The Lithuanian, who told the following story of his life to Mr. Ernest Poole, is a workman in the Chicago Stockyards and gave his name as Antanas Kaztauskis.
Now I looked at my mother and her face looked frightened, but
the shoemaker cried still louder. "Why can't you have your
own Lithuanian school? Because you are like dogs you have nothing
to say you have no town meetings or province meetings, no elections.
You are slaves! And why can't you even pay to go to their Russian
school? Because they get all your money. Only twelve acres you
own, but you pay eighty roubles ($40) taxes. You must work twelve
days on your Russian roads. Your kind old wife must plow behind
the oxen, for I saw her last summer, and she looked tired. You
must all slave, but still your rye and wheat brings little money,
because they cheat you bad Oh, the wolves how fat they are! And
so your boy must never read or write, or think like a man should
But now my mother cried out, and her voice was shaking. "Leave
us alone you leave us! We need no money we trade our things for
the things we need at the store we have all we need leave us alone!"
Then my fat brother grinned and said to the shoemaker, "You
always stir up young men to go to America. Why don't you go yourself?"
I remember that the little shoemaker had pulled a big crooked
pipe out of his bag. Now he took a splinter from the basket of
splinters which hung on the wall and he lit his pipe and puffed
it His face showed me that he felt bad "I am too old,"
he said, "to learn a new trade. These boots are no good in
America America is not place for us old rascals. My son is in
Chicago in the stockyards, and he writes to me. They have hard
knocks. If you are sick or old there and have no money you must
die. That Chicago place has trouble, too. Do you see that light?
That is kerosene. Do you remember the price went up last year?
That is Rockefeller. My son writes me about him. He is another
man wolf. A few men like him are grabbing all the good things,
the oil and coal and meat and everything. But against these men
you can strike if you are young. You can read free papers and
prayer books. In Chicago there are prayer books for every man
.and woman. You can have free meetings and talk out what you think.
And so if you are young you can change all these troubles. But
I am old I can feel it now, this winter. So I only tell young
men to go." He looked hard at me and I looked at him. He
kept talking. "I tell them to go where they can choose their
own kind of God where they can learn to read and write, and talk,
and think like men and have good things!"
He kept looking at me, but he opened the newspaper and held it
up. "Some day," he said, "I will be caught and
sent to jail, but I don't care.
I got this from my son, who reads all he can find at night It
had to be smuggled in I lend it many times to many young men.
My son got it from the night school and he put it in Lithuanian
for me to see." Then he bent over the paper a long time and
his lips moved At last he looked into the fire and fixed his hair,
and then his voice was shaking and very low: “’We
know these are true things that all men are born free and equal
that God gives them rights which no man can take away that among
these rights are life, liberty and the getting of happiness.'
He stopped, I remember, and looked at me, and l was not breathing.
He said it again. " `Life, liberty and the getting of happiness.'
Oh, that is what you want."
My mother began to cry. "He cannot go if his father commands
him to stay," she kept saying. I knew this was true, for
in Lithuania a father can command his son till he dies.
"No, he must not go," said the shoemaker, "if
his father commands him to stay." He turned and looked hard
at my father. My father was looking into the fire. "If he
goes," said my father, "those Russians will never let
him come back." My mother cried harder. We all waited for
him to say something else. In about five minutes the shoemaker
got up and asked, " Well, what do you say, the army or America?"
But my father shook his head and would not say anything. Soon
my brother began yawning and took his fat wife and went to bed
The little shoemaker gathered his tools into his big bag and threw
it over his shoulder. His shoulder was crooked Then he came close
to me and looked at me hard.
"I am old," he said, " I wish I was young. And
you must be old soon and that will be too late. The army the man
wolves! Bah! it is terrible."
After he was gone my father and I kept looking at the fire. My
mother stopped crying and went out Our house was in two parts
of two rooms each. Between the parts was an open shed and in this
shed was a big oven, where she was baking bread that night I could
hear her pull it out to look at it and then push it back. Then
she came in and sat down beside me and began spinning again. I
leaned against her dress and watched the fire and thought about
America Sometimes I looked at my father, and she kept looking
at him, too, but he would not say anything. At last my old mother
stopped spinning and put her hand on my forehead
"Alexandria is a fine girl," she whispered. This gave
me a quick bad feeling. Alexandria was the girl I wanted to marry.
