With the sentencing of Father Alfonsas Svarinskas and the arrest of Father Sigitas Tamkevičius, the faithful of Lithuania began collecting signatures to petitions and protests addressed to Yuri Andropov, General Secretary of the Central Committee of the Communist party, and to the Prosecutor General, demanding the release of the unjustly arrested priests. In order that the expressions of protest with their signatures would reach the addressees, and not be held up back in Lithuania at KGB headquarters, the faithful would take them in sections to Moscow, and leave them registered at the reception desk.
The expressions of protest in behalf of freedom for the priests were signed by one hundred twenty-three thousand (123,000) of the faithful, of whom twenty-two signed in blood. More of the faithful would have signed, if the atheists had not taken repressive measures just to disrupt the collecting of signatures. The atheists of Lithuania tried with threats to tell even priests to forbid the faithful to sign texts of the declaration. KGB agents, using physical
Father Alfonsas Svarinskas
force, hunted down people gathering signatures, stuffed them into vehicles, and took them to militia stations. There they intimidated and threatened them, confiscated texts and signatures, and dealt out 50-ruble fines.
The public was warned in Lithuanian television programs that those collecting signatures could be sentenced to prison. In more than one rayon, KGB agents interrogated individuals who had signed the petitions, and pressured them to sign vague texts presented by them.
With the expressions of protest which were taken to Moscow were declarations to the Prosecutor General and to the the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet, which were signed in the name of the faithful of Lithuania by Aldona Šukytė, Albina Žemaitytė, Alfonsas Bumbulis and Juozas Kazalupskas.
To: The Prosecutor General of the USSR From: The Catholic Faithful of Lithuania
Prosecutor General, we Catholic Faithful of Lithuania come to you with a request that you review the cases of our priests, Fathers Alfonsas Svarinskas and Sigitas Tamkevičius, and release them, because they were unjustly dealt with by the Supreme Court of the Lithuanian SSR in May, 1983, under Par. 68 of the Criminal Code: Alfonsas Svarinskas was sentenced to seven years of imprisonment and three years of exile, and Sigitas Tamkevičius was arrested in the courtroom, also under Par. 68.
1.We have often heard their sermons, and we can honestly testify that they never carried on any anti-Soviet propaganda, but just explained religious truth, defended the rights of the faithful, and sometimes, criticized the atheists' attacks on religion and believers, all of which is allowed under Par. 49 and Par. 52 of the Soviet Constitution.
2.The atheists in Lithuania quite mistakenly and unjustly conduct propaganda against religion, the Church and the faithful, and force believers to accept atheism. Following is a whole list of real-life examples:
a. Newspapers, magazines and pamphlets, often libelously attack religion, the Church and priests. Please read their articles against religion, and you will see what we mean.
Even irrational creatures defend themselves; surely the clergy and faithful have the right to defend themselves. Priests are supposed to defend the faithful, but how can they do so? For forty years now, we have no religious newspaper. The only possibility for self-defense consists of sermons in church. But this displeases the atheists greatly, because the priests demonstrate their untruthful and libelous attacks and calumnies.
b. In school, the atheists often force the children of the faithful,
against the wishes of their parents, to join atheistic organizations forbid them to go to church, and punish those who refuse to join. All children who are religious believers are obliged to attend atheistic meetings. Surely the priests and faithful do not have to keep silent about this, when Par. 50 of the Soviet Constitution guarantees freedom of conscience and religion.
c. For forty years now, the faithful of Lithuania have no religious publications: no books, no newspapers and no prayerbooks. It is true that in those forty years, some books have been published in small numbers, but these are only for the priests; there are so few prayerbooks that there was only one copy for each ten thousand of the faithful. Even beggars in the old days used to get more support from the people than the faithful receive religious publications from the government atheists. In other democratic countries, such as Poland, the German Democratic Republic, Hungary and others, it is a completely different world: There the children are taught religion in church, the faithful have religious newspapers and books. We envy the Negroes of Africa their religious freedom.
