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Oral history interview with Ona-Genovaitė Šukytė Grigėnienė

Oral History | Accession Number: 2018.455.1 | RG Number: RG-50.030.0989

Ona-Genovaitė Šukytė Grigėnienė, born on November 28, 1928 in Robliai in the Rokiškis district of Lithuania, discusses growing up in the village of Rukšiai on the outskirts of Panemunėlis, Lithuania; her father, who had been a member of the Lithuanian parliament in the early 1920s (most likely Christian Democrat; official biographies list him as a member of the Labor Federation Fraction which joined the Christian Democrats) and had been given the opportunity to buy land on loan in this part of the country, close to his own ancestral home, due to his government service; her friendship with the local Jewish families in the town of Panemunėlis, particularly with the Olkin family, who ran a pharmacy and rented their home and pharmacy facilities (in the same building) from the interviewee’s family; her close friendship with their younger daughter, Grunė; her impressions of their older daughter Matilda, who was in her late teens in the late 1930s and was already a rising poet, having published her poetry in a number of regional publications; thinking of Matilda as a young woman of the world, and the great impression she made on the younger girls; the first Soviet occupation of Lithuania (1939-1941), and seeing people on wagons and trucks being taken for deportation to Siberia; the German attack on the Soviet Union; the local Jews of Panemunėlis being rounded up and herded into a large shed, and kept there for several days; bringing the Olkin family food, and taking walks outside the shed with her friend Grunė, with both of them wondering why the people were being kept inside; the lone guard who did not stop them; her second visit and hearing from Grunė the rumor circulating amongst the Jews in the shed that they were all going to be shot, and how the two girls rejected that idea as an absurdity; visiting the shed a third time and finding it empty; having no idea at the time what happened to all the imprisoned Jews, including her friend Grune; learning a week later that the Olkins had been shot just outside Panemunėlis; the return of the Soviets and the subsequent deportation of her family to the Soviet Union, largely because of her father’s background of having been in the Lithuanian Parliament (Seimas) in the early 1920s; the deaths of her parents in Siberia; escaping the deportation because she had just left for Vilnius to study; her first years of schooling in post-war Lithuania with her friends and classmates, which included several survivors from the Holocaust (one became a life-long friend until this day), others who were children of the new Lithuanian Soviet elite, and others whose families (like her own) had been deported to Siberia; how one of her sisters escaped from Siberia and made it back to Lithuania alone; being arrested along with her sister and being slated for deportation; and being saved by the intervention of the father of one of her classmates (a very high Soviet Lithuanian politician).

Some video files begin with 10-60 seconds of color bars.
Ona-Genovaitė Šukytė Grigėnienė
Ina Navazelskis
interview:  2018 October 04
creation: Vilnius (Lithuania)
1 digital file : MP4.
Record last modified: 2020-03-26 09:55:21
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