She lived about ten miles away. Her father liked my father and
they seemed to be glad that I loved her. I had often been thinking
at night how in a few years I would go with my uncle to her house
and ask her father and mother to give her to me. I could see the
wedding all ahead how we would go to her house on Saturday night
and they would have music there and many people and we would have
a sociable time. Then in the morning we would go to the church
and be married and come back to my father's house and live with
him. I saw it all ahead, and I was sure we would be very happy.
Now I began thinking of this. I could see her fine soft eyes and
I hated to go away. My old mother kept her hands moving on my
forehead. "Yes, she is a nice girl; a kind, beautiful girl,"
she kept whispering. We sat there till the lamp went out. Then
the fire got low and the room was cold and we went to bed But
I could not sleep and kept thinking.
The next day my father told me that I could not go until the
time came for the army, three years ahead. "Stay until then
and then we will see," he said My mother was very glad and
so was I, because of Alexandria. But in the coldest part of that
winter my dear old mother got sick and died. The neighbors all
came in and sang holy songs for two days and nights. The priest
was there and my father bought fine candles. Two of the neighbors
made a coffin. At last it was all over. For a long a time our
log house was always quiet.
That summer the shoemaker came again and talked with me. This
time I was very eager to go to America, and my father told me
I could go.
One morning I walked over to say good by to Alexandria. It was
ten miles and the road was dusty, so I carried my boots over my
shoulder, as we always did, and I put them on when I came near
her house. When I saw her I felt very bad, and so did she. I had
the strongest wish I ever had to take hold of her and keep her
all my life. We stayed together till it was dark and night fogs
came up out of the field grass, and we could hardly see the house.
Then she said good by. For many nights I kept remembering the
way she looked up at me.
The next night after supper I started It is against the law to
sell tickets to America, but my father saw the secret agent in
the village and he got a ticket from Germany and found us a guide.
I had bread and cheese and honey and vodka and clothes in my bag.
Some of the neighbors walked a few miles and said good by and
then went back. My father and my younger brother walked on all
night with the guide and me. At daylight we came to the house
of a man the guide knew.
We slept there and that night I left my father and young brother.
My father gave me $50 besides my ticket The next morning before
light we were going through the woods and we came to the frontier.
Three roads run along the frontier. On the first road there is
a soldier every mile, who stands there all night On the second
road is a soldier every half mile, and on the third road is a
soldier every quarter of a mile. The guide went ahead through
the woods. I hid with my big bag behind a bush and whenever he
raised his hand I sneaked along. I felt cold all over and sometimes
hot He told me that sometimes he took twenty immigrants together,
all without passports, and then he could not pass the soldiers
and so he paid a soldier he knew one dollar a head to let them
by. He said the soldier was very strict and counted them to see
that he was not being cheated.
So I was in Germany. Two days after that we reached Tilzit and
the guide took me to the railroad man. This man had a crowd of
immigrants in a room, and we started that night on the railroad¬fourth
class. It was bad riding sometimes. I used to think of Alexandria.
We were all green and slow. The railroad man used to say to me,
"You will have to be quicker than this in Chicago,"
and he was right We were very slow in the stations where we changed
trains, and he used to shout at us then, and one old German man
who spoke Lithuanian told me what the man was calling us. When
he told me this I hurried, and so did the others, and we began
to learn to be quicker. It took three days to get to Hamburg.
There we were put in a big house called a barracks, and we waited
a week. The old German man told me that the barracks men were
cheating us. He had been once to Cincinnati in America to visit
his son, who kept a saloon. His old, long pipe was stolen there.
He kept saying, "Dem grafters, dem grafters," in a low
voice whenever they brought food to sell, for our bags were now
empty. They kept us there till our money was half spent on food.
I asked the old man what kind of American men were grafters, and
he said "All kinds in Cincinnati, but more in Chicago!"
I knew I was going to Chicago, and I began to think quicker. I
thought quicker yet on the boat I saw men playing cards. I played
and lost $1.86 in my new money, till the old man came behind me
and said, "Dem grafters." When I heard this I got scared
and threw down my cards. That old man used to point up at the
rich people looking down at us and say "Dem grafters."
They were the richest people I had ever seen the boat was the
biggest boat I had ever seen the machine that made it go was very
big, and so was the horn that blew in a fog. I felt everything
get bigger and go quicker every day.
It was the most when we came to New York. We were driven in a
thick crowd to the railroad station The old man kept pointing
and saying "Grafters, grafters," till the guide punched
him and said, "Be quick, damn you, be quick."... "I
will be quick pretty soon," said the old man to me, "and
den I will get back dot pipe in Cincinnati. And when I will be
quicker still, alreddy, I will steal some odder man's pipe. Every
quick American man is a grafter." I began to believe that
this was true, but I was mixed up and could not think long at
one time. Everything got quicker worse and worse till then at
last I was in a boarding house by the stockyards in Chicago, with
three Lithuanians, who knew my father's sisters at home.