Prosecutor, you understand well that our people who are religious believers cannot and will not remain silent in such a situation, even though more priests go to prison.
d. While in other Communist countries, the faithful freely carry out religious processions to the cemetery and to other churches, in our country, people are taken to court for that, even though such processions have been going on in our land for six hundred years, and Par. 50 of the Constitution permits them.
e. White-collar workers and teachers do not have the right to go to church freely. The faithful have neither radio nor television programs. Everything is devoted exclusively to the atheists.
f. Moreover, the frequent attacks of the atheists are completely incompatible with the Constitution. In this way, not only the Party is demeaned, but the entire Communist system: The atheists prevent young men from enrolling in the seminary, they forbid the preparation of children for First Confession and Communion; they forbid serving Mass, and they interfere in the assignment of priests and bishops.
3. Soviet newspapers often criticize the bad conduct of blue collar and white collar workers, and their negligence. Even fraternal trials sternly admonish those who disrupt good order.
Father Alfonsas Svarinskas and Sigitas Tamkevičius also objected to the transgression against the Constitution and human rights guaranteed by international agreements. We should have been glad that people turned up who were concerned that good order be maintained, who criticized the unjust activity of the atheists with regard to believers (this is useful for the Party and the government), but for this, they were sternly punished. Is this intelligent, or just? This is how Stalin acted. For that, he was condemned by the Party and the entire world. Why repeat the same mistakes?
4.All of us, almost our entire public, also condemn the attacks of the atheists, like the aforesaid priests. Hence, we should also be arrested and thrown into prison. That will not help matters. Stalin tried to crush people's belief in God by force, but people cannot live without their rights, no more than without bread.
5.It is no wonder that the believing public was deeply disturbed by the trial of Father Alfonsas Svarinskas, and sympathized with him as though it were on trial itself. The militia chased people away from the courthouse by force, drove them forty kilometers into the woods, shut them up for ten days or fined them 50 rubles. In this way they aroused the people's ire all the more. Has the situation improved since the arrest of Father Svarinskas?
6.The believing public also supports the Soviet state: It works in the offices, factories and fields . . . often better and more conscientiously than the atheists. We, the same working people, ask you to review the cases of Father Alfonsas Svarinskas and Father Sigitas Tamkevičius, and to release them.
NOTE: On your advice, we appealed to the Prosecutor of the Republic, but he responded only verbally: "Svarinskas is a criminal and will not be released, and the case of Father Sigitas Tamkevičius will not be set aside. Therefore, we appeal to you and trust that you will review the cases and release the aforesaid priests, and in order that they would not have to be tried in the future, we ask you to see that the unjust attacks of the atheists not be repeated.
July 16, 1983
To: The Chairman of the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet USSR
From: Believers of Lithuania
Honorable Chairman, we turn to you on some vitally important questions in the belief that you will decide them intelligently.
According to Par. 52 of the Soviet Constitution, we have freedom of religion and of conscience, but in Lithuania, this paragraph is regularly breached.
1.For forty years now, we have had NO RELIGIOUS NEWSPAPER OR MAGAZINE; some religious books were received by the priests only; only one out of ten thousand faithful received a prayerbook. We envy our ancestors who lived in czarist times, and the Negroes of Africa, who have enough religious literature. In other democratic countries, the picture is quite different. We are the only ones cheated.
2.Schoolteachers force pupils who are religious believers to join atheistic organizations. Often they sign up the entire class by force; anyone objecting is permanently punished and persecuted; all are forbidden to go to church. Teachers who are religious believers do not have the right to go to church; for that they are discharged from work. This is how other white-collar workers are treated also.
3.The faithful have NO RADIO OR TELEVISION PROGRAMS.
4.The atheistic government INTERFERES IN THE INTERNAL AFFAIRS OF THE SEMINARY — by obstructing the enrollment of all candidates who wish to try for the priesthood. They impose their will on the appointment of bishops and priests. Why are we so humiliated as not to have any of the rights conferred by the Constitution of the land? One clear example: Bishop Julijonas Steponavičius has been exiled for more than twenty years from Vilnius, for conscientiously doing his duty.
