After receiving the post card from the Red Cross, Antanas knew there was hope for
his survival and eventual return to his home in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA.
The prison camp gradually turned into a town. Many people prospered. A coal mining
operation started. The town had a theater, a small business district. An asphalt road
was built. Yes, some of the wealthy could afford cars and take a limited drive around
town. No roads out of town.
Gradually people were allowed to leave and return to their homeland. Few left after
being granted repatriation. Of those that left more than half returned. Living conditions
here were actually here better than in their old home town. Salaries were 3 and 4 times
higher in the new town. Creature comfort commodities and staples were more plentyful here than at home. Now the prison camp became HOME.
Finally, the day came when Antanas got his repatriation papers. He made immediate plans
to leave. No doubt in his mind. Back to Lithuania.
When Antanas returned to Lithuania he was looked at with mistrust.
Questions came up.
Where were you?
Where you sent back to spy on us?
Why did you come back?
What are you up to?
He felt insulted. After all these years no one believed him at first.
Antanas filed for permission to return to the US. The local officials told him to go to
Kaunas. In Kaunas he was told to go to Vilnius. In Vilnius he was asked for his
passport. He told them that officials took it from him in 1947 and that it had expired.
He was told to get a new passport and return with a passport before his request could
He told the official he would have to return to Philadelphia to get a passport renewal.
Catch 22. The Russians were good at making one's mind spin in circles. Finally a
Communist Bureaucrat told him he would have to go to the nearest US Consulate or
Embassy. That was 1,000 miles away in Moscow.
Antanas took that train ride to Moscow. Found the US Embassy but the Soviet Guards
would not let him approach the embassy without an invitation. He tried to figure out a
way to get in. He saw numerous people leaving and entering the US Embassy. He made
an effort to remember their faces. He knew of several business locations that Americans
frequented. He waited near one of these business locations, away from Soviet Officials.
A young man in western attire was approaching him. Antanas said, "Hi! do you speak
English?" In a Philly accent. "Yes, but where are you from?"
Come to find out this individual worked in the embassy at a medium level. He listened
to Antanas's story and told him he would do what he could. Antanas was told to return
to Lithuania and he would be in touch with him in about a week. Antanas gave this
embassy official an envelope containing information about himself and copies of all
the documents he had. A relative in Lithuania held on to a suitcase Antanas left behind
The Embassy official called him in about a week. He told Antanas that they are in the
process of verifying his story and not to give up hope. A month later a similar call. Then month
after month went bye with similar calls.
The Philadelphia correspondent got in touch with the US Embassy in Moscow.
Antanas's parents were found and he was finally identified as their son and a US Citizen.
After about another year the same US embassy official called Antanas and told him that all the paperwork was finished and he could go home whenever he wanted.
Whew! What a relief!
And he would go on and on.
© copyright Raymond Balta