On March 1, 1983, seventy-six representatives of the youth of Lazdijai Rayon wrote the Attorney General of the LSSR a petition, as follows:
"On March 20, 1983, while returning to his parish from a retreat, Father Juozas Zdebskis of Šlavantai was detained by the militia.
"When he did not show up for Mass, a group of the faithful went looking for the priest. Noticing his automobile in front of the Lazdijai branch of the Ministry of the Interior, the faithful charged into the militia station and demanded the release of the priest, who was being crudely blackmailed, detained and persecuted, unfortunately not for the first time.
"However, the militia and KGB ordered everyone to disperse quickly and a few people were arrested for allegedly disturbing the peace, among them Antanas Grigas, a teacher at the Liepalingis Middle School.
"We know Father Zdebskis to be a decent, courageous, magnanimous and self-sacrificing priest, and Teacher Grigas as noble challenging, upright and straightforward. Even though he was teaching, nevertheless, he always used to hear Mass on Sundays, often enough in his own parish church.
"For this, the Lazdijai Rayon Department of Education and KGB made him the object of discrimination, and accused him of an unintellectual, unscientific position, of teaching a world view not in line with materialism. He was often pressured to resign as a teacher.
"In our opinion, the arrival of Teacher Antanas Grigas on March 20, together with other believers, to seek Father Zdebskis' release provided the KGB with a direct incentive and a pretext to detain him and to punish him for alleged disturbance of the public order, so that it would be possible to dismiss him from the Liepalingis Middle School as a 'virulent organism'.
"This is confirmed by an attack against Grigas in a March 29,1983 article in the Lazdijai Rayon newspaper by Associate Correspondent A. Petraitis entitled, 'A Bad Example of an Educator':
" . . .In front of the rayon militia station, A. Grigas acted rudely, caused a disturbance, failed to obey militia personnel and incited others to disobey the legitimate requirements of militia personnel. The Rayon People's Court sentenced Grigas to fifteen days in jail for failure to carry out the legitimate demands of militia officials.
"However, all those who were present affirm something quite different. Grigas acted politely, and calmly explained that they would not leave until Father Zdebskis was released, and that it is the duty of believers to defend their priest. Therefore, Lazdijai Rayon militia and KGB agents should be brought to trial on the basis of the LSSR Criminal Code, Par. 186 for unfounded suspicion and detention of a person.
"Finally, they probably do not know, or do not remember, that the Declaration of Human Rights, which the leaders of the Soviet Union promised to preserve and honor, states in Article 19, "Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression..., that is, the right freely to express one's thoughts and decisions verbally and in writing. Likewise Article 57 of the USSR Constitution, drummed into us back in school, where it states that 'it is the duty of all state organs, public organizations and officials to respect the person of citizens and to guard their rights and freedoms.'
"Attorney General of the Lithuanian SSR, we demand that the blackmail of innocent people, based on lies and deceit, be discontinued, that Father Alfonsas Svarinskas be released, that Father Juozas Zdebskis and other zealous and dedicated priests be left alone, that Teacher Antanas Grigas be released immediately, and that there be no interference in his work as a teacher.
"It is not just we who demand this. This is the unified call of all believers and youth in Lithuania, to stop the harsh attacks of the atheists against the faithful."
Good Friday, 1983
The Youth of Lazdijai Rayon
Kapčiamiestis. (Lazdijai Rayon)
On March 29, 1983, a little group of schoolchildren went to the Lazdijai Internal Affairs Department to visit the unjustly arrested Liepalingis Middle School teacher, Antanas Grigas.
When the youngsters asked whether they could be allowed to see the teacher, the militiaman on duty, Stravinskas, without even showing his credentials, demanded that those who had come give their names. When they refused to satisfy the militiaman's curiosity, the officer began to scold and vilify them in the worst terms. Finally, the militiamen summoned the Inspector for Juvenile Affairs, and other officials. Into the office burst a furious Russian woman, who began to hurl obscenities, shake her fists, etc.
