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Oral history interview with Tomas Venclova

Oral History | Accession Number: 2018.452.1 | RG Number: RG-50.030.0984

Tomas Venclova, born on September 11, 1937 in Klaipeda, Lithuania, discusses his politically left-leaning father, Antanas Venclova, who was a teacher, a writer, and was appointed Minister for Education during the first Soviet occupation (1939-1941); his father fleeing to Minsk, Belarus, and then further east with other Soviet Lithuanian government officials following the German attack on the Soviet Union in 1941 (he finally ended up in Moscow, Russia for the duration of the war); remaining with his mother and family acquaintances on the outskirts of Vilnius, as his father did not think that the evacuation was going to last long; the unexpected arrest and imprisonment of his mother while she was visiting Vilnius City center to check on their family apartment (she was arrested because of her husband’s activities with the Soviets); leaving with family friends and feeling profound abandonment; being taken to Kaunas, Lithuania to live with relatives; his mother’s time in prison, during which she was accused of being Jewish and was in danger of being shot; the release of his mother after several months, though she was kept under observation for during of the war; not leaving his mother’s side after she was finally released; his mother keeping informed of her husband’s wellbeing from friends who would tell her of his clandestine broadcasts into Lithuania from Radio Moscow; seeing Jews on the streets of Kaunas during German occupation while out walking with his mother; post-war life in Lithuania with his parents; how his family was part of the Soviet elite; his personal break with that status and his dissident activities during Soviet times; his friendships with Russian poets and writers, including Anna Akhmatova, Boris Pasternak, Natalya Gorbanevskaya, and Joseph Brodsky; being the author of the first article dealing with Jewish-Lithuanian relations, published in a Russian Jewish samizdat (underground) journal in the 1970s; being one of the five founding members of the Lithuanian Helsinki Committee; being forced to emigrate in 1977; being stripped of his Soviet citizenship; two of his Jewish friends who had been in the Kovno (Kaunas) ghetto as children (the late political scientist Aleksandras Shtromas and the Moscow theater director Kama Ginkas); the strong influences these two friends had on him during the post-war years.


Some video files begin with 10-60 seconds of color bars.
Interviewee
Tomas Venclova
Interviewer
Ina Navazelskis
Date
interview:  2018 September 30
Geography
creation: Vilnius (Lithuania)
Language
English
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Record last modified: 2018-11-02 13:51:48
This page: https://collections.ushmm.org/search/catalog/irn628250