Ionas Masalas was born in 1947 into a large family consisting of six children and his parents. They were deported from their home village Šakarniai on March 29, 1949, when Ionas was only one and a half years old. In the 1930s, his father had traveled to Buenos Aires, where he had acquired skills as a brewer and had built up a nest egg to start a brewery upon his return to Lithuania.
According to the information circulating in the family, the family was deported following a denunciation of a relative, his father's brother Dzidoris, at the time a fighter (iastrebok) and leader of the local komsomol cell. This internal family conflict intersects with the economic reasons for their deportation: Dzidoris had founded a family and married a woman from a poor family, against the wishes of his brother, Ionas' father.
Deported to the Irkutsk region, Ionas' parents worked in a kolkhoz. They shared a house with other displaced persons, then gradually stabilized their income and built their own home. 11 Lithuanian families lived in this special village. They maintained close ties of mutual aid and sociability. Lithuanian holidays and religious holidays were celebrated as well as November 7. The skills of the deportees were highly valued by the local inhabitants. While working, the children continued their studies and Ionas was particularly encouraged to do so by his older sister. At the age of 7, he started to attend the village school Abramovka. In 1965, he graduated from high school.
Having worked as a tractor driver, he completed his military service and attended the Higher Officers' Course. Three times he tried to enter the Academy of the Ministry of Internal Affairs, but his application was systematically rejected when his file had to be stamped by the KGB. "Your file must be marked 'son of a kulak'. That's it," one of his officer friends explained to him. Ionas then joined the police. In 1971, he entered the Faculty of Law at the University. Afterwards, he taught at the police academy for 11 years, and also headed a kommandantur. In 1992 he became a colonel and from then on his career did not seem to be hindered by his deportation background. In 1996 and 1997, as head of the OMON (Special Purpose Mobile Detachment), he went to Chechnya.
The Masalas family remained in the special village, while in the early 1960s, being liberated, all other Lithuanian households left it. Ionas' father and his elder sister traveled to Lithuania and decided not to change their living conditions and to stay in Siberia. Painfully for the family, Dziduris, the father's older brother, lived in the Masalas' house.
In 1974, Ionas tried to continue his career as a policeman in Vilnius. The interview he had with a local officer, who, according to his observations, might have been involved in the deportations, convinced him to stay in Siberia. Ionas's path was formed at the intersection of an attachment to the Lithuanian language and culture and an aspiration (rare among deportees) to become a party member and a soldier.
Interviews with Ionas Masalas were conducted in 2013 and 2014 by Emilia Koustova and Alain Blum.
Deportation (Original in Russian)
"Yes, my father and mother, there were six children in the family, I was the youngest, I was one and a half. And in '49, on March 29, '49, we were deported from Lithuania to a settlement. Six children. The oldest sister, Gelia, was 12 years old, here then there were three brothers, me, Vinces and Albert and three sisters, Maritė, Genutė, and Ona. Three sisters and three brothers, we were taken to Siberia. But the thing is, there was still [my father's] older brother, he was 20 years old and was fighting in a Soviet militia because he was a leader in the Komsomol. But this same older brother Dzidoris, therefore, had argued with my father because he wanted to get married, and the older brother did not want to marry another woman than the one he had at home. In fact, my father had told him that he was going to find him a rich bride. So, from that, there was a conflict between [my uncle] and my father. That's probably the reason why my father and his six children had been deported from Lithuania."
Studying (Original in Russian)"You could say that I studied because Maritė was my main teacher, she was older than me. She was teaching me in the sense that I was pushing her, or she actually, she was pushing me to study, study, study and she was telling me, 'Vanya'... In Lithuanian, my name is Ionas, but in Russian, everybody called me Ivan in the village. And here, Maritė, my older sister, was telling me, "Vanya, you have to study, study, study, otherwise you will stay in this village without doing anything with your life." This is what she used to tell me... She convinced me that I should study. I graduated from the University, and my older sister Ona from the Technical Institute. Maritė studied at the Agricultural Institute. Then Albert worked on the Manguichlak peninsula. He served in the Soviet army, I think he worked in a blast furnace in Kazakhstan for 6 years. On this peninsula, there was a rather large city. There were blast furnaces, blast furnaces, blast furnaces, steel was produced there. Afterwards, Vinces went to school for 10 years and then studied to become a driver. And all his life he drove buses, trucks, etc., etc."
Life in the village (Original in Russian)
""My mom was sewing gloves without even looking at them. She would talk at the same time, she would do something here and there etc., she would do everything, it was amazing. She did everything by herself, gloves, mittens for all the kids, and socks too. Because we had sheep's wool. And then I would wash them, and then she would ask for help a little bit. Or there were these pointy Lithuanian things, which...how do I say this...had to be made out of wool. I have a hard time remembering that.
Question : Those things you talked about were only for your family, but you said they made beer for everyone in the village?
Yes, for everyone.
Question : Did they barter ?
They probably did barter but I don't remember it very well. We were only one village, with only 11 families. So probably some women did, the second ones traded, they gave advice to each other, gave things to each other, etc."
The professional obstacles of a " kulak's son " (VO - Russian)
"It was when I was trying to get into the academy of the Ministry of the Interior. Three times I was refused because, how to say... Yes, I had passed the three exams, philosophy and something else, I had passed the three exams to be able to enter the Academy, otherwise you can't enter. It used to be like that. But as soon as I sent the documents to the KGB, I was rejected. Later, a comrade explained to me, a lieutenant colonel, I won't say who, but he did me this favor. He said to me: "Ivan, stop moping: your file at the KGB must certainly contain the mention 'son of a kulak'". "Son of a kulak', period."
Becoming a police officer (Original in Russian)"I had no hesitation, I was burning with desire, I had set a goal: that I would be a colonel, that I would be a communist, etc. I knew I would never be a general because there were others. Question: How did your parents react to the fact that you left to serve in the police and joined the Komsomol? Vinces, my older brother, who had also been sent to Siberia, he was probably 18 years old. This is what he said to me first: "So you! You don't want to work, so you joined the police! That was my older brother's first reaction. But my father said: "Son, Ionas, or Iniouk - that's the little name he sometimes gave me - don't listen to anyone. If you've already made up your mind, go ahead." In fact, he probably sensed that I was a determined person. And then maybe life knew that I was, in effect, I guess, a determined person."