5.While the faithful in other democratic countries freely hold RELIGIOUS PROCESSIONS to cemeteries and other churches, in our country that is subject to penalty, even though the Soviet Constitution in Par. 50 allows it. Why so? For six hundred years in our country, such processions have been taking place.
6.Why must we PAY SIX TIMES MORE THAN OTHERS FOR ELECTRICITY? It is said that THE CHURCHES ARE
GIVEN TO US WITHOUT CHARGE, BUT IN REALITY, WE HAVE TO PAY HUGE SUMS, even though we ourselves built them. Where will you find another such state?
7. They have unjustly SEIZED THE CHURCH OF KLAIPĖDA, built by our own hands and money, and to this day, they have not returned it, but only keep promising to erect another. Where is the justice in this?
8. The atheistic administration in many places, AT THE INTERMENT OF A BELIEVER, FORBIDS HIM TO BE ACCOMPANIED BY A CROSS AND MOURNING BANNERS, as our ritual requires. Also, they DO NOT ALLOW ERECTION OF A CROSS ON THE GRAVES OF BELIEVERS, OR BEFORE ONE'S OWN HOME, as has been the custom among us from of old, so even the deceased do not have religious freedom.
9. In new cities like Akmenė, Elektrėnai and Sniečkus, HOUSES OF PRAYER MAY NOT BE OPENED, even though most of the residents desire it.
10.The Presidium of the Supreme Soviet of the Lithuanian SSR, on July 28, 1976, decreed: "Religious associations have the right to obtain MEANS OF TRANSPORTATION", but in practice, the faithful are not allowed even to rent a bus or to buy an old one.
11.According to Leninist principle, the phrase "the Church is separated from the school" means that religion may not be taught. But in our country, the atheists FORBID THE TEACHING OF RELIGION TO CHILDREN, EVEN IN CHURCH. In democratic countries, that is done freely.
12.The atheistic leadership FORCES THE FAITHFUL TO work on Sundays and holy days, even though they are the majority. In Poland, Catholics can freely celebrate, and they get the work done anyhow.
13.The results of atheistic oppression clearly manifested themselves in the arrest of Fathers Alfonsas Svarinskas and Sigitas Tamkevičius, who tried to defend the rights of believers.
These and other painful facts seriously oppress and annoy the entire believing public; we can no more do without freedom of religion, than we can without bread. We ask you to do away with such anti-Constitutional oppression by the atheists.
July 25, 1983 Lietuva, Kaunas
Mažoji g-vė 1-10 Juozas Kazalupskas
To: Yuri Andropov, General Secretary of the Central Committee of the Communist Party, USSR
Presidium of the Supreme Soviet of the USSR
From: Believers of Lithuania:
Aldona Šukytė Albina Žemaitytė Alfonsas Bumbulis Juozas Kazalupskas
In May, 1983, we came to Moscow to see the Prosecutor General with the request to review the cases of Father Alfonsas Svarinskas and Father Sigitas Tamkevičius, and to release them as unjustly sentenced. We were received by Prosecutor Utkin, who told us that first, it was necessary to appeal to the Prosecutor of the Lithuanian SSR, and with his reply in writing, return to see him.
On June 24, 1983, we went to the Office of the Prosecutor of the LSSR with a petition from the faithful of Lithuania, regarding the release of Father Alfonsas Svarinskas and Father Sigitas Tamkevičius. We were received by his assistant, Prosecutor Bakučionis, who promised us that he would give us an answer within a month. We received only a verbal response, that Father Alfonsas Svarinskas was a criminal and would not be released. The case against Father Sigitas Tamkevičius would not be set aside.
