In January 1981 Vytautas Vaičiūnas, an engineer residing in Kaunas at 46 Hipodromas St., apt. 35, sent a statement to P. Griskevičius, secretary of the Central Committee of the Lithuanian Communist Party (with copies to the editorial staffs of the Raseiniai Rayon newspapers Naujas rytas (New Dawn) and Komjannimo tiesa (Truth of the Communist Youth) in which he takes exception to the article "Atviras pokalbis su jaunimu" (An open discussion with youth) published by the newspapers mentioned, which described a procession-march from Tytuvėnai to Šiluva.
The article's author, (Mrs.] E. Skudrienė, stated in the opening lines of the article that "those who participated in that bedlam, and especially the organizers, have no feelings for the laboriously harvested crops in the fields. Nowadays they are well-fed." In his statement, Vytautas Vaičiūnas proved that believers make up the majority of Lithuania's inhabitants; they work in factories, on farms and, therefore, the article's charges are unfounded.
The crowd of a thousand packing the church at Šiluva gives witness to the fact that "Man does not live by bread alone. It is necessary to plow, to sow, and to reap, but one must not look upon man as a beast of burden or as a fattening hog." Vytautas Vaičiūnas disagreed with the article's author that the worst deeds of young people were enumerated in the sermon. That was pure invention. The sermon was about excessive drinking and moral licentiousness. The youth were urged to be modern-day Valančiuses (nineteenth-century bishop-reformer — Tr.) to join the national temperance campaign, to bring back the lost virtues: chaste youth and enduring families. "Must the work of restoring sobriety and chastity to the nation be shrugged off as insignificant? Does it harm the interests of society and the state?" asked Vytautas Vaičiūnas.
To the admonition that permits were necessary for marches, that they must be cleared with the proper organizations, the statement's author responded that, first of all, permits are never granted and, furthermore, people came to this march of their own free will; no one forced them. It was a movement from within the people, and those who" exist for the people and serve the people" (Lithuanian SSR Constitution, Article 6) should know that one cannot go against the will of the people.
Vytautas Vaičiūnas wrote that it would be a serious misconception to condemn the march under Article 195/3 of the Lithuanian SSR Criminal Code because the column of marchers walking along the right side of the local thoroughfare could not have caused "harm to transportation and state public business or agencies," especially since the marches have become traditional and the authorities know about them in advance. Even so, the author pointed out, in December 1980 the Lithuanian SSR Supreme Court convicted IMiss] Jadvyga Stanelytė, a participant in last year's procession.
In his statement, Vytautas Vaičiūnas sought an answer to why there is so much drinking in our country and provided the answer that "state atheism has extinguished the hope of eternal life; it tears everything down and is incapable of building anything . . .. Standing on the ruins of his morality, man seeks solace at the bottom of a bottle."
The statement's author raised the question of the meaning of man's life. He quoted the words of Jaselskis, "Science still has no answer to the following things, namely, the meaning of life, of character improvement, of death, and immortality." Therefore, can those who have no answer themselves raise the question of meaning? Do they have the right to intrude into man's inner sanctum and destroy the altar of sacrifice and love — God's altar — to annihilate the old scale of values, if they have nothing with which to replace them? What can possibly replace the Ten Commandments if they are man's moral foundation? asked Vytautas Vaičiūnas.
In his statement, Vaičiūnas urged that the numbers of insane asylums, venereal disease clinics, prisons, juvenile homes be reflected upon and the proper conclusion be drawn, namely, that they are the fruits of state atheism. It is disconcerting to compare current statistics with those of the prewar period, but it is also fatal to close one's eyes.
Vytautas Vaičiūnas noted that it was not enough for the press to discuss how to raise calves and piglets and how to increase their productive weight. The nation is ill, and it must be healed. The medication prescribed by "scientific atheistic" philosophy does not suit its nature. It does not heal but poisons the still healthy cells. We cannot calmly stand by as the nation dies.
The author of the statement called those who participated in the march from Tytuvėnai to Šiluva today's heroes who have dared to undertake battle with the monster of evil and to openly call on Heaven for help. Vytautas Vaičiūnas expressed his conviction that their combined voice, like the miraculous beacon touched by a daring youth in a short story by Biliūnas, will reach the heart of every Lithuanian.
