Tomas Venclova – ‘I believed that communism was the bright future of humanity’ (9/88)

After completing my grammar school education, I entered the University of Vilnius,
the department of Lithuanian studies. That was in ’54, when Stalin was already dead. The partisan war in Lithuania was ending, the deportations were ending,
the times began to change for the better. It was no longer as dangerous and as difficult
to live as it had been under Stalin, and the atmosphere at the university was a little freer. Well, I was a member of the Young Communist League, and quite a faithful member of
the Young Communist League. That was an exception. There were lots of members
of the Young Communist League, of course, but it was rare for them to believe
in the communist ideology, it was a case of accommodating
to the prevailing circumstances, a matter of one’s career or fear. Whereas I believed that communism
was the bright future of humanity – my father also tried to believe that
and tried to make me believe it. He was very popular, very productive, and as a result of the productivity,
he was also a rather rich writer. He didn’t work at anything else but writing. My mother was simply a housekeeper. She, so to speak, kept house. But she has also translated several books,
has had several translations published. Well, I can say that my father knew French and German, well, some English, but very little. My mother also knew French and German. Well, and they knew Russian, of course –
both my father and mother, both of them. My mother also knew Polish. So I grew up in a family in which one could hear
other languages, not just Lithuanian, and from my childhood years
I knew those languages a little. I came to have even a very good knowledge of Russian, then Polish as well, and later English. I can only read French, I avoid speaking French. When French is spoken quickly
I most probably understand almost nothing. But I can read French – I can read a newspaper or even a novel
without too much difficulty. Well, I made some new friends at university. One of them was Juozas Tumelis. He was a person who was very much anti-Soviet, who understood well the defects in that system, and the harm it was doing to Lithuania and to humanity, and who tried to get me to think in the same way, and I, it should be said,
used to listen to his arguments with interest. My friend, my old friend Ramūnas Katilius,
also set me to thinking in the same way. They all made up a group with interests in common, we were such a group,
and we began sharing prohibited literature. We managed to get hold of
prohibited literature in various ways.

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