That first night we sat around in the house and they asked me,
" Well, why did you come?" I told them about that first
night and what the ugly shoemaker said about "life, liberty
and the getting of happiness." They all leaned back and laughed
"What you need is money," they said "It was all
right at home. You wanted nothing. You ate your own meat and your
own things on the farm. You made your own clothes and had your
own leather. The other things you got at the Jew man's store and
paid him with sacks of rye. But here you want a hundred things.
Whenever you walk out you see new things you want, and you must
have money to buy everything."
Then one man asked me, "How much have you?" and I told
him $30. "You must buy clothes to look rich, even if you
are not rich," he said "With good clothes you will have
The next morning three of these men took me to a store near the
stockyards to buy a coat and pants. "Look out," said
one of them. "Is he a grafter" I asked They all laughed.
"You stand still. That is all you have to do," they
said. So the Jew man kept putting on coats and I moved my arms
and back and sides when they told me. We stayed there till it
was time for dinner. Then we bought a suit. I paid $5 and then
I was to pay $1 a week for five weeks.
In the afternoon I went to a big store. There was a man named
Elias. "He is not a grafter," said my friends. He was
nice to me and gave me good advice how to get a job. I bought
two shirts, a hat, a collar, a necktie, two pairs of socks and
some shoes. We kept going upstairs and downstairs. I saw one Lithuanian
man buying everything for his wife and three children, who would
come here the next week from Lithuania. My things cost me $8.
I put these on right away and then I began to feel better.
The next night they took me for a walk down town We would not
pay to ride, so we walked so long that I wanted to take my shoes
off, but I did not tell them this. When we came there I forgot
my feet We stood by one theater and watched for half an hour.
Then we walked all around a store that filled one whole block
and had walls of glass. Then we had a drink of whisky, and this
is better than vodka We felt happier and looked into cafe's. We
saw shiny carriages and automobiles. I saw men with dress suits,
I saw women with such clothes that I could not think at all. Then
my friends punched me and I turned around and saw one of these
women, and with her was a gentlman in a fine dress suit I began
looking harder. It was the Jew man that sold me my suit "He
is a grafter," said my friends. "See what money can
do." Then we walked home and I felt poor and my shoes got
That night I felt worse. We were tired out when we reached the
stockyards, so we stopped on the bridge and looked into the river
out there. It was so full of grease and dirt and sticks and boxes
that it looked like a big, wide, dirty street, except in some
places, where it boiled up. It made me sick to look at it When
I looked away I could see on one side some big fields full of
holes, and these were the city dumps. On the other side were the
stockyards, with twenty tall slaughter house chimneys. The wind
blew a big smell from them to us. Then we walked on between the
yards and the dumps and all the houses looked bad and poor. In
our house my room was in the basement I lay down on the floor
with three other men and the air was rotten I did not go to sleep
for a long time. I knew then that money was everything I needed.
My money was almost gone and I thought that I would soon die unless
I got a job, for this was not like home. Here money was everything
and a man without money must die.
The next morning my friends woke me up at five o'clock and said,
"Now, if you want life, liberty and happiness," they
laughed, "you must push for yourself. You must get a job.
Come with us." And we went to the yards. Men and women were
walking in by thousands as far as we could see. We went to the
doors of one big slaughter house. There was a crowd of about 200
men waiting there for a job. They looked hungry and kept watching
the door. At last a special policeman came out and began pointing
to men, one by one. Each one jumped forward. Twenty three were
taken. Then they all went inside, and all the others turned their
faces away and looked tired. I remember one boy sat down and cried,
just next to me, on a pile of boards. Some policemen waved their
clubs and we all walked on. I found some Lithuanians to talk with,
who told me they had come every morning for three weeks. Soon
we met other crowds coming away from other slaughter houses, and
we all walked around and felt bad and tired and hungry.
