“Stanley is a survivor and a fighter. He escaped and landed on his feet. He fought against life and won — you can feel it in his paintings. You can see the happiness in his Pacific Northwest paintings and you also see the sadness in others.” — Curator and Collector Ger Beemsterboaer, Netherlands
Stanislaus “Stanley” Raubertas was born June 11, 1923 in rural Lithuania to an American mother and a Lithuanian father, the oldest of what would in time be eight children.
War and violent civic uprisings followed Raubertas through much of the first half of his life. During a journey that thrice ripped him from his homeland, Raubertas led his refugee family from war-torn Central Europe through Germany and Austria to escape in tropical Venezuela, subsequently across United States to settle in Southern California and, ultimately, in the mild, scenic hills of the Willamette Valley.
Throughout this exodus, two loves remained constant for Raubertas: his family and painting.
Marcia Pollard, an area resident who is an admirer of Raubertas’ work over the past 30 years, said in an interview with The Register-Guard, “You know, I would often sit and stare at his paintings. And every time I looked, something new would catch my attention.”
Raubertas’ broad brushstrokes, clustering of color tones, vivid pops of orange and red, plein air landscapes and everyday subject matter align with characteristics of impressionist art, as described by Kelly Richman-Abdou writer for MyModernMet.com.
Pollard and her family would visit Raubertas often when he still was painting. The painter would open the back doors to his ramshackle white van, she remembered, and let Pollard’s children dig through canvas after canvas that were piled and bound between wood shelving in the cargo hold.
Raubertas did not seek fame or glory with his work or even a gallery during his time in Eugene. Raubertas’ children were all grown and successful when he and his wife, Doris, moved to Eugene, returning to Doris’s hometown, in the 1980s.
He lived a comfortable life painting and traveling with his wife, knowing what the good life was because he survived the much of the turmoil the mid-20th century wrought.
Early life strife
Raubertas “grew up in the most beautiful part of the world,” he wrote in his autobiography. The family lived in the manor house of a Lithuanian estate on the Selpe River, awarded to his father for his participation in Lithuania’s 1918 war of independence from Russia. Living with them was his uncle who showed Raubertas how to draw and paint in his studio. Raubertas was hooked for life.
“It seemed that your thoughts (would) fly to another world,” he wrote.
This world would change forever when Russian Soviets invaded Lithuania again in 1940, under the pretense of protecting the country from Hitler. This was Raubertas’ first window to the outside world. There were all different kinds of Soviet soldiers, some Russian, some Mongolian, some Caucasian, some Armenian.
“These people fascinated me because I had never seen such people before in Lithuania. This, to me, was a confirmation that there are many kinds of people in the world. My thoughts were that we were all God’s children.”
Unfortunately, this was not the purview of occupying Russia. Raubertas experienced his first upheaval when the Russians began executing and exiling the rebels that fought against them in 1918. Because they had a German surname, the family was able to flee to Germany.
At 17 years old and in a refugee in Solden, Germany, Raubertas witnessed Nazi brutality. Polish Jewish men pulled at wheelbarrows chained to their bodies. The young men with gray, tired faces were whipped when they did not move fast enough.
The Germans shipped Raubertas and his brother Zenonas to Erfort, Germany to work pulling mail bags from trains. It was here that Raubertas gave one of his paintings to his boss, who recognized his talent and enrolled him in art school. Students painted public buildings — hospitals, schools, etc. — during the day and studied art at night.
This assignment, however, was short-lived as Germans needed war capital, not civic beautification. Raubertas was transferred to the Telefunken radio factory in Berlin to paint part numbers on communication equipment. He lived in a little Lithuanian colony overlooking Johannes Plaza. He recalled in his biography that sometimes Nazi guards would bring American prisoners of war into the plaza where they would play a strange game called baseball.
During the day, people went to work like any other daily routine and at night, Allied bombs would fall from the sky. As his homesickness grew, Raubertas continued to trudge to forced labor, fearing for his life at night. One evening, a bombing raid leveled the building next to his in an earth-shattering explosion. On his way to work the next morning, a disembodied woman’s hand hung from a tree’s bare branches, presenting a gory departing wave. Against the wishes of his family, Raubertas decided to return to Lithuania.
