Domas Laurinskas was born in 1935 to a family of poor farm workers in the village of Mankiškė, Lithuania. The landlords who employed father Laurinskas left Lithuania when the German army withdrew, for fear of being deported. However, Domas’s parents were caught unawares, not imagining that the purges could affect poor people. But they were indeed deported, because they refused to join the kolkhoz collective farm, on 22 May 1948. They were deported to a village that had been occupied by Japanese prisoners of war. In 1948 there were still Ukrainian deportees from 1941 there. Other Ukrainians, Baptists, were moved there in 1951. Free workers were only a small number.
Domas began work cutting timber and was then hired for building work. The large Lithuanian deportee community met at prayer meetings, secretly organised from Lithuania. His deep religious faith went with a distrust of any community or political commitment. Until 1951 he was an unqualified labourer, then learnt the trade of crane operator. This promotion from below enabled him to escape the special settlement village, but put him under two bosses. The employer agreed with the commandant to take responsibility for the deportees he hired, but their travel arrangements came under the employer.
Domas Laurinskas stayed in Siberia, although he visited Lithuania several times. After his father’s death, Domas’s mother went back to Lithuania to be with her elder brother, who had been released from a camp. Uncertainty then hung over what Domas was to do. He married, like many other Lithuanian and Ukrainian deportees, in Khazan, his village of exile. In 2014, although he had Lithuanian citizenship and a flat in Lithuania, Domas Laurinskas had no intention of leaving his extended family and lived in Zima, not far from Khazan.
Alain Blum and Irina Tcherneva
The interview with Domas Laurinskas was conducted in 2014 by Emilia Koustova and Alain Blum.
A dispersed family
After Domas’s family was released, some of them quickly returned to Lithuania, others later. Domas himself got married in Siberia and decided to stay there.
Release — a Russian dictates the application
Domas Laurinskas was the first of his family to be released, in 1958, after submitting an application that he wrote out himself in Russian, but dictated by a Russian he knew well. The other was willing to dictate it, but not to write it, for fear of being identified.
Collaborating with the Soviets
A lot of Lithuanians took advantage. They would come to the house and demand goods with menaces. When the Laurinskas family was deported, their house and farm were looted.
"Son, don’t speak to any party, and you’ll be happy, no one will touch you"
"Мне отец говорил так:Сын, ты не в какую власть, не в какую партию не выступай. И ты будешь счастливый, никто не будет тебя трогать"
(“My father used to say: ‘Son, you don’t belong to any power, don’t speak to any party. And you’ll be happy, no one will touch you’”). Even though he had a responsible job, all his life Domas Laurinskas followed his father’s advice.
Return of property
No one asked for the land to be returned, and no one returned it. Under the Soviet regime, nothing was returned. Most of the khutors (homesteads) were demolished. Kolkhozes were built in their place. On Lithuanian independence, flats began to be allocated, and compensation paid for lost land. Domas Laurinskas received some compensation but lost it all through inflation.
Promotion through work
Since Domas’s mother could not work, he began cutting timber at a young age, and then was hired for building work. He went from being an unqualified labourer to crane operator in 1951, and was employed outside the special settlement with the tacit agreement of the commandant, under the surveillance of his employer. He followed a career as mechanical plant operator.