In February 1981 Vytautas Vaičiūnas joined the Lithuanian Helsinki Watch Group.
On January 1, 1981, believers erected a cross at the Lazdijai-Veisiejai crossroad. On January 4 Father Juozas Zdebskis and four young men on their way to Veisiejai noticed that the top of the cross had been removed. Jumping from their car, they saw that it had been thrown some five meters away. A rope was still dangling from the remaining portion of the cross, and saw marks were visible at its base. At a distance they saw five men running away. Seeing that they were being pursued, the culprits leaped from the road into a plowed field. When one of the culprits was overtaken, he drew a gun and threatened: "Come and get me!" It was Algis Gylys, a KGB staff member. Township Chairman Vabuolas began savagely kicking one of the young men, shouting, "Who are you? What do you want? We'll soon find out!"
Father Juozas Zdebskis rushed over to help the young men and shone a flashlight on the culprits. Fearing that his helpers would be recognized, security agent Algis Gylys fell upon the priest, knocked the flashlight from his hand, and removed the bulb. The culprits began to make excuses, claiming they were attacked without cause, but the youths accused them: "You were tearing down the cross!" One of the culprits still held a hacksaw in his hands. Confused and astonished at the youths' persistence and courage, the ones who had attempted to destroy the cross withdrew, mumbling about getting even. Father Zdebskis returned with the young men to the damaged cross and, reciting the rosary loudly, brought it back to the Šlavantai church.
"As long as crosses are erected, even if they are torn down, the nation shall endure," said Father Juozas Zdebskis. When later some young people returned to the site where a portion of the cross had remained sticking up from the ground, the youths found only footprints leading toward the lake. The cross had been cut down totally and taken away.
Tearfully the believers of Šlavantai kiss the portion of the desecrated cross in their possession as a symbol of the faith being trampled and the national traditions being scorned during the past forty years.
Palomenė (Kaišiadorys Rayon)
On February 26, 1981, at the Palomenė collective farm cultural center, Vice Chairman Kaubrys of the Kaišiadorys Rayon Executive Committee and Palomenė Collective Farm Chairwoman [Mrs.] Gudaitienė elected a new Palomenė Parish Council and dismissed the former council. The parish council was changed because it had taken steps to have Father Paulikas transferred from Palomenė because he associates with government atheists and has nearly driven all the people from the church. The Kaišiadorys Rayon Executive Committee found Father Paulikas's activities so to its liking that it decided it was better to grossly interfere in the internal affairs of the parish than to allow the believers to change their pastor. The priests of Kaišiadorys Diocese are astounded that even the diocesan administrator is not disciplining Father Paulikas.
Eduardas Bulachas (a Byelorussian Seventh-Day Adventist), living in Vilnius at 78-8 Viršuliškiai St., declared a hunger strike on February 8,1981, to protest the Soviet government's refusal to grant him and his family permission to emigrate to the United States. The military commissariat immediately summoned Eduardas to repeat his military service. During his medical examination Bulachas was sent to a psychiatrist. He refused to see the psychiatrist a second time. He was not drafted a second time.
On February 25 Assistant Prosecutor V. Barauskas of the Lithuanian SSR announced that Bulachas's petition had been forwarded to the assistant minister for Internal Affairs, V. 2emgulys.
On March 7 the Internal Affairs Ministry announced that the question of his emigration would be considered when he provided an invitation from Israel.
On March 8 Eduardas Bulachas ended his hunger strike.
In 1980 the Catholics of Lithuania sent P. Griškevičius, secretary of the Central Committee of the Lithuanian SSR Communist Party, a great number of petitions in which they appealed that the nation be saved from alcoholism: that the production of alcoholic beverages be cut by 50 percent, that the assortment of nonalcoholic beverages be increased, that the selling hours and the amount of alcoholic beverages be limited and the reselling of alcohol be stringently combatted, and that permission be granted for the formation of a temperance society. Such statements were signed by the believers of the following and other parishes:
Adutiškis — 682
Mielagėnai — 1,155
Daugeliškis — 1,101
Ignalina and Vidiškiai — 1,306
Šakiai — 1,881
Alvitas — 370
Prienai — 2,885
Kybartai — 1,015
Miroslavas — 1,141
The Soviet authorities reacted to all the above petitions with absolute silence.