After the youngsters were scolded, four officials took them to the office of a KGB agent. The Inspector for Juvenile Affairs told him the schoolchildren's names, and demanded that they sign in, but they would not. KGB agent Orlov asked in Russian whether they had signed Easter greetings addressed to Teacher Grigas. The schoolchildren were surprised that a letter addressed to Teacher Grigas had fallen into the hands of KGB agents. After questioning them, the chekist sternly demanded that the youngsters sign, but they refused. Dismissing the youngsters, the KGB agent warned them that after their vacation, an agent would visit the school.
On April 1, 1983, in a teachers' meeting of the Kapčiamiestis Middle School, the behavior of 9th Class pupil Alė Žibūdaitė and 11th Class pupils Alma Žibūdaitė and Gintas Sakavičius was discussed; and the question was raised: whether to leave them in school or to expelí them.
J. Žibūda received an invitation to the meeting. In the course of the meeting, Principal Sabalis demanded that the students explain why they had gone to Lazdijai to visit Teacher Grigas, sentenced to fifteen days in jail, and who had sent them. The children explained that they were big enough to go on their own, without being sent by anyone, and that moreover their consciences require that they defend believers, people of like mind, and friends.
At such a reply, Teacher Šidlauskas, blazing with anger, began to vilify Gintas Sakavičius. The teacher tried to show that in their rayon, an anti-Soviet group had formed, inspired by the priests of Šlavantai and Kapčiamiestis. It would be better, he advised, if they went to the priest at Liepalingis, a quiet man who did not rock the boat.
Those most vociferous during the meeting were Teachers Šidlauskas, (Mrs.) Šidlauskienė, (Mrs.) Urbonienė and (Mrs. Januškevičienė. They shouted at the schoolchildren so much that the latter could not get a word in edgewise.
"You can sit in church all night if you want, but your actions outside church are political!" the teachers argued.
Teacher Šidlauskas accused pupil Gintas Sakavičius of collecting signatures. When-Gintas denied this, the teacher began to shout hysterically:
"Isn't it this type of person that kills people and picks locks?"
"Religious believers don't kill, and don't pick locks; that's the work of the atheists!"
The students were supported by their parents, who affirmed that the children really had not committed any offense, and that it is everyone's duty to visit the prisoners and defend them.
At the end of the meeting, the chairman warned that in the event of a recurrence, the children would be expelled from school; and it was doubtful whether there would be a place for them, even in their home village.
On March 16, 1983, the Coordinator of Fieldwork at Kapčiamiestis Middle School, Teacher S. Šidlauskas, summoning pupils Romas Varnelis, Rimgaudas Kukučionis, Alė Žibūdaitė, Antanas Žibūda, Gintas Valentas and others, pressured them to join the Communist Youth League. This Soviet educator, seeing that he was not about to gain anything by gentle methods began threatening and insulting the pupils. His predominant targets were Alė Žibūdaitė and Romas Varnelis.
Once his anger had mounted, Teacher Šidlauskas began to imagine things: He accused 9th Class pupil Antanas Žibūda of tearing down wall newspapers, and of flashing a light in people's eyes on his way home from dances. This time, the lie did not succeed. Antanas never goes to dances. To this his parents can testify. The Soviet educator, seeing that the pupils were not frightened, decided to try cajoling them, and offered one boy a smoke, saying, "Only beginners can be lured with candy."
In keeping with the chekists' methods, Teacher Šidlauskas demanded that the pupils keep quiet about the "conversation" which had taken place.
To: USSR General Secretary Yuri Andropov
From: Parents living in the area of Kapčiamiestis, Lazdijai Rayon, Lithuania SSR
On May 10, 1938, by decision of the Kapčiamiestis Middle School Teachers' Council, three 11th Class pupils were expelled from school for alleged disturbance of the peace in front of the Lithuanian SSR Supreme Court Building in Vilnius: Alma Žibū-daitė, Gintas Sakavičius and Vytas Sakavičius. May 3-6, 1983, the Supreme Court tried Father Alfonsas Svarinskas, Learning of the trial in progress, the aforesaid pupils went to the courthouse on May 4.
