LITHUANIAN QUARTERLY JOURNAL OF ARTS AND SCIENCES
Volume 43, No. 4 - Winter 1997
Editor of this issue: Robertas Vitas
Copyright © 1997 LITUANUS Foundation, Inc.
A RELUCTANT SOLDIER IN THE RUSSIAN CZAR'S ARMY:
A MEMOIR AND DOCUMENT
EDWARD G. SHAKALIS
1941 photo of Ignas Šakalys
Many Lithuanian men who came to America in the early 1900's had been drafted into the army of the Russian Czarist empire. Some Lithuanians, like my father, served reluctantly. Others fled to America to avoid a Russian dominated military system. In those days, according to my father's army record, it was mandatory that you serve for twenty years in the Czar's army.
My father, Ignas Šakalys, served on active duty for three years in the Russian army before coming to the United States. Born Ignas Šakalys, he was also known as Ignatius Shakalis (Americanized version) and his passport shows Schakalis (German spelling). On his Cambridge, Massachusetts, marriage certificate, his name was misspelled. He was born in the village of Lažariškis, Pandėlys, district of Rokiškis, Lithuania, not far from the Latvian border. His Russian army document indicates his date of birth as November 7, 1881. However, his citizenship papers indicate that he was born in 1883, a two year discrepancy which is still a mystery.
His father's name was Kazimieras and his mother's maiden name was Justina Tamošiūnas. Ignas had two brothers, Povilas and Juozas, and two sisters, Natalija and Petronėlė. My grandfather and his sons bred and sold horses in Lithuania. They were hired to haul bricks from the Jakiškis and Velykalnis brickyards to the construction site of Šv. Mato Apaštalo Parapijos Bažnyčia (St. Matthew the Apostle Church) in Rokiškis. In Petras Blaževičius' book, Churches of Rokiškis Land, he writes that it took 700,000 bricks to complete the project.
In 1903 my father was drafted into the Czar's army and served on active duty from 1904 to 1907. He held the rank of private in the First Cavalry Regiment. Once he was tending a pack of horses when someone made a loud noise that frightened them. They stampeded and knocked my father down to the ground, badly injuring him. His injuries were such that the Army sent him home to recuperate. This accident left my father with scars on his left chin and upper lip. He grew a mustache which covered the scar above his upper lip.
While recuperating from his injuries, he corresponded with his brother Juozas who had left Lithuania in 1906 and was then living in Cambridge, Massachusetts. He invited my father to come to America and live with him. Juozas paid for my father's passage to the United States. My uncle Juozas lived in the United States for about thirteen years but returned to Lithuania in 1919 with his wife Albina and his five year old daughter Vincė. Albina could not cope with life in America and was homesick for Lithuania. Uncle Juozas died in 1937 and Vincė died in 1948.
A short time after the Soviets invaded Lithuania in 1940, Albina and her four surviving children, Albina, Anelė,
Juozas and Stefa were sent to Siberia for nine years. Juozas was sent to Magadan and worked in the coal mines, and his mother and sisters were sent to Irkutsk to work in the forest. While visiting Lithuania in 1978, my cousin Juozas told me that he and his family were sent to Siberia because the Soviets caught him working for the Lithuanian underground. A neighbor had turned him in to the police.
In 1914 Ignas married my mother Marijona Vilkaitė. They had five children, Peter, Aquila, Edward, Leo and Alfonse. Ignas died in 1947 in Cambridge, Massachusetts.
Let us now focus on the period that Ignas Šaklays was in the army and look at some of the entries in his Russian army documents. The following are excerpts from Ignas Šakalys' Army documents:
4. Inducted into service in Novoaleksandrov District on October 28,1903; start of service is calculated from January 1, 1904.
5. Campaigns: none
6. Honors: none
7. Because of distinguished performance in front-line training, can be assigned to reserve unit: no
8. While in service he learned: cavalry
9. Skills / Trade: none
10. In the troop list enrolled under no.:
11. Age (birth date): 1881 November 7
12. Married or single: single
13. Religion: Catholic
a) Province: Kovensk (Kaunas)
b) District: Novoaleksandrov
c) Police district: Ponedelsk
d) (city, town or village)
15. This discharge is written in the city of: (written in script and illegible) December 19,1907, No. 3383
Signature: Commander of the Regiment Colonel (signature illegible).
The following information outlines how Ignas Šakalys was to serve his twenty years in the Czar's army:
Subject to Transfer:
1) From the first to second class October 1,1914
2) From second class to the Infantry December 31,1914
3) On reaching 43 years of age subject to exemption from
infantry on December 31,1924
Novoaleksandrov Military Officer; (signature illegible)
Ignas was expected to serve from 1904 to 1924, twenty years. Another excerpt:
On receiving the call to mobilize you are obliged to appear at a place and time indicated by the draftee's local district in the notice of the mobilization.
If Private Šakalys on being drafted into active service brings with him his own boots with tops not shorter than 9 vershoks (1-1/3 inches) suitable for wearing for not less than 6 months and underwear suitable for use for one year, then when he reaches his regiment those things will be considered supplies, and he will be paid money for them. In the time period before January 1909 the prices are: for a pair of boots 5 rubles, for one shirt 50 kopecks and one pair of underpants 35 kopecks. Of these things we can count only one pair of boots, two shirts and two underpants. Besides that, if the draft falls from 1 September through 1 February, then for suitable warm clothing brought, payment will be: for a jacket 4 rubles, for gloves 26 kopecks, for earflaps 11 kopecks and cloth foot wrappings or in place of them woolen stockings or socks (no fewer than two pair) 72 kopecks each.
My father's documents indicate that he was called back to active duty and ordered to report by December 13, 1908 to an army camp in Syzran, Russia, about six hundred miles southeast of Moscow. My father's passport states that he left Lithuania for the United States on February 18, 1909 from Libau, Latvia. How did he evade service?
In 1975, I interviewed my father's first cousin Nellie (Anelė) Grigalūnas who was then eighty one years old. She told me how my father, her brother Povilas, and a cousin had paid ten dollars to a book smuggler (knygnešys) who arranged for them to escape from Lithuania. The book smuggler sold prayer books, rosaries and scapulars. He knew how to make the necessary arrangements to go to America and which of the Russian border guards to bribe. The book smuggler told them that they had to meet at a given time and place when the Russian guard would not be at his post and they could cross over to the German side of the border. She tells how they had to jump over a ditch in order to get to the German side (East Prussia). My father and Nellie's brother Povilas made it but their cousin ended up in the ditch and had to go back and try another day, when he succeeded.
The author's sincere thanks to Dr. Judith M. (Arlauskas) Mills for translating Ignas Šakalys' Russian army documents. She is Vice President of Academic Affairs and Dean of Faculty at Salve Regina University in Newport, Rhode Island. The author also thanks his son William E. Shakalis, for his assistance and encouragement.