On December 24,1980, believers of the city of Kaunas petitioned the Central Committee of the Lithuanian Communist party to return the miraculous picture of Mary of Pažaislis, which was stolen from the Kaunas basilica. The police apprehended the thieves a long time ago but have postponed returning the picture.
On January 23, 1981, Religious Affairs Commissioner Petras Anilionis sent the following communication to the Parish Council of the Kaunas basilica:
"We are notifying you that the picture stolen by evildoers from the archcathedral will, once the work of restoration is completed, be turned over to the executive organ of the Kaunas Archcathedral Religious Association for safekeeping, that is, it will be returned to the Kaunas archcathedral."
According to available information, the stolen picture is still not being restored.
The faithful of the village of Kleboniškis (Prienai parish) have written the following letter to P. Griškevičius, secretary of the Central Committee of the Lithuanian Communist party:
"We, the undersigned believers of the village of Kleboniškis, who are members of Prienai parish, invited a priest to visit us and bless our homes on February 5,1981. Remembering our beautiful national traditions, we decided to take the priest from home to home in a carriage.
"When Juozas Kaminskas started to drive Father Antanas Gražulis, a deputy of the Šilavotas Township Police Department approached and demanded that the horses be unhitched and the visits stopped, supposedly because certain laws were being violated. Failing to achieve his purpose, the deputy left, threatening to report to his superiors.
"Shortly afterwards the deputy brought Vice Chairman Morkvėnas of the Prienai Rayon Executive Committee and Chairman Alfonsas Petkevičius of Šilavotas Township. They unhitched the horses, led them away, and took Father Gražulis to the former collective farm office. Meanwhile several officials arrived in a Prienai police vehicle (probably as a means of intimidation). They stood guard for about two hours.
"The priest was released a good half hour later, but he continued to visit us on foot.
"Mr. Secretary of the Central Committee of the Lithuanian Communist party, we, the people of Kleboniškis are outraged at the behavior of Vice Chairman Morkvėnas of the Prienai Rayon Executive Committee, Chairman Petkevičius of Šilavotas Township, and the other Sovie officials and demand that government officials no longer prevent priests from visiting believers."
Signed by seventy believers
On January 24, 1981, the newspaper Komjaunimo tiesa (Truth of the Communist Youth) printed a long article by Laurinaitis entitled "Argi sakykla šmeižtams skleisti?" (Is the pulpit for spreading slander?).
The author attacked Father Vytautas Skiparis, assistant pastor of Šilalė, for allegedly slandering the Soviet government when he stated that alcohol, coercion, and lies are used to combat the Church in Lithuania.
Laurinaitis, a staunch defender of coercion and lies, was unhappy with the young priest's direct words and, therefore, labeled him a "slanderer."
In one of their letters, believers of Šilalė wrote to Father Vytautas Skiparis: "Only your fearless and firm words refute every atheistic nonsense . . .. Who will lead the nation out of darkness and filth if it has no beacons? God himself chose you, Reverend Father, to be such a beacon!"
On December 3, 1980, Father Kęstutis Daknevičius, assistant pastor of the Kėdainiai church, was summoned to see Vice Chairman Juškevičius of the rayon executive committee. The Vice Chairman charged that the priest delivers political sermons. Unable to give any concrete examples, the vice chairman stated that it was just possible that higher officials would become interested in the priest. The priest refused to sign the written warning.
Father Daknevičius took the opportunity to request that alcohol be removed from the store located next to the church and that the beer stand be moved elsewhere. The priest based his demands on the fact that not only are drunks drinking in the churchyard, but they must often be ejected from the Church itself.
Father Zenonas Navickas, the pastor of Užuguostis, wrote Religious Affairs Commissioner Petras Anilionis:
"The Constitution of the Soviet Union states that believers in the Soviet Union are guaranteed the freedom of conscience, that both believers and nonbelievers are equal before the law, and that believers cannot be discriminated against because of their convictions. This is also very frequently stressed by lecturers who charge that 'extremist' priests and Vatican Radio slander the Soviet system when they claim the rights of believers are being violated in the Soviet Union.