Even though it had been announced in the press that the trial would be public, nevertheless only the priest's brother and sister were admitted into the courtroom. Everyone else was pushed a few hundred meters away from the courthouse. People were threatened, shoved into militia cars, and taken to a forest 40 km away. Many were arrested, especially young people. Among them, Gintas Sakavičius was fined 50 rubles for disturbance of the peace, just because when the militia told them to get away from the courthouse, Gintas Sakevičius, with a group of young people and adults, waited around, praying for this decent and good priest on trial.
The three aforesaid pupils, like everyone there, were scolded, threatened and intimidated by the militia and KGB agents. Staff members of the Ministry of Internal Affairs wrote down the names, educational level and place of employment of everyone there; and an order was given to expell them from school or work.
We request that you explain a policy completely incomprehensible to us: to deceive decent, innocent people by lies and terror. After all, the younger generation, not having experienced the postwar horrors, seeing with its own eyes the mistakes of the government officials responsible, is beginning to evaluate very critically the ideas and principles enunciated by them.
Youth is more receptive to truth, good and humanism. The expulsion of students from middle school is an outright blocking of the road to education and work.
Hence, shall we be able to force students to respect Soviet law, including the Constitution of the USSR which guarantees the right to education and work, regardless of race, nationality or beliefs, if Soviet leaders themselves ignore it?
After all, such treatment of innocent students can evoke a widespread response of anger among our entire youth.
May 14, 1983 (Signed by four parents.)
Židikai. (Mažeikai Rayon).
On April 11,1983, in the Forest of Kekinė, sadists horribly tortured to death 4th Class student Dalė Milvidaitė, from the Village of Sklaustė, District of Vižančiai: Her hands and feet had been cut off, one eye had been torn out, the other had holes poked in it, the skin had been flayed in checker-board fashion, and the blood had been squeezed from the body. Experts determined that the agony had lasted about three hours.
The girl was a believer, and had received First Holy Communion only the year before. The relatives had agreed with the pastor of Židikai to hold her funeral at noon, April 16. School administrators, the teacher, (Mrs.) Alberkienė and District Chairman Petkus forbade the girl to be buried with religious services. Teachers removed from the room a crucifix, pictures of the saints and candles. Teacher (Mrs.) Pridosikienė proudly proclaimed, "We have scratched all the saints from the room."
Before Easter, 1983, Teacher (Mrs.) Bakaitienė, leader of the Pilviškiai Middle School Pioneers, summoned 4th Class pupil Reda Bobinaitė to the Pioneers' Room. The teacher asked whether the girl really went to church, and sang in the little youth choir. When she answered affirmatively, the teacher demanded that she betray her girlfriends who go to church and sing, and tried to talk her out of going to church any more.
Homeroom Teacher (Mrs.) Muraškauskienė scolded the girl during German-language class, because she was not wearing a Pioneer kerchief. The girl replied that she does not wear it, because she is a religious believer. Afterwards, Reda was summoned to see Assistant Principal Sniečkienė. The latter also tried to talk the girl out of going to church. When Reda remained steadfast, they began to threaten that when she grew up, she would never obtain work.
In 1983, in Pilviškiai, a large number of youth participated in the Easter procession. This greatly displeased the atheists. (Mrs.) Ona Trimirkienė, who was in charge of the young people in the procession, received the following communication:
To Camrade Ona Trimirkienė
"On April 14, of this year, at 11:00 AM, you are invited to the Executive Committee of the District of Pilviškiai to meet with the Chairwoman. Please be punctual.
"The Executive Committee Chairwoman"
There was no signature, or seal. (Mrs.) Ona Trimirkienė did not go. Afterwards, she received the following communication:
"To the Honorable (Mrs.) Trimirkienė: "Please come to the school at 12:30 on April 15, this year, to discuss the topic of child education." Affixed was the name of the school principal, J. Janušaitis. There was no signature; only the triangular seal.
In the office to which (Mrs.) Trimirkienė was taken, were gathered the following: School Principal J. Janušaitis, Assistant Principal Šniečkienė, and Chairwomas of the Pilviškiai District, (Mrs.) Krini-cinienė. They were all set to "educate" (Mrs.) Trimirkienė.
