Nuchim visited us in Lithuania for couple of times, I was struck by his patriotic ideas, which I consider to the nationalism. He speaks only Ivrit, good thing that I remember that language and I communicate with my nephew. Nuchim thinks the service in Israeli army to be an honor and two of his daughters are drafted in the army, and he is pleased with that Apart from Nuchim my brother has a daughter. I cannot recall her name. She married a rabbi and is living with him in New York in a rich Jewish block. They do not have a lot of kids. They have a righteous life like true religious Jews.
My brother invited me in Israel couple of times, but I did not have a chance to go to him. My mother died in Israel in the 1980s when she was visiting Dovid. She is buried there. Brother came in Lithuanian for a couple of times. We visited memorable places, as well as places connected with ghetto and occupation.
My son married a Lithuanian. He is living and working in Siauliai. Richardas works in a house building company as a technologist. Richardas has twin daughters. They recently turned 20. One of them Inga, is studying in Vilnius university, sociology department. My second granddaughter Neele left for England. She is working as a bartender there. She is going to study there as well.
I have lived in Siauliai all life long. When son grew up and got married, my wife started insisting on our moving to Klaipeda. Her sister Dana and brother are living there. In early 1990s my wife and I exchanged our apartment for Klaipeda. I had very good relationship with wife’s relatives. Her sister treated me like brother. I had worked as a dentist in a clinic. When I turned 80 I ceremoniously retired. They made a nice good bye party for me. We had lived for 7 years in Klaipeda and then decided to come back to Siauliai. We sold our apartment in Klaipeda and bought one in Siauliai. We are still living in it. Taking into account that apartments in Klaipeda are much more expensive, we managed to get pretty good money for it. According to the law on restitution, I got the land which pertained to my family. It was also big money. I get a good pension as I took part in war. In general, my wife and I have a pretty good living and even have a chance to help our granddaughters. I am happy that Lithuania as well as other countries exited USSR and gained independence . Though, communistic idea is close to me. It was sad for me to give up my party membership card.
I did not observe traditions in postwar years. I held a high post. I was the member of the party, so it was impossible for me. I joined Jewish religious community in Klaipeda. There has been an active Jewish community in Siauliai for quite a while. I also joined it. I attend all events. At times I go there for Sabbath celebrations. On Pesach and Rosh Hashanah my wife and I go there for sure. I have matzha at home. My wife supports me in everything. She goes to the community with me sometimes though she says that some Jewish ladies look askance at her and she feels it. At home we mark Jewish Pesach and Catholic Easter. My wife and I have a friendly attitude to each other. I get along with my Lithuanian neighbors. In general, Lithuanians treat Jews very well. I have lived a long life and have no regrets.