"The behavior of certain Communist officials in Užuguostis proves that Vatican Radio and the so-called extremist priests are not lying. All the believers of Užuguostis see that they have no rights and that their pastor is discriminated against.
"On January 29 of this year, I purchased bricks to repair the rectory. Although the bricks were legally purchased from the Prienai purchasing center, Chairman P. Aleknavičius of the Višniūnai collective farm and A. Urbanavičius, head of the Užuguostis work brigade took the purchase receipts from the driver and harassed him for two days. All the employees of the Prienai and the Jieznas agricultural supply centers were thoroughly astonished at such behavior by Aleknavičius and Urbanavičius. Of course, the reason was that the bricks had been sold to a priest and not to some Communist. Becoming aware they would gain nothing and fearing that this incident might become commonly known, the leaders of the Višniūnai collective farm returned the papers to the driver and calmed down.
"Soon afterwards the employees of the Prienai and the Jieznas agricultural supply stores received a strict order from the Prienai Rayon authorities not to sell any bricks in the future without allotment papers. Obviously, a priest will not be allotted any.
"Work brigade leader Urbanavičius scolded the people of Užuguostis for helping me unload the bricks.
"As I was on my way to see a patient on February 1, my car became stuck in the snow. Aleksas Karvelis, a tractor driver from Užuguostis, was driving down the same road and pulled my car from the snow with his tractor. As a result, Urbanavičius severely scolded Karvelis and sternly warned him not to help a priest on the road in the future. Is this not discrimination against priests? Drivers are advised to help one another on the road. When he pulled my car out of the snow, Karvelis committed an offense because I am a priest.
"On February 6 Albinas Brazionis, ar. Užuguostis construction worker, came after work to reglaze some church windows that were broken by the wind. As he was working, Aleknavičius and Urbanavičius came and placed him in their car and took him to the Užuguostis work brigade office. There they berated him for glazing church windows. When Brazionis protested, Urbanavičius wanted to beat him. Brazionis fled and finished glazing the windows. On February 9 a meeting was called. Brazionis was dismissed from his duties as construction brigade foreman and was issued a severe reprimand for glazing the church windows. Is not this brutal, hooliganistic behavior by the leaders of the ViSniunas collective farm a violation of the Constitution of the Soviet Union?
"It is clear to everyone that the facts described here are a violation of the rights of the believers of Užuguostis. What is not clear, however, is whether this is just a routine rampage by Užuguostis communists or whether all of this was dictated by the authorities of Prienai Rayon.
"Mr. Commissioner, please show that this is not so and prevent such incidents from happening in the future.
Užuguostis, February 23, 1981
Rev. Zenonas Navickas,
Pastor of Užuguostis Parish"
After school on December 25, 1980, the faithful of the parish of Užuguostis and their children gathered after the services specially intended for them at the home of Juozas Juodis a resident of Užuguostis, where a decorated Christmas tree awaited. Santa Claus wished the children a Merry Christmas, handed out presents, and the children recited poems. Santa urged the children to obey their parents, be good students, grow into decent human beings, and left after saying goodbye. The gathering lasted two hours. All the children and young people returned home happy.
This displeased the Communists of Užuguostis:
Township Chairwoman [Mrs.] Kurminienė, Secretary Rukanauskas, Višniūnas collective farm Chairman Aleknavičius, and Užuguostis work brigade leader Urbanavičius. Being unable to punish the actively believing youth, they attacked Juozas Juodis for allowing the gathering to take place at his home. The Juodises were ordered to provide a written explanation. The township chairwoman got them to promise not to do this again. [Mrs.] Juodienė was threatened with dismissal from her job as cleaning woman at the Užuguostis Cultural Center.
The Believers of Užuguostis are outraged by such behavior from responsible township employees.
On February 16, 1981, [Miss] Nijolė Sadūnaitė sent a statement to the Postmaster of the Lithuanian SSR Communications Ministry with a copy to the director of the Vilnius Central Post Office. She wrote:
"I would like to know why letters addressed to me are held up and not delivered and why packages are returned? Since July 9, 1980,1 have not received a single letter from my friends abroad although I know very well that they write me.
