Malukas parents living in US, ‘500’ dream as immigrants
There are many reminders for David Malukas of the spirit, sacrifice and strong work ethic his parents possess and instilled in him as he prepares to race his first Indianapolis 500 presented by Gainbridge this Sunday. .
That’s why he races under the American and Lithuanian flags – David is a first-generation American, but his parents are from Lithuania and left the country in 1991 when the Soviet Union fell.
Just 22 and 23 at the time, Henry and Daiva Malukas saw an opportunity to live a better life in the United States, as well as provide better opportunities for their children than they had grown up under the regime. Communist.
Henry and Daiva grew up with limited television time. The ability to watch movies was a luxury. Even buying meat at the market was limited, buying what was offered to them online at 6am.
Their first glimpse of the United States came through movies like “Rambo” and “Karate Kid” which they watched on VCR as teenagers. America was a land of opportunity and prosperity for newlywed high school sweethearts.
“The United States was everybody’s dream back then,” Henry said. “Or not even a dream. It’s like telling you today that you’re going to Mars in two years. You’d be like, ‘Oh, I don’t know.’ That’s how the distance felt at that time. This is how I imagined the United States.
Lithuania declared sovereignty of its territory on May 18, 1989 and declared independence from the Soviet Union on March 11, 1990. It was the first Soviet republic to drop “Soviet” from its name. Then, on December 25, 1991, the Soviet Union fell under the leadership of Mikhail Gorbachev and Boris Yeltsin was installed as President of the newly independent Russian state.
Henry and Daiva were two of the first people to leave the country once we had the chance, still using a Soviet Union passport. They packed their two daughters, two suitcases and left their two-decade home for a fresh start in America.
They didn’t know English, they didn’t have a lot of skills, and they didn’t know the culture of the United States. Simple things like “hello” or drive-thru at McDonald’s were unknowns, the latter of which they thought was a good meal when they arrived in the country.
Daiva worked as a maid and Henry became a truck driver. Fortunately, driving was one of his passions and he enjoyed the work. Young and lively at the time, none of the above was scary or intimidating for the couple on their new adventure.
“Intimidating at this age? No, I was just excited,” Henry said. “I had no skills. I was just excited. Everything was extremely cool.
Said Daiva: “We were too young to be afraid. It was just excitement. If I had to do that at this age, I would probably think a lot harder.
Daiva reckons it took her and her husband 10 years to truly feel the United States was their home. Slowly they adapted to the culture and learned the language. At the beginning of their stay in the United States, going to dinner with friends was very stressful. Eventually, however, socializing became easier as they felt at home.
When Daiva returned home to Lithuania for the first time, she was so excited to see her homeland, to visit friends and to see the family that she missed so much. She was so impatient that she booked a three-month return trip, but immediately realized that Lithuania was no longer her home.
“I was so excited to go, and the minute we landed, everything seemed so close,” she said. “People don’t smile, and it shows. Those three months were too long and after two weeks I was ready to go again. When I came back after those three months, I realized that this was my home now.
As Henry and Daiva settled in the United States, Henry worked all the time, including many weekends. Eventually, he also became a dispatcher, responsible for planning drivers and routes and communicating drivers about their routes.
Once in an office, he learned that he needed someone to run the office, do the paperwork and payroll. So, Henry got Daiva a job in his office.
When Henry became a truck driver, the couple bought their first truck with cash. Where they came from under the communist regime, everything had to be bought in cash. Loans were not an option.
When it came time to pay the taxes on the truck, they were told that if it was in their personal name, they had to set up a corporation. So, on the fly while doing their taxes, they created the company that made them emblematic of the American dream: HMD Trucking, Inc.
Henry and Daiva simply rearranged the initials of their names in the order that sounded best: H for Henry, M for Malukas, and D for Daiva. From there, they slowly built their Chicago-based trucking business into a multi-million dollar trucking empire with over 500 trucks.
“The American Dream? Yeah, it was actually like the second week (of moving to the United States) when I got a check for driving a truck,” Henry said. “It was the American Dream. come true.”
David, who turns 21 in September, is proud of his family history. It’s a subject you read often but rarely experience. Because of everything his parents went through, he said it was a feeling of added pressure as he tried to meet the bar they set.
“The fact that my parents were able to do this and achieve this is just something you read about in books or hear about in stories,” David said. “The fact that my parents are the ones who did it and went through it is amazing.”
After more than 20 years of HMD Trucking, Inc., the family is expanding into motor racing, specifically the NTT INDYCAR SERIES and Indy Lights presented by Cooper Tires. Always a driving enthusiast, Henry was also passionate about racing ever since he entered his first INDYCAR SERIES race at Michigan International Speedway.
Once on the way home from Michigan, the family stopped for a go-kart event in South Bend, Indiana. David, then 6 years old, was immediately hooked. From there, the family began looking for ways to help David achieve his dream of being a racing driver.
Growing up, they couldn’t achieve their dreams, so it was extremely important for them to help their son achieve his.
David worked his way up through the karting ranks and eventually moved into open wheel racing. His first year at Indy Lights in 2019 was an average season, with a better third place finish. He finished sixth in the championship.
However, he emerged in Indy Lights in 2021, winning seven races and losing the Indy Lights Championship to Kyle Kirkwood by just 13 points.
Now David is an NTT INDYCAR SERIES rookie for Dale Coyne Racing with HMD looking to become the first Indy 500 rookie to win “The Greatest Racing Show” since Alexander Rossi in 2016. He starts 13th this Sunday (11 a.m. ET, in live on NBC, Telemundo Deportes on Universo and the INDYCAR radio network).
In Indy Lights, Malukas competed for the HMD Motorsports family racing team. Now the family team is co-owner and sponsor of their #18 Honda. The family’s passion for open-wheel racing led them to retain their Indy Lights team, which leads the 2022 championship with Linus Lundqvist.
“After hearing about everything they’ve been through, the fact that they have everything, they have money, they have everything and yet they put everything into me, I really feel like be spoiled,” David said. “I’m lucky in the fact that they went through it all and still decided to put it all in me, spoil me and get me where I am today.
“Without them, I wouldn’t even be close to this goal.”
While David is a first-generation American, Lithuanian was his first language. He only learned English when he was 5 years old. His family is rich in Lithuanian culture, cuisine and traditions. He returned several times to his parents’ homeland.
So, while he’s certainly American, Malukas is proud of where his parents come from and his heritage. Whether it’s the Lithuanian flag on his fire suit or his parents’ initials on his black, red and white racing car, it’s easy for David to remember where he came from.
“I’m still true to my Lithuanian roots,” David said. “I love it. I’m still into the culture. My parents celebrate Lithuanian holidays and we still have a lot of Lithuanian friends. I identify as an American citizen, but I still have those true Lithuanian roots.
And this Sunday, two immigrants who tried their luck in 1991 to find a better life will see their son compete in the biggest one-day sporting event in the world.