First, (Mrs.) Trimirkienė asked why she had been summoned and what her son, Second Class student Virginijus Trimirka, had done. "Did he kill someone? Steal something? Get drunk?" The mother, hearing the reply that her son was a good, well-behaved pupil, and serves at the altar, (Mrs.) Trimirkienė replied that it was time for them, too, to think about eternity. Seeing that (Mrs.) Trimirkienė was an intelligent Catholic who would not submit to atheistic "education", they began threatening her that they would summon the militia, and warning that if she continued to organize the procession, she would be liable to criminal proceedings.
On May 10, 1983, Vilkaviškis Rayon Executive Committee Vice Chairman Juozas Urbonas came to the K. Donelaitis Middle School in Kybartai. The purpose of his visit was to explain to the students of classes 8-11 that in the USSR religion really is free, and that the pastor of the parish in Kybartai, Father Sigitas Tamkevičius, had been rightly brought to justice according to LSSR Criminal Code Article 63. Id, for libeling and denigrating the Soviet system by preaching libelous sermons.
Beginning his lecture, Urbonas asked the pupils to hear him out, and only then to present questions. He emphasized that in other institutions where he had spoken, believers had interrupted him with their comments and questions.
Urbonas presented a few exerpts from a sermon by Father Tamkevičius. In one of them, he tells how during his seven years of ministry in Kybartai, the number of young people attending church has significantly risen. Urbonas said that this was an exerpt from this year's Palm Sunday sermon and with a wry smile added:
"You yourselves can probably attest that that is a lie. During this time, the number of young people attending church has decreased even more." A subdued wave of disapproving comments rolled across the audience. This lie by Urbonas was a little too obvious.
He then cited a sermon given at Easter, which spoke of three crosses burdening the Catholic Church in Lithuania:
A. The Church in Lithuania has been deprived of all its rights and freedoms.
B. Through the so-called Committees of Twenty , the government interferes directly in the administration of the Church.
C. Those who struggle for freedom of religion are persecuted, interrogated and imprisoned.
"Believers may pray freely, but Tamkevičius wants to see the Church like it was during the bourgeois period or the facist occupation! In the USSR, the Church is separated from the state, but believers may pray in freedom. What other freedoms are needed here?" Urbonas asked during his discourse
"Also, Tamkevičius gathers signatures in the house of prayer! Anyone is allowed to petition, but only individually. There can be no collective petitions. Even you can write personally to whomever you wish — the Pope, Andropov, or even me," the lecturer further declared.
"We warned Tamkevičius many times, and even asked him very politely to cease those activities. But as you see, the vessel of our patience has overflowed," Urbonas ended his talk.
After he had finished speaking, the pupils submitted many questions:
"If you say that you do not interfere in the internal canonical affairs of the Church, then why do you say that the assistant at our parish, Father Jonas Matulionis, is no priest, but a 'singer by nature'? After all, it is not your place to judge whether he is a true priest or not. He has finished the seminary extension courses, and has been ordained a priest by a bishop."
Urbonas explained that they do not acknowledge the extension seminary.
"Then why do you yourselves force me to be a hypocrite, pressuring me to join the Pioneers or Communist Youth Organization?"
"You cannot be forced in any way. If teachers occasionally reprimand or warn, it is only because their patience is limited."
In answer to the question why Father Alfonsas Svarinskas' friends and relatives were not allowed into the courtroom during the trial and why no one but Communist Party representatives sitting there, Urbonas replied that every auditorium has a certain number of square feet of space, and can hold only a certain number of people, as long as there is room. Besides, if the believers had been sitting in the auditorium, they would doubtlessly have heard the statements of the accused and of the accuser, and would have been interested in transmitting incorrect information.
"Why have the KGB agents interrogated us so many times, even trying to recruit one girl?"
"Why did the teacher expell me from school for not wearing the kerchief, and calling my parents facists and bourgeoisie, and telling them to emigrate?"
To those questions, Urbonas could give no concrete answer. He tried to cover up by saying that those were just run-of the mill lapses in discipline by teachers.
"Then perhaps the Rayon Education Department could consider the teachers' conduct?" asked on girl. However, Urbonas did not answer the question