"Article 56 of the USSR Constitution states that the personal life of citizens, the privacy of correspondence, telephone conversations, and telegraph messages are protected by law. Please explain why this law is being so grossly violated in this instance?"
A. Idkinas, director of the special technical production laboratory of the Lithuanian SSR Communications Ministry, replied that "according to the statutes of the Universal Postal Convention, a search must be initiated by the sender . . .. The sender is informed why the item sent did not reach the addressee .... You can learn precisely from the sender where the letters are being detained, as you claim, and why packages addressed to you are returned."
How can the sender inform Sadūnaitė when not a single letter from abroad reaches her?
While in Siberian exile, [Miss] Nijolė Sadūnaitė used to receive, until July 7,1980, ten to twenty letters daily from twenty foreign countries. Over 250 foreign friends corresponded with her. Only when she returned to Lithuania on July 9, 1980, was the correspondence completely stopped. She no longer receives any letters although she has written from Vilnius to all her friends (some of them several times).
Jonas Sadūnas, a resident of Vilnius, wrote in a statement to the Lithuanian SSR Security Committee:
"On July 9, 1980, my sister, [Miss]Nijolė Sadūnaitė, returned to Vilnius from exile in Boguchany. Since that time I no longer receive letters from abroad. Let me give you an example. My correspondence with Friar Hieronymus, who lives in Israel, has been completely cut off. The last letter I received from him was written on May 8,1980. Friar Hieronymus indicated in a letter he wrote on August 15, 1980, to an acquaintance of his living in Lithuania that he wrote me a letter on June 18,1980.1 did not receive this letter, however. He also wrote to this acquaintance that he no longer receives my letters although I wrote him four letters in July 1980. Later I sent Friar Hieronymus registered letters with return receipt requested. (I wrote six letters in October 1980 but not a single return receipt came back to indicate that my letters reached Friar Hieronymus.)
"Nor did I receive a parcel sent to me containing an electric ornament intended for my sister, Nijolė Sadūnaitė, which Friar Hieronymus sent in March 1980.
"For several years I received dozens of Christmas and New Year's greeting cards, but this year I received not a single one, even from relatives living abroad."
The State Security Committee remains silent. Its agents continue to confiscate all letters; no one knows what happens to the packages.
"To: The Prosecutor of the Lithuanian SSR
"On July 8, 1980, having served my term of exile in Boguchany, Siberia, I received my internal passport and took off for Vilnius via Riga. On July 9 just as the airplane landed in Riga, the stewardess ordered all passengers to prepare their passports and tickets, which were then checked by three uniformed police employees. After checking my passport, they detained me and said something needed to be clarified. They placed me into a Volga automobile parked next to the airplane. There two security agents and their driver from Vilnius awaited me. A relative who had come to escort me back to Vilnius was also detained. Instead of flying from Riga to Vilnius in one hour, we had to spend five hours in the security police Volga. Who gave them the right to exercise such crude moral pressure; to detain us for no reason with the help of the police and then to lie, saying that nonexistent problems needed clarification. When they returned us to Vilnius, they did not say why they had detained us in Riga or what they thought the problem had been. Thus, they displayed their arbitrariness by lying and detaining us like criminals. Obviously nothing has changed in Lithuania in six years; things are as they used to be. The most basic human rights are being brutally violated and a person's dignity is ridiculed whenever security agents, who are omnipotent, so desire.
"I voice my protest and outrage at such behavior.
July 21, 1980
[Miss] Nijolė Sadūnaitė"
On July 30, 1980, Nijolė Sadūnaitė received the following reply:
"This is to inform you that the July 28,1980, statement you addressed to the Republic's Prosecutor has been received and is being investigated.
(signed) Assistant to the Lithuanian SSR Prosecutor Third Class State Jurisconsult A. Kyriyenko"
The Lithuanian SSR Prosecutor's Office has been "investigating" for eight months and remains silent.
During homeowners meetings in December 1980 security agents brought out some facts previously kept secret about the torture-murder of Father Šapoka. A large wound was discovered on the back of the priest's neck and one rib was found broken. This was revealed because when government officials concealed certain details of the crime, the people began to charge that the priest had been murdered by KGB agents.
