After taking Father Alfonsas Svarinskas into custody, government atheists began a smear campaign against the arrested priest, the Catholic Committee for the Defense of Believers' Rights and the most zealous priests, in an effort to set everyone against them. However, in spite of the shrill propaganda, throughout Lithuania, a campaign of collecting signatures began for Father Svarinskas' release. The greatest work in this regard was performed by the youth, which risked having its way blocked to higher studies, losing jobs, or being expelled from institutions of learning.

The KGB did everything it could to intimidate those collecting signatures: In one place they would ridicule them in front of church, in another, the chekists would take away the signatures (the Church of Griškabūdis) or priests (Father Nikodemas Čėsna of the Church of the Resurrection in Kaunas) would expell them from the churches, etc.

In the larger centers, KGB agents, noting the more active collec­tors of signatures, summoned them to KGB Headquarters for black­mail, e.g., in Kaunas:

Arūnas Rekašius — taken from work to the Army Commissariat Saulius Kelpšas — taken to the KGB from home Antanas Žilinskas — taken from work to the KGB for interroga­tion

Arūnas Rekašius and Jaunius Kelpšas were seized while collecting signatures in front of church in Nedingė (Rayon of Varėna).

Saulius Kelpšas, Valdas Kelpšas and Kęstas Rekašius were de­tained in Varėna for "identity checks".

Along with the painful events, there were happy incidents, also, when many people would sign with great enthusiasm, even with tears in their eyes. There were some who volunteered, if necessary,


Father Vincas Vėlavičius (left) and Father Alfonsas Svarinskas (right) meet with Petras Paulaitis following his release from thirty-five years in labor camp, November, 1982.

to sign in their own blood on behalf of Father Alfonsas Svarinskas (in Alytus).

Long-term prisoner Petras Paulaitis expressed himself as follows: "I gave thirty-five years for my national and religious convictions. Pile Father Svarinskas' sentence on me; he is doing the Church much good."

Other signatures collected:

Molėtai — 701      Vosiūnai — 148

Želva — 117        Deanery of Utena — approximately 3000

Videniškės — 190   Deanery of Zarasai — approximately 2000

Labanoras — 161   Ceikiniai — 372

Alanta — 327       Ignalina and Vidiškės — 928

Šilalė — 357        Daugėliškis — 606

Pajūris — 43        Smalovos — 123

Teneniai — 45       Kaltinėnai — 170

Skaudvilė — 177   Palūšė — 162

Adutiškis — 407     Mielagėnai — 908

Dūkštas — 758      Tverečius — 497