Byelorussian SSR

Pelesa (Varanovo Rayon, District of Gardinas).

In 1962, the Soviet government demolished the steeple of the church in Pelesa, and converted the church itself into a grain elevator. For this viable Lithuanian parish, it was an unspeakable pain and a festering wound, because the residents of Pelesa had erected this noble church with their bare hands and their own funds. Disbeliev­ing that the government would restore the church to the faithful, the people of Pelesa nevertheless tried to get the ear of the highest government agencies. This is an example of special deafness on the part of the government:

Since 1976, the people of Pelesa have sent thirty-three petitions to Moscow and Minsk. The first time, twenty of the faithful signed a petition to the Deputy for Religious Affairs in Minsk; and the second time, to Moscow, six hundred of the faithful. The response was, "We do not forbid you to pray in neighboring churches: in Polish, in Rodūnė (the furthermost villages being 25 km away), and in Lithuanian in Dubičiai (30 or more km away)." To other petitions they would not reply, or they would repeat the same answer.

In 1983, the church as a warehouse was empty. In the center of Pelesa, and Bolcheska (the communal farm center), are great ware­houses with capacities of up to one million tons of grain, and these warehouses have not been completely full, while in the church they stored just a couple of tons of grain. Since March 1 there has been no grain in the church.

In August, 1982, Religious Affairs Commissioner of Byelo­russia, A. Kiziuk, and Executive Committee Vice Chairman N. Kuz-mičius of Varanovo Rayon, visited the Bolcheska Communal Farm Center. Kiziuk told the people assembled that it was not worth going to Minsk concerning the return of the church, since, he, him­self, would absolutely not return it. Kuzmičius presenting the petition written by the residents of Pelesa, attacked it, saying that the facts were distorted in it, and he demanded that they show him their signatures.

During the meeting, (Mrs.) Petronė Mindžiulienė, (Mrs.) Marija Reginienė, (Miss) Jane Valiukevičiūtė and (Mrs.) Marija Kruopie-nė acted especially courageously. The women demanded that he read the petition out loud, in its entirety, show what was incorrect and what did not match reality.

Then Kuzmičius accused Marija Kruopienė of organizing petitions and of organizing a riot during a meeting in Pelesa a couple of years previously, when all the people furiously attacked govern­ment representatives demanding that they return the church.

At the end of the meeting, Rayon Executive Committee Vice Chairman, Kuzmičius, affirmed that the church in Pelesa belongs to the government, and not to the believers, and as long as the Soviet Union survives, lie believers will not get the church back.

   Deciding that their requests and complaints to government agencies were doing no good, the people, prior to the Feast of All Saints, 1982, erected a small chapel in the Pelesa Cemetery, where they gathered in large number of common prayer, October 29, 30, 31 and November 1.

During the Feast of All Saints, there were about 300 people. Even though there was no priest, the people themselves recited the rosary for the dead, and singing in solemn procession, with candles, they prayed for all the dead, and all those defenders of this country, slain for national and religious freedom,buried in that cemetery.

Even though no one held Mass in the chapel, still, a beautiful little altar was set up there. In the chapel, they used to keep the dead; a couple were brought all the way from Lyda. Leaving the deceased in the chapel, the people used to be able to go to some church for Holy Mass and pray for the deceased.

However, the Rayon Executive Committee Vice Chairman, N. Kuzmičius, summoning Chairman J. Kanevičius of the Committee of Twenty, ordered the chapel demolished, and a 50 ruble fine to be paid, and to tell who had organized the building of the chapel. Only after repeated summonses to the rayon. J. Kunevičius (sic), inviting A. Baicevičius and A. Stankevičius, demolished the chapel.

In 1982, on the site of the Vytautas Memorial, the youth erected an emblem of the sun, as a reminder that all the people of this village were supposed to ignite a sun in each of their hearts, so they would be firm guardians of religion and Lithuanianism.

After the war, at the crossroads in the Village of Dubiniai, stood a memorial to Vytautas, and in the Villages of Pelesa and Dubiniai— sixteen beautiful crosses. In 1964, they demolished the memorial, cut down all the crosses and, taking them to Varlių Forest, burned them.

In 1982, on the site of the Vytautas Memorial, the youth erected an emblem of the sun, as a reminder that all the people of this village were supposed to ignite a sun in each of their hearts, so they would be firm guardians of religion and Lithuanianism.

As of September 1, 1968, Lithuanian-language teacher, (Miss) Ona Babarskytė, was transferred from Prienai Rayon to the eight-year school in Pelesa. Up until the assignment of this teacher, a good Lithuanian scholar, Admundas Mažeika, had taught here, until the Department of Education removed him for "not passsing the certification".

Ona Babarskytė, instead of preparing better for her classroom work, and brushing up on her methodology, walks about from yard to yard pressuring the local Lithuanians, spying to see what sort of visitors come from Lithuania, to see whom and what they do, and the like. Meantime, in school, the pupils of the 6th and 7th Classes not only are unable to recite a single Lithuanian verse, but they can hardly read an easy booklet. Therefore, Teacher Ona Babarskytė was most likely sent, not to teach children their native language, but to assist in eliminating Lithuanianism in the country.



In the Chronicle of the Catholic Church, Number 55, in the section "In the Soviet School", there was a news item that when Pakiršinis Elementary School Teacher, (Mrs.) Ona Adomaitienė, ordered those attending church to stand, the whole class stood up.

The source of that news item wishes to make the correction that it was not the whole class that stood up, but only all those who go to church.


Father Alfonsas Svarinskas
Father Sigitas Tamkevičius
Jadvyga Bieliauskienė
Sergei Kovalev
Anastazas Terleckas
Julius Sasnauskas
Povilas Pečeliūnas

Docent Vytautas Skuodis
Mečislovas Jurevičius
Vytautas Vaičiūnas
Balys Gajauskas
Gintautas Iešmantas
Viktoras Petkus
Algirdas Statkevičius.

and others wear the chains of imprisonment so that you might be able to live and believe in freedom!