LITHUANIAN QUARTERLY JOURNAL OF ARTS AND SCIENCES
Volume 45, No. 1 - Spring 1999
Editor of this issue: Violeta Kelertas
Copyright © 1999 LITUANUS Foundation, Inc.
George Paulikas, Thirteen Years, 1936-1949
(Dorrance Publishing Co. Inc., Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania). Cover design by the author; paperback, 96 pages.
As most Lithuanians know, thirteen is a Devil's dozen. The equivalent English version would be a Baker's dozen. While the time period covered in this book is thirteen, the author's choice of Thirteen" in the title may also have the symbolic meaning of the "Devil's dozen." The thirteen years that he covers in his book were far from angelic. The author of these memoirs is blunt even before the Prologue starts. On the dedication page he notes that this is a story with many heroes, and proceeds to list them. Then he goes on to note that there are also villains in this story. Their names are Josef Stalin and Adolph Hitler, I hope their souls, if any, are roasting in hell."
A summary on the back cover of this easy-to-read book captures the essence of what is between the cover. "Hitler's takeover of a portion of Lithuania in 1939, followed by Soviet seizure in 1940 of all of Lithuania and Stalin's subsequent plans to deport thousands of people to Siberia, mark the beginning of Paulikas family's journey through Europe before, during, and after World War II." George Paulikas guides the readers through his experiences in his first thirteen years of life. The summary further noted that during these years Paulikas family lived in nineteen different places.
"From hiding under the shelter of trees during air raids to experimenting with live ammunition; from building models with his erector set to boyish pranks; from living in peaceful villages to merely surviving in the DP camps; Paulikas relates the experiences as a boy in a war-torn land." While reading the book, I could not help but keep saying to myself: "Me, too!" In many ways this is the saga of Lithuanian refugees during and soon after the World War II. It's a book about my generation. It just happens that the author and I were born in the same year and in the same country - Lithuania. At one point, in Eichstatt, Bavaria, in Germany, we actually were in the same class in school, but I do not remember him. While my memories of Eichstatt, where I lived for four years, are very positive, Paulikas' experience there, only a few months in duration, was just the opposite. He ended his very brief chapter on Eichstatt by noting that his stay there was "a truly forgettable experience."
Since the story starts with his birth, the author needed help with facts and details of the first few years of his life. His mother, a teacher herself, was the primary source of information for this period of time. He himself, many years later, revisited some of the sites where he had lived. Also, his interest in history and maps as well as subsequent personal communication with Air Force personnel who flew missions into Austria in 1944 all contributed to placing his experiences in a larger perspective. The book contains six maps and five photographs. Four of the photos were taken during a bombing mission. Screening and printing process caused a loss of some of the detail in the photograph on page 39. I was able to get an enlarged copy of this photo that shows shadows of people in an open field. The author was able to reconstruct the dates and times of this photo and what his family was doing on the ground at that very time. The shadows of people, most likely, are those of his own family!
The book ends with a one page Postscript, covering 1949-1995. In 1949 his family arrived to Chicago, Illinois. He completed his formal education (Ph.D. in physics from the University of California, Berkeley), and had a number of jobs until 1961. Since then he has been with the Aerospace Corporation. "At Aerospace it has been my privilege to work on every national security space system now in orbit -systems that helped keep the peace and win the Cold War." The back cover also notes that today Paulikas is the Executive Vice-president of the Aerospace Corporation. He has received numerous awards for his work in space science and space systems engineering, including the Aerospace Trustees Distinguished Award, and the University of Illinois Alumni Award for distinguished Service in Engineering. Currently he resides in Palos Verdes, California.
Romualdas Kriaučiūnas Lansing, Michigan