At various intervals between 1958 and 1962, I had occasion to be with Father Alfonsas Svarinskas in Mordovia, in Camp No. 7, where over two hundred Lithuanians were confined. Along with Father Svarinskas, there were other priests in camp.
Father Svarinskas was distinguished from the others by his boundless energy, his industry and natural optimism. Organizing holy days or just celebrations with public prayer were pure pleasure for him. Activity was his lifestyle. He was not inclined to philosophical or theological discussions, but if someone engaged him, he would not refuse to debate also. He liked to be with people, and he would quickly note and long remember their good qualities. Father Svarinskas loved external beauty and order, and was especially pained by disorder in spiritual life.
He was constantly preoccupied with questions of the nation's spiritual life, and was especially pained by the obsequiousness of some high-ranking clergy toward the atheistic government. Father Svarinskas respected and admired the martyr-bishops, and was deeply affected by news of Bishop Ramanauskas' death, saying that it was a great loss for the entire Lithuanian nation.
In his daily life, Father Svarinskas used to demonstrate his faith publicly, without embarassment and without concealing it from the atheists. For one living in an atmosphere of deceit and cynicism , such an attitude is not always convenient or psychologically easy, but if one wants to win many companions in the Faith, a constant courageous attitude is absolutely essential. People, especially youth, are attracted to courageous, optimistic and energetic models. In these qualities, Father Svarinskas somehow reminds one of a military leader who keeps his people with him, not by force, but by the brightness of his ideals.
Father Svarinskas' inclination and ability to get along with people displeased the government atheists greatly, and they found no other solution than to send the zealous priest to the slave camps of Russia.
Father Alfonsas Svarinskas had great faith in the Providence of God, especially when he met with difficulties in the course of looking after the affairs of the Church. He would spare neither time nor energy to overcome the difficulties or external obstacles. The following episode is typical of him:
It was in Viduklė. One evening, the pastor had to go some distance away. In the morning, everyone was startled to see that there had been an ice storm, and the road was like glass; it was difficult to move even on foot. When the pastor was delayed for a long time coming home, those at the rectory began to imagine that some sort of misfortune, accident or the like had taken place; and with the greatest concern, they kept looking down the road.
Finally, to the joy of all, the car drove into the yard unscathed, and there was even greater surprise when, after a brief rest, he said again that he had very important Church business, and had to go out. The staff said, "Apparently, the man wants to die! Such roads!"
It was very difficult to get out of the yard. The incline was frozen over, but the pastor was careful. He tried about ten times until pushed by others, the car got through to the main road. For him, Church affairs were so important that no obstacles could prevent him, nor did the greatest dangers frighten him. He used to joke, "I seat my angel up on the dash, and drive calmly along!"