Starting a family
After losing all of his possessions crossing the river separating the border of Germany and Lithuania and barely escaping with his life, Raubertas, then 20 years old, took refuge in a church rectory in Taurage, Lithuania. Here, Raubertas painted “Jesus in the Tomb,” which the church still recognizes at Easter time. It also was here where Raubertas taught high school art and fell in love with Elena, a woman who worked at the church.
They were married one week after Raubertas’ 21st birthday, knowing each other for only a month. The young couple soon found themselves with child and spent the following two years fleeing back and forth from Lithuania to Germany, barely evading Soviet capture and the German draft.
Two years later, with the war ended and the couple now with a son and a daughter, the family ended up in a displaced persons camp in Munchen, Germany. Without work, they knew they would have to move on. Elena wanted to go back to Lithuania, but Raubertas was done with Europe and sought an ephemeral American freedom. In compromise, the couple settled on Venezuela.
After long flights to England, Canada and Los Angeles, they flew all night to see the sun rise over the Caribbean Sea.
The Raubertas clan and the rest of the Lithuanian refugees they were traveling with couldn’t imagine how difficult the transition would be. None of the refugees spoke Spanish, so there was no communication with the Venezuelans. The Lithuanian fair skin ended up burned by the sultry climate and blotched by mosquito and no-see-um bites. After years of rationed food, the rich food made most of them ill with stomach issues and dysentery. Raubertas’ nephew died and his daughter Judita barely survived.
Raubertas painted on canvas and on buildings, anything to make money and learn Spanish. He found more opportunities in the capital of Caracas, where he got by retouching paintings and reproducing Eastern European art unavailable in Venezuela. The family, now grown to six with another daughter and son, grew acquainted with American life and the English language through Hollywood movies.
A move to America
When Venezuelan society began devolving into a chaotic revolution, the family planned a move to the United States. Because Raubertas’ mother was born in the United States, they were able to receive a visa in only four months.
Raubertas and family again packed up what they could and sold the rest for what they hoped would be brighter, calmer living. On approach, the plane circled the Statue of Liberty, providing a feeling of freedom and a better life.
After three weeks visiting with family in Philadelphia, the Raubertas family packed up for a cross-country road trip to meet their sponsor in Canoga Park, Los Angeles. Raubertas and Elena raised their family there.
In 1979, his eldest son went through a quickly formed and dissolved marriage that left them with a displaced baby girl, Angie, born Raubertas Chamberlain. She would paint and play in Raubertas’ studio while he painted during the day and Elena worked two jobs to support the family.
“Stanley would do really good (art) shows, but wasn’t always consistent. He made a lot of the meals while Elena worked as a dietician during the day and cleaned high-rises at night,” Chamberlain said.
Raubertas and Elena raised her like a daughter until her mother in Bend decided that 14-year-old Chamberlain would live with her after what was supposed to be a visit.
“It was pretty shocking,” Chamberlain said. “I was going to Bend for vacation. Mom was tired of grandparents having control of her life, so she decided that I was staying.”
Missing the granddaughter that they’d raised, Elena and Raubertas eventually moved to Bend after several visits.
After some time, Elena found work in Portland. There, Raubertas and his wife began to grow apart and eventually divorced.
While selling his work at the Vancouver Mall, Raubertas met a fellow artist, Doris, who would soon become his wife. With mutual business and creative interests, love blossomed. After a whirlwind romance and a trip to meet Raubertas’ family in Philadelphia, the couple settled in Doris’ hometown of Eugene.
It was in the the bucolic fields of the Willamette Valley that Raubertas’ painting blossomed again.
The painter has spent the later years of his life content helping Doris with her ceramic business and setting his work outside of the couple’s trailer at a yard sale, a swap meet or in a mall — anywhere where he could display his work to make a few bucks here and there.
Today, Raubertas is in 95 years old living in a Eugene rehabilitation center. He spends his days looking at the world’s scenery through a rain-spattered picture window.
His wife says that he is still quite a romantic.
“He flirts with all the nurses,” Doris said. “Everybody here just loves him here.”
With a trip that took a lifetime, Raubertas found a similar pastoral ease to his idyllic childhood home.
“In flying over Eugene, you can see the beautiful sights of the valley, the fields, the different trees, the sun setting into the Willamette River, the reflection as if it was made of silver. Every evening we have different sunsets.”