Wednesday, August 24, 2011

The Siberian Survivor

Well, here it is, the blog post I promised that I would write on about my Great Uncle Jurgis Čereška. I got my inspiration to write about him after watching the movie called "The Way Back" yesterday late evening. This movie is about russian/european men who were put in prison camps in Siberia for failing to be "politically correct" with the Russian communism society. Some were spies, actors, others were artists...and in this movie a few brave men decide to escape and WALK across the Himalayan mountains, through Tibet, India,'s a story about survival. My Great Uncle Jurgis was a prisoner of war in Siberia,  Russia for 9 long years. I'll never forget when I visited my beautiful country of Lithuania 3 summers ago. I was visiting my relatives for 6 weeks that summer and I was staying at my Močutė's (grandma's) house. She lives in a very small village of about 200 people which is 15 minutes away from one of Lithuania's bigger cities Marijampolė. My močutė's house is made out of white brick. You enter through this green gate that leads up to  the cute little red door after you climb about 10 old concrete steps. In her back yard there is an old white brick rusty tin roofed barn. I'll never forget the times I would go into the second floor of the barn, I'd climb an old fragile wooden ladder and I would start singing my favorite Christian rock songs as the cute baby kittens would stare at me this foreign girl singing her heart out. My mocute had an old dog right by the barn that was in his kennel and she was the type of grandma who COOKED delicious food...even for her PETS...So when you enter my grandma's house through the cute lil red door on the right there is a small room where I was waiting for my great uncle Jurgis to arrive. I'll never forget that moment, when a young good looking European man knocked on my mocute's door and I was the first person he saw so he walked over to me. (Lithuania was the birthplace of where I, Aiste became my crazy outgoing self that all of you know you can just imagine how speechless I was...) His name was Andrews and he was holding a HUGE Saukotis (its a 2ft tall Lithuanian cake made out of stiffened egg whites so the cake looks like it has 100 metal spikes sticking out of it) and my mouth just hung was this hott European guy speaking to me in Lithuanian ( and remember this was 3 years ago so to make things even better I barely knew ANY Lithuanian at the time) and I just stood there explaining to him in English that I don't speak Lithuanian...LOL sigh....AHMEN. eventually I led him to my grandma who took care of everything....thank God! I found out not too long later that Andrews was the guy who drove my great uncle Jurgis around whenever he needed a ride. So we all walked through the kitchen then went to sit around the table in the dining room. My mocute's dining room has pink walls, there is a small tan couch when you enter to the left. Then on the other side there is white framed windows with beautiful white silk curtians. Also over there is the table that Jurgis, my mocute, Andrews, my mom and I sat around. The floor is wooden. I remember seeing  Jurgis for the very first time. He was wearing a dark grey black leather shoes...and his face...oh his could tell he was a survivor...a warrior...a was very aged...hard wrinkle upon wrinkle on his forhead....his whole face a bundle of wrinkles....his skin color a very pale paper white peach after frostbite...a few gray whisps of hair hung loosly on his almost bald head...He was about 1 foot shorter than me and he was ever so slightly hunched over, but still held his persona as a man of honor. His most striking feature...was his deep grey blue eyes...they were the color of Lake Baikal....As he started to share his story....I just stared at this man...I can't believe it took me 3 years to fully appreciate this opportunity I had to listen to my great uncle brings tears to my eyes...He is the oldest of 9 sibling. My grandma was the youngest. They are the only two sibling still alive in the Cereska family. So he is in his mid 90s...One thing that made me laugh was how he downed shot...after shot....after shot....afer shot......after shot....after shot....after shot......after shot....after shot of 49% proof VODKA., like it was no big deal...LOL talk about a STRONG alcoholic drink! Since I didn't understand much Lithuanian at the time, my mom was my translator. He would talk in his native tongue and my mom would translate what he was saying about every 10-15 minutes or so. My mom said she was AMAZED at what my great uncle had been through...she said that she wished she would have brought a recorder so she could record every word he was saying. She told him that he should right a book of all his Siberian stories! So what got Jurgis through living in a Siberian prison camp for 9 long years? His answer was very simple...His. Faith....WOW. That's it. This was one of those smack in face perspectives of my life...I mean how many times in my life have I complained of my life being unfair and hard, and this man lived in FREAKIN SIBERIA, freezing every night in the cold endless winter nights, barley being fed, surrounded by  endless miles of scary rough vast siberian wilderness, with nowhere to escape to....I wonder what I would have done if I would have been in his place...I really do...I don't think I would have survived, I would have probably given up...How I describe his living conditions does not do justice to the reality of what things were REALLY like. There is NO sugar coating this...It was a living HELL...instead of being deathly HOT....he was surrounded by murderous COLD....The fact that he still believed in God after this, never ceases to amazes me. LIKE WOW. Why he chose to persevere and not give up on that not proof there is truly a GOD out there who loves us more than we will EVER know? I always wonder where I got my gift of perserverance I'm the type of person who will OVERLY persevere to the VERY VERY VERY end of most situations of life I am involved in...sometimes it's a gracious blessing (like me not giving up on my European music ministry dream) other bites me in the butt...LOL So in that aspect, I am SO proud to be related to my uncle he persevered in the Siberian wilderness seems to have carried over to how I persevered and survived.....highschool, overcoming my type 1 diabetes and other trials of my life. He is one of the reasons I am motivated to learn the Lithuaian language completely one day..I now know about 30% of the language...but one glorious day...I want to be able to sit down, and look into his deep Lake Baikal colored eyes and talk face to face with him about his surviving Siberia stories...To Be Continued...

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