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My letter to the Central Committee of the Lithuanian Communist Party


The decision to emigrate
Tomas Venclova Poet
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And so I decided then to emigrate, the only question being was how? It was then possible to emigrate, especially if you were Jewish because Jewish groups in the West were putting a lot of pressure on the American government. The American government was putting pressure on the Soviet government and in fact an agreement was reached that if a Jew wanted to leave for Israel he could do that – with difficulty, but he could. It was necessary, so to speak. One had to get together a lot of documents, which wasn’t always easy to do but it was necessary. At one time there was a tax brought in that meant a person had to return the money which the authorities had spent, as it were, on their education  – that tax was abolished but it was being enforced at one point. In a word, if you were a Jew, you could leave, however difficult or easy it was. And lots did leave – far from all of them – to go to Israel. Many went to Europe or the United States. Lots of people who weren’t Jewish also left. Sometimes people from mixed marriages, sometimes people who weren’t Jewish at all but who, as it were, were ostensibly... were going to go to Israel.

Ir tada aš nutariau emigruoti, bet kaip emigruoti? Tai laikais būdavo galima emigruoti, ypatingai jeigu būdavai žydų tautybės, nes žydų sluoksniai vakaruose labai spaudė Amerikos valdžią, spaudė... Amerikos valdžia spaudė Tarybų valdžią, ir faktiškai buvo pasiektas susitarimas, kad jeigu žydas nori išvažiuoti į Izraelį, tai jis gali tą padaryti, sunkiai, bet gali. Reikia, taip sakant, būdavo... reikėdavo surinkti daugybę dokumentų, kuriuos surinkti ne visuomet būdavo lengva, reikėjo, vienu tarpu buvo įvedę mokestį, kad turi grąžinti pinigus, kuriuos išleido valdžia, kad tave, taip sakant, išlavintų, paskui tą mokestį panaikino, bet vienu tarpu taip buvo. Žodžiu sakant, bet jeigu esi žydas, išvažiuoti, sunkiau ar lengviau, bet gali. Ir daugelis išvažiavo, toli gražu ne visi, į Izraelį. Daugelis nuvyko į Europos arba Amerikos valstybes. Taip pat išvyko daug ir ne žydų. Kartais žmonių iš mišrių santuokų, kartais iš viso ne žydų, bet kurie, taip sakant, irgi neva į Izraelį.

Born in 1937, Tomas Venclova is a Lithuanian scholar, poet, author and translator of literature. He was educated at Vilnius University and later at Tartu University. As an active participant in the dissident movement he was deprived of Soviet citizenship in 1977 and had to emigrate. Between 1977 and 1980 he lectured at University of California, Berkeley, where he became friends with the Polish poet Czesław Miłosz, who was a professor of Slavic Languages and Literature at the school, as well as the Russian poet Joseph Brodsky. He is currently a full professor at Yale University.

Listeners: Andrzej Wolski

Film director and documentary maker, Andrzej Wolski has made around 40 films since 1982 for French television, the BBC, TVP and other TV networks. He specializes in portraits and in historical films. Films that he has directed or written the screenplay for include Kultura, which he co-directed with Agnieszka Holland, and KOR which presents the history of the Worker’s Defence Committee as told by its members. Andrzej Wolski has received many awards for his work, including the UNESCO Grand Prix at the Festival du Film d’Art.

Tags: Israel, USA

Duration: 1 minute, 20 seconds

Date story recorded: May/June 2011

Date story went live: 20 March 2012