Valdas Adamkus - Biography

Biography

Adamkus was born into a Roman Catholic family in Kaunas. His father was one of the first heads of the Lithuanian Air Force School in the Republic of Lithuania. As a young man, Adamkus joined the underground against the first Soviet occupation of 1940. During World War II, his family fled Lithuania in order to avoid the second Soviet occupation in 1944. He attended the University of Munich in Germany before emigrating to the United States in 1949. Fluent in five languages — Lithuanian, Polish, English, Russian, and German — he served as a senior non-commissioned officer with the United States 5th Army Reserve's military intelligence unit in the 1950s. During his youth, Adamkus was interested in track and field. He also set national record at 100 metres running. In 1951, Adamkus got married to Alma Nutautaite. However, they have no children.

After arriving in Chicago, Illinois as a displaced person, he worked in an automobile factory and later as a draftsman. Adamkus graduated as a civil engineer from Illinois Institute of Technology in 1961. While a student, Adamkus, together with other Lithuanian Americans, collected about 40,000 signatures petitioning the United States Government to intervene in the ongoing deportations of Lithuanians to Siberia by the Soviets. The petition was presented to then-Vice President Richard Nixon. Adamkus also raised concerns about other Soviet activities in occupied Lithuania to United Nations Secretary General Dag Hammarskjöld in 1958, and to President John F. Kennedy in 1962.

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