That night I told my friends that I would not do this many days,
but would go some place else. "Where?" they asked me,
and I began to see then that I was in bad trouble, because I spoke
no English. Then one man told me to give him $5 to give the special
policeman. I did this and the next morning the policeman pointed
me out, so I had a job. I have heard some big talk since then
about my American freedom of contract, but I do not think I had
much freedom in bargaining for this job with the Meat Trust My
job was in the cattle killing room. I pushed the blood along the
gutter. Some people think these jobs make men bad I do not think
so. The men who do the killing are not as bad as the ladies with
fine clothes who come every day to look at it, because they have
to do it The cattle do not suffer. They are knocked senseless
with a big hammer and are dead before they wake up. This is done
not to spare them pain, but because if they got hot and sweating
with fear and pain the meat would not be so good. I soon saw that
every job in the room was done like this so as to save everything
and make money. One Lithuanian, who worked with me, said, "They
get all the blood out of those cattle and all the work out of
us men." This was true, for we worked that first day from
six in the morning till seven at night The next day we worked
from six in the morning till eight at night The next day we had
no work. So we had no good, regular hours. It was hot in the room
that summer, and the hot blood made it worse.
I held this job six weeks and then I was turned off. I think
some other man had paid for my job, or perhaps I was too slow.
The foreman in that room wanted quick men to make the work rush,
because he was paid more if the work was done cheaper and quicker.
I saw now that every man was helping himself, always trying to
get all the money he could At that time I believed that all men
in Chicago were grafters when they had to be. They only wanted
to push themselves. Now, when I was idle I began to look about,
and everywhere I saw sharp men beating out slow men like me. Even
if we worked hard it did us no good. I had saved $ I 3 $5 a week
for six weeks makes $30, and take off $15 for six weeks' board
and lodging and $2 for other things. I showed this to a Lithuanian,
who had been here two years, and he laughed " It will be
taken from you," he said He had saved a hundred dollars once
and had begun to buy a house on the instalment plan, but something
had happened that he did not know about and his landlord put him
out and kept the hundred dollars. I found that many Lithuanians
had been beaten this way. At home we never made a man sign contract
papers. We only had him make the sign of a cross and promise he
would do what he said. But this was no good in Chicago. So these
sharp men were beating us.
I saw this, too, in the newspaper. I was beginning to learn English,
and at night in the boarding house the men who did not play cards
used to read the paper to us. The biggest word was "Graft"
in red letters on the front page. Another word was "Trust"
This paper kept putting these two words together. Then I began
to see how every American man was trying to get money for himself.
I wondered if the old German man in Cincinnati had found his pipe
yet. I felt very bad and sorrowful in that month I kept walking
around wih many other Lithuanians who had no job. Our money was
going and we could find nothing to do. At night we got homesick
for our fine green mountains. We read all the news about home
in our Lithuanian Chicago newspaper, The Katalikas. It is a good
paper and gives all the news, In the same office we bought this
song, which was written in Brooklyn by P. Brandukas. He, too,
was homesick It is sung all over Chicago now and you can hear
it in the summer evenings through the open windows. In English
it is something like this:
Oh, Lithuania, so dear to me,
Good by to you, my Fatherland.
Sorrowful in my heart I leave you,
I know not who will stay to guard you.
Is it enough for me to live and enjoy between my neighbors,
In the woods with the flowers and birds?
Is it enough for me to live peaceful between my friends?
No, I must go away from my old father and mother.
The sun shines bright,
The flowers smell sweet,
The birds are singing,
They make the country glad;
But I cannot sing because I must leave you.
Those were bad days and nights. At last I had a chance to help
myself. Summer was over and Election Day was coming. The Republican
boss in our district, Jonidas, was a saloonkeeper. A friend took
me there. Jonidas shook hands and treated me fine. He taught me
to sign my name, and the next week I went with him to an office
and signed some paper, and then I could vote. I voted as I was
told, and then they got me back into the yards to work, because
one big politician owns stock in one of those houses. Then I felt
that I was getting in beside the game. I was in a combine like
other sharp men. Even when work was slack I was all right, because
they got me a job in the street cleaning department. I felt proud,
and I went to the back room in Jonidas's saloon and got him to
write a letter to Alexandria to tell her she must come soon and
be my wife.
But this was just the trouble. All of us were telling our friends
to come soon. Soon they came even thousands. The employers in
the yard liked this, because those sharp foremen are inventing
new machines and the work is easier to learn, and so these slow
Lithuanians and even green girls can learn to do it, and then
the Americans and Germans and Irish are put out and the employer
saves money, because the Lithuanians work cheaper. This was why
the American labor unions began to organize us all just the same
as they had organized the Bohemians and Poles before us.
Well, we were glad to be organized. We had learned that in Chicago
every man must push himself always, and Jonidas had taught us
how much better we could push ourselves by getting into a combine.