On August 25, 1983, at 9:20 AM, we arrived at Moscow with the purpose of going to the offices of the highest levels of government in the Soviet Union, asking them to release as unjustly sentenced, Fathers Alfonsas Svarinskas and Sigitas Tamkevičius.
We came armed with the following documents:
1. The petition by the faithful of Lithuania to the Prosecutor General of the USSR, in which was indicated a general total of 123,000, twenty-two of them having signed in blood. The people of Lithuania who are religious believers testified that Fathers Alfonsas Svarinskas and Sigitas Tamkevičius have been unjustly sentenced and request you to release them like all innocent people.
2. Eight bundles of signatures, with texts on behalf of the release of the aforesaid priests.
3.The petition by the faithful of Lithuania to the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet of the USSR regarding the persecution of the faithful in Lithuania, requesting rights and freedoms for them.
4.A bundle of texts and signatures (more than five thousand), addressed to Secretary General Y. Andropov of the Central Committee, USSR, requesting the release of Fathers Alfonsas Svarinskas and Sigitas Tamkevičius.
5.Two letters with petitions to the Commissioner for Religious Affairs of the USSR.
When we arrived at the station in Moscow, a group of militia officers and persons in civilian dress approached us. The officials took our things, and using force, hauled us off to the militia station. They searched our personal belongings, and demanded our passports. Then we demanded to see their personal papers and the Prosecutor's order. At first, the officials would not show us their documents, but threatened us. Later, Ruslov and Tichonov presented their documents, but the others and two from Lithuania did not present their documents and did not show us any order from the prosecutor.
Officer Tichonov made a written record of our passports and listed confiscated documents. Ruslov, in consultation with the other officials, returned and demanded that we sign acknowledgement of the illegal decision, that we had no rights to visit Moscow, and the region of Moscow. If we would sign, they promised to let us go home scott-free; otherwise, they would push us out of Moscow by force of arms. We refused to sign. They then demanded our passports again. It became obvious to us that they would not return the documentation (the petitions with signatures and texts), and that they would not allow us to see the organs of the highest government of the USSR.
We kept quiet, and did not react to the unjust demands of militia functionaries. The officials took away our passports by force, they drew up a summons, saying that we had interfered with travellers and porters. They called over two porters who signed the complaint, even though we did not interfere with anyone, and no one objected. . .
The militia officials demanded in a threatening manner that we sign the abovementioned unjust judgement, they ridiculed us, and acted rudely. The captain of the militia, who did not give his name, threatened to beat us up. Then the officials dragged us before the commandant of the militia department, Colonel Alexei Filimonov.
With him were many militia officials and persons in civilian dress. He demanded that we sign the unjust decision denying us the right to visit Moscow or its environs, and threatened to put us in jail, to turn us over to special services, called us fanatics, and accused us of some sort of agitation. After all this, Colonel Alexei Filimonov approached each one of us personally, and threatening us, required that we sign the abovementioned illegal document.
We insisted that he return the documents confiscated from us, and allow us to appeal to the highest government organs of the USSR. Instead of consenting to our request, on orders from Colonel Filimonov, and with Militia Major Chumiak in charge, they kept us eleven hours in the Militia Station. A group of militia officers and civilians hauled us at 9:00 PM from the Militia Station to the Moscow-Kaliningrad train, and forced us into a railroad car.
As far as Kaunas, we were accompanied by two armed militia officers. About 3:00 PM, August 26, we were put out of the car in Kaunas. On the platform was an unusual number of militia officers, and with them, civilians. They returned our passports.
On September 7, 1983, we appealed to the Prosecutor General of the USR over the unjustified detention. August 25 of this year, in Moscow, Prosecutor V.B. Golov, directed us to go to the Moscow Transport Procurator's office with this problem. We went to the address indicated. The Chief Prosecutor (of the Moscow Transport Prosecutor's Office) Trusov, said that he already knew about this incident and was not able to help us. Militia officials were acting on orders from the Ministry of Internal Affairs.
