According to historical sources, the very first military large-scale steam bakery was founded in Vilnius in 1882. Standard, 21-pound loaves, were baked in wood-fired ovens, delivered not just for the army, but also sold to residents of Vilnius city and suburbs. There were 119 employees at the bakery at the time, according to evidence.
In 1895 the bakery baked 378311 poods of bread (1 pood – 16.38 kg). A decade later, the Vilnius Military Bakery was officially placed under an obligation to supply production at lower prices to the poorest townsmen and Vilnius suburbs residents. It should be noted that in 1897 population of Vilnius city consisted of 154.2 thousand inhabitants.
Data about Vilnius bakeries during the interwar period is basically obsolete. Facts show that bakery’s building was reconstructed.
The main building, remaining until the bakery’s closing in 2008, and located between the A.Vivulskis Street and Savanoriu avenue, was completed in 1930. For almost for eight decades, this bakery operated as the main bakery of Vilniaus Duona. Rather an interesting fact is that until mid of 1944 the bakery’s status remained unaltered – primarily as a military purposes bakery.
In 1944, after one other bakery was united to our bakery, together with 15 of small bakery shops operating in the city, the Vilniaus Duona Company was founded. Bakeries were not mechanized, with ovens heated mainly by firewood. Several sorts of bread were baked.
Izidorius Šiaulys, who began his career in Vilniaus Duona more than 40 years ago, initially working as bakery’s loader, then an operator in flour warehouse, later as a chief bakery mechanic and even as a technical maintenance manager, states that until the year 1947, the majority of work at the bakery was accomplished manually.
“Everything was done like in a village: the bakers make the leaven, it’s fermenting in a kneading trough, which is never to be washed out. Afterward, everything is mixed, topped with flour and water. This mixture ferments for two days – it’s important for the mixture to stay warmly covered and be periodically stirred. Sometimes sugar is added. Yeast wasn’t added because the no yeast bread was baked at the time. After two days, the bread leaven achieves the sweet-sour taste and aroma. After that, the flour was poured and the dough kneaded. That was backbreaking labor. The kneaded dough once again was warmly covered and left to rest for several hours, to ferment and rise further. Then a piece of dough is kneaded from the whole mass, formed into a loaf of bread, laid on a wooden paddle and put into the oven.”, – tells I. Šiaulys.
Bread stoves were tiered at that time: the stove itself was made of stone bricks, with a constantly stoked heating entry at the front. The walls of the furnace had channels, and via those smoke and hot air from the heating entry went up the chimney.
One person was responsible for furnace stoking. However, more workers were required to pour the flour, prepare the leaven, and to mix it.
“The most interesting operation was the bread kneading. When the bread was required to be delivered to the military, I suppose there were already mechanic bread kneaders fitted in, because it’s a very complicated job. I do not know how much of it is true, but there were tales how the dough was kneaded using feet too. I was told that young men in those days, around 1930, went to gaze at the feet of women kneading the dough.”, – smiles I. Šiaulys.