|Abstract: ||1944 m. įkurto BALFʼo tikslas – materialiai paremti lietuvius pabėgėlius ir ypač karo nualintos Lietuvos gyventojus. Pokaryje nepalankiai lietuviams susiklosčiusi politinė situacija Rytų Europoje ir okupuotoje Lietuvoje stipriai apribojo organizacijos veiklą. Atšilimo Tarybų Sąjungoje laikotarpiu, nuo 1956 m., imti remti lietuviai ne tik to meto Lietuvoje, bet ir tremtiniai Sibire, šiauriniuose TSRS rajonuose, Kazachstane. Nuo pat pradžių daugiausia siųsta vaistų, vėliau – padėvėti drabužiai ir avalynė, maisto produktai, skalbimo priemonės ir pan. Uždraudus padėvėtų drabužių įvežimą į TSRS , pradėti siųsti nauji drabužiai, audiniai. Tai dar labiau padidino muitus. Komunistinė Tarybų Sąjunga iš to nemenkai pasipelnė – kartais pajamos siekė net siunčiamų daiktų vertės dydį. Po karo praėjus keleriems metams BALFʼas negavo JAV valdžios finansinės paramos ir turėjo verstis lietuvių išeivijos paaukotais daiktais ir pinigais. BALFʼas teikė paramą (nors tuo metu tai buvo sudėtinga) komunistinio bloko (LLR ir TSRS ) vargstančių lietuvių, daugiausia tremtinių, šeimoms. 1968 m. BALFʼo kartotekoje jau buvo užregistruotos 5 837 šeimos: Lenkijoje – 3 433, Lietuvoje ir Sibire – 1 617, Vokietijoje – 530 ir kitur. BALFʼas lietuviams už geležinės uždangos remti išleido apie du milijonus dolerių. Lenkijos lietuviams šelpti sąlygos buvo palankesnės nei lietuviams už geležinės uždangos: mažesni muitai, pigesnis siuntimas, mažesnė vietinės valdžios kontrolė, glaudesni ryšiai. Lenkijos lietuviams per visą paramos laiką iki 1990 m. BALFʼas išleido apie milijoną dolerių.|
Founded in 1944, Balfas (United Lithuanian Relief Fund of America) set itself the task of providing material help to Lithuanian refugees and especially the inhabitants of a Lithuania ravaged by war. In the postwar years, an unfavorable political situation in Eastern Europe and Soviet-occupied Lithuania severely restricted the organizationʼs work. Help to Lithuania could only be provided through organizations controlled by Soviet officials without any possibility of overseeing the distribution of the assistance with respect to whether it reached those most in need or arrived in Lithuania at all. This did not satisfy the leaders (Juozas Končius, Vaclovas Martinkus, Mary Rudis) of Balfas who were compelled to temporarily suspend assistance to Lithuanians behind the Iron Curtain and to restrict their charitable mission to Lithuanian refugees (including laborers formerly conscripted by the Nazis) living in Western Europe. Following the thaw in the Soviet Union after 1956 assistance slowly and haltingly began to be sent not only to Lithuanians then living in Lithuania but to deportees who had been exiled to Siberia, the northern reaches of the Soviet Union, and Kazakhstan. From the start much of the assistance consisted of essential drugs and medical supplies, soon supplemented by second-hand clothing and footwear, food products, laundry detergents, and so on. After used clothing articles were forbidden to be exported to Soviet-occupied territory, Balfas began to ship new clothes and fabrics, but this only provoked the Soviet regime to raise even further the already high customs tariffs that had to be paid both by the sender and the recipient of the charity packages. These turned out to be a very convenient source of hard currency (sometimes equaling the monetary value of the sent items) for the Communist government.
In the early period, from 1956 to 1966, the assistance sent behind the Iron Curtain constituted from 13 % to 23 % of Balfasʼs whole relief effort, whereas from 1966 on it constituted from 40 % to 70 % of the whole. A large portion–as much as nearly one third–of the aid parcelʼs cost went as payment to the shipping agencies. There were no guarantees that the shipment would reach the addressee; occasionally it would be returned, or lost entirely. It ir believed that Balfas spent about two million dollars for aid to Lithuanians behind the Iron Curtain. It also assisted Lithuanians in Poland. The conditions for aiding them were somewhat more favorable, as the customs tariffs were lower, the shipments less expensive (discounts were available), local government control was less strict, and communications (by post or visits to and from the United States)) were easier. Things sent included clothes, shoes, medications, food items, bedding, books, and household goods as well as small amounts of money. Assistance to Lithuanians living in Poland made up from 20 % to 30 % of the whole of Balfasʼs relief effort; and Balfas spent close to one million dollars on aiding Lithuanians in Poland.
Several years after World War II had ended the United States government discontinued its financial support of the United Lithuanian Relief Fund of America (Balfas), and the latter had to rely entirely on goods and money donated by Lithuanians living in the United States, which meant mainly those who had emigrated to the U. S. prior to World War II . Expanding its fund-raising efforts, Balfas solicited contributions not only from Lithuanians in the United States but in other countries as well and sought out volunteers to carry out (1) the fund-raising and (2) the selection and packaging of donated items as well as (3) the transferring of these packages to the shipping agencies responsible for delivering them to their recipients. Balfas also offered to manage the estates of Lithuanians living in the West so that their beneficiaries in Lithuania would not be robbed of big portions of their inheritance by functionaries of Communist-controlled institutions. The assistance that Balfas provided to Lithuanians living in Communist bloc countries (the so-called USSR and the Polish Peopleʼs Republic) had the purpose of improving their economic welfare and their health. Of course, the number of Lithuanians, mostly refugee families, assisted was relatively small (in 1968, Balfasʼs records show it aiding 5 837 families: 3 433 in Poland; 1 617 in Lithuania and Siberia; 530 in Germany and elsewhere). But this charity had not only a material effect: it showed Lithuanians behind the Iron Curtain that the West had not entirely forgotten them, that it was aware of their travails, and that it took steps to help them as much as circumstances allowed.