On September 15, 1983, we returned to the Prosecutor General's Office in Moscow with the following documents:
1. A petition from the faithful of Lithuania, which indicated that 123,000 of the faithful have signed, twenty-two of them in blood, declaring that Father Alfonsas Svarinskas and Father Sigitas Tamkevičius had been unjustly sentenced and asking that their cases be reviewed and they be released as completely innocent.
2. The statement of the faithful of Lithuania about the persecution of believers in Lithuania, requesting rights and freedoms due religious believers of Lithuania in accordance with the Constitution of the USSR.
3. A petition concerning the unjust arrest in Moscow,
August 25, 1983.
We were received by Prosecutor V.B. Golov, who said in a loud voice dripping with hatred, "Father Svarinskas is an enemy;
you and all believers are enemies of the Soviet government."
On September 16, 1983, we appealed to the editors of Pravda in Moscow, with the following petitions:
1.Concerning our unjust arrest, August 25, 1983.
2.Concerning the conduct of V.B. Golov, September 15,
3. The Editors refused to publish these items.
November 20, 1983
Replied may be addressed to: Lietuvos TSR Kaunas — 16 Mažoji 1-10 J. Kazalupskas
The more active faithful of the parish of Kybartai, trying to defend their arrested pastor, Father Sigitas Tamkevičius, are being terrorized and threatened by government officials, and called extremists. These activities accelerated particularly after the parish committee wrote government representatives a petition, and when in August, a group of members of the Kybartai Parish Committee went to see Commissioner for Religious Affairs Peter Ani-lionis, with a request to release their pastor Father Sigitas Tamkevičius, or at least not to act as cruelly as during the trial of Father Alfonsas Svarinskas, when they did not admit a single believer, and out on the street, seized relatives, friends and acquaintances of Father Svarinskas who had come for the trial, drove them off into the woods and gave them jail sentences and fines.
Anilionis would not engage in serious discussion, and did not deign to hear out the requests of the faithful. He shouted at those who had come, blaming them for not electing a new chairman for the parish committee (the president of the parish committee is S. Tamkevičius). Ending the discussion, he stated that even if he wanted to very much, he could not help them, since everything is under the control of the KGB. The people of Kybartai asked how to get to the offices of the KGB. Anilionis replied that he really did not know.
On September 1, Director Baltutis of the Store Furnishings Factory, on government orders, lectured Miss Birutė Siaurusaitytė, a member of the parish committee. After checking to see whether she had really signed the committee's petition, he affirmed that believers are allowed to pray for their pastor, but there is no need to go about government agencies looking for the truth, because for such activity, they could be penalized.
That same day, another worker in the same agency, Mrs. Ona Griškaitienė, was summoned to see the Factory Director. The Director called her an extremist, just like Father Tamkevičius, and said that criminal proceedings had already been instituted against her, that she was raising her children badly (they go to church), that she was embarrassing the factory since she goes to church and even defends priests.
September 1, Director Baltutis of the Store Furnishings factory warned yet another member of the committee, Alfonsas Bielicka, who had signed the petition defending Father Tamkevičius.
On September 2, Mrs. Nastutė Mačulaitienė, treasurer of the parish committee, was summoned to see the Vice Chairman of the Rayon Executive Committee, Juozas Urbonas. Vice Chairman Urbonas officially warned her that no one else should sign the petitions since they were liable to punishment. He did not give Mrs. Mačulaitienė any written warning. The Vice Chairman explained that she must understand that Father Tamkevičius is a criminal. Mrs. Mačulaitienė replied that she, better than he, knew Father Sigitas Tamkevičius because as a member of the parish committee she had occasion to meet him, and could describe him as a zealous and good priest. As long as the court had not promulgated its decision, they had the full right of seeking justice, of petitioning and demanding his release.
Because they went to the Commissioner for Religious Affairs Anilionis seeking justice, the Chief of the Vilkaviškis Roads Commission, Kybartai Division, publicly reprimanded at work parish committee member Tutlis, saying that for such activities, he could be made criminally liable.