Now, we saw that this union was the best combine for us, because
it was the only combine that could say, "It is our business
to raise your wages." But that Jonidas he spoilt our first
union. He was sharp. First he got us to hire the room over his
saloon. He used to come in at our meetings and sit in the back
seat and grin. There was an Irishman there from the union headquarters,
and he was trying to teach us to run ourselves. He talked to a
Lithuanian, and the Lithuanian said it to us, but we were slow
to do things, and we were jealous and were always jumping up to
shout and tight So the Irishman used to wipe his hot red face
and call us bad names. He told the Lithuanian not to say these
names to us, but Jonidas heard them, and in his saloon, where
we all went down after the meeting when the Irishman was gone,
Jonidas gave us free drinks and then told us the names. I will
not write them here.
One night that Irishman did not come and Jonidas saw his chance
and took the chair. He talked very fine and we elected him President.
We made him Treasurer, too. Down in the saloon he gave us free
drinks and told us we must break away from the Irish grafters.
The next week he made us strike, all by himself. We met twice
a day in his saloon and spent all of our money on drinks and then
the strike was over. I got out of this union after that. I had
been working hard in the cattle killing room and I had a better
job. I was called a cattle butcher now and I joined the Cattle
Butchers' Union. This union is honest and it has done me a great
deal of good. It has raised my wages. The man who worked at my
job before the union came was getting through the year an average
of $9 a week. I am getting $11. In my first job I got $5 a week.
The man who works there now gets $5.75.
It has given me more time to learn to read and speak and enjoy
life like an American. I never work now from 6 a. m to 9 p. m.
and then be idle the next day. I work now from 7 a. m to 5.30
p. m., and there are not so many idle days. The work is evened
With more time and more money I live much better and I am very
happy. So is Alexandria. She came a year ago and has learned to
speak English already. Some of the women go to the big store the
day they get here, when they have not enough sense to pick out
the clothes that look right, but Alexandria waited three weeks
till she knew, and so now she looks the finest of any woman in
the district. We have four nice rooms, which she keeps very clean,
and she has flowers growing in boxes in the two front windows.
We do not go much to church, because the church seems to be too
slow. But we belong to a Lithuanian society that gives two picnics
in summer and two big balls in winter, where we have a fine time.
I go one night a week to the Lithuanian Concertina Club. On Sundays
we go on the trolley out into the country.
But we like to stay at home more now because we have a baby.
When he grows up I will not send him to the Lithuanian Catholic
school. They have only two bad rooms and two priests, who teach
only in Lithuanian from prayer books. I will send him to the American
school, which is very big and good. The teachers there are Americans
and they belong to the Teachers' Labor Union, which has three
thousand teachers and belongs to our Chicago Federation of Labor.
I am sure that such teachers will give him a good chance.
Our union sent a committee to Springfield last year and they
passed a law which prevents boys and girls below sixteen from
working in the stockyards.
We are trying to make the employers pay on Saturday night in
cash Now they pay in checks and the men have to get money the
same night to buy things for Sunday, and the saloons cash checks
by thousands. You have to take one drink to have the check cashed
It is hard to take one drink.
The union is doing another good thing. It is combining all the
nationalities. The night I joined the Cattle Butchers' Union I
was led into the room by a negro member. With me were Bohemians,
Germans and Poles, and Mike Donnelly, the President, is an Irishman.
He spoke to us in English and then three interpreters told us
what he said We swore to be loyal to our union above everything
else except the country, the city and the State to be faithful
to each other to protect the women workers to do our best to understand
the history of the labor movement, and to do all we could to help
it on. Since then I have gone there every two weeks and I help
the movement by being an interpreter for the other Lithuanians
who come in. That is why I have learned to speak and write good
English. The others do not need me long. They soon learn English,
too, and when they have done that they are quickly becoming Americans.
But the best thing the union does is to make me feel more independent
I do not have to pay to get a job and I cannot be discharged unless
I am no good. For almost the whole 30,000 men and women are organized
now in some one of our unions and they all are directed by our
central council. No man knows what it means to be sure of his
job unless he has been fired like I was once without any reason
So this is why I joined the labor union. There are many better
stories than mine, for my story is very common. There are thousands
of immigrants like me. Over 300,000 immigrants have been organized
in the last three years by the American Federation of Labor. The
immigrants are glad to be organized if the leaders are as honest
as Mike Donnelly is. You must get money to live well, and to get
money you must combine. I cannot bargain alone with the Meat Trust.
I tried it and it does not work.
My young brother came over three weeks ago, to escape being sent
out to fight in Japan. I tried to have my father come, too, but
he was too old. I wish that ugly little shoemaker would come.
He would make a good walking delegate.