Jonas’ early years were spent working with his older brother Adolfas on the family farm in Semeniskiai, Lithuania. This perhaps explains his identification of childhood and innocence with pastoral qualities, while his adult world is very much an urban existence.
Just as the boys were reaching adulthood their simple peaceful existence was disrupted when World War II broke out and Lithuania was invaded by the Red Army and Lithuania became annexed to the USSR. The Russians were driven out two years later by the Nazis, however. During these times of occupation, Jonas and Adolfas published underground resistance pamphlets written by themselves, until in 1944, at the age of 21, Jonas and Adolfas attempted to escape to Vienna with forged identification papers. Tragically, the train took them instead to a forced labour camp near Hamburg.
Months later they escaped but spent years drifting from one camp for displaced persons to another, while writing stories and poems and publishing magazines. Eventually they were offered the chance to travel by ship to New York City to begin a new life. They landed in the Hudson Bay on 29th October 1949.