In December 1980 two churches were again burglarized in the diocese. Using the scaftold of the steeple under construction, thieves broke into the Kretinga church and stole the artistic figures of eight apostles from the pulpit. A cross was stolen, and the tabernacle was ripped out in the Kaunatava church.
On December 17, 1980„ during a production meeting at the Silupe collective farm, Principal J. Dirvonskis of the Kybartai Kristijonas Donelaitis Secondary School (chairman of the atheistic action council) complained in his speech that it is becoming increasingly difficult to wage a struggle against priests, for the priests are considerably better versed in Marxism than they. He continued to explain that, incited by "extremist" priests, the people have collected 150,000 signatures for the return of the Klaipėda church. They write unfounded complaints. According to the principal, Lithuania has some 150 "extremist" priests, five of whom are the most vehement, while the most extreme are the pastor of the Kybartai church, Father Sigitas Tamkevičius; and the pastor of Viduklė, Father Alfonsas Svarinskas.
The speaker rejoiced that the KGB had prevented the commemoration of the 550th anniversary of the great Lithuanian, Grand Duke Vytautas. He claimed that religious fanatics supported by the pope are causing the disorders in Poland.
The principal claimed to have given agricultural leaders lists of believing students (children of parents who work at the Šilupe collective farm). "If people go to church on Sunday and not to work, you can deduct percentages, but there is nothing we can do to the children," lamented Principal J. Dirvonskis.
Betygala (Raseiniai Rayon)
In November 1980 [Miss] Ona Petrauskaitė, the caretaker of the Betygala church, was visited by a citizen from Raseiniai who identified himself as a security agent but did not give his name. He asked whether she knew Father Alfonsas Svarinskas and whether she knew who could have transmitted information to the Vatican about the persecution of believing children in schools. The Chekist left without obtaining any information. Several days later, at about 2 a.m., hooligans began to bang on the windows of Petrauskaitė's apartment making threats and then smeared paint on her door. A police deputy who lives next door completely ignored the unusual noise and did not apprehend the hooligans.
That same night hooligans rampaged around the house of Vytautas Dulke, the Betygala sacristan. They banged on his windows and smeared paint on his door.
The believers of Betygala are worried because no one punishes such hooligans.
Last year a funeral home with three wake rooms was built in the city of Kaunas on Meskupas street. The majority of Kaunas residents live in high-rises or multi-unit buildings and, therefore, when a family member dies, use the services of a funeral home and rent a wake room. The believers of Kaunas complain that they are forbidden to light candles in wake rooms, to hang or place crosses or holy pictures at the deceased's head, or to sing hymns. During the funeral the administration does not admit the priest into the room. The more courageous priests who manage to get into the room are later summoned by the executive committee to explain why they did not obey the ban.
Rainiai (Telšiai Rayon)
On December 24,1980, during a rayon party conference, a cross which stood on the spot where Soviet officials in 1941 savagely tortured seventy-three men to death was cut down and destroyed. Believers call these seventy-three men the Martyrs of Samogitia. To pay them respect, people often brought flowers to the cross. The Communists could not tolerate this, for the cross erected half a year ago was a reminder of their crime.
During the night of March 3,1981, vandals devastated the Kelmė cemetery destroying thirty-two gravestones.
Bukonys (Jonava Rayon)
The church of Bukonys was burglarized on January 1, 1981. The tabernacle door was smashed, the Blessed Sacrament was desecrated, a ciborium, candlesticks, and several pictures were stolen.
Vilėkai (Ignalina Rayon)
During the fall of 1980 atheistic vandals broke the figures of the Crucified Christ from all the crosses in the cemetery of the village of Vilekai in Dysnai Township of Ignalina Rayon.
Kupreliškis (Biržai Rayon)
On February 13, 1981, believers of the Kupreliškis parish sent a statement to Religious Affairs Commissioner Petras Anilionis demanding that as many candidates as the Church deems necessary to serve the believers be allowed to enroll in the theological seminary. They also demanded that priests who completed theology studies by correspondence and received Holy Orders be permitted to perform their duties without interference.
Five hundred believers signed the letter.