"To: The Chairman of the Presidium of the 
Supreme Soviet of the LSSR 
The Secretary of the Central Committee 
of the Lithuanian Communist Party

The Chairman of the Council of Ministers
of the LSSR 
The LSSR Commissioner of the Council
for Religious Affairs 
The Curia of the Archdiocese of Vilnius

A Petition from the Parochial Committee and the Believers 
of the Parish in Ignalina

"The Constitution of the Soviet Union guarantees freedom of religion and of conscience. Practicing Catholics need churches, but we believers of Ignalina do not have one.

"A church was built in Ignalina during the difficult years when the area was under occupation by bourgeois Poland and during the especially difficult days of occupation by the Germans. The believers contributed much toil and money into its construction, often while they themselves wanted for bread. Much construction material had been readied, but construction work was halted by World War II. In the postwar years the local government deceived us grievously. Because the church building had not been completed, the authorities promised to complete it, and we would just have to pay for the labor. The building was confiscated from the parish, however, and turned into a cultural center.

"The present five-year plan provided for the construction of a new cultural center because the church building is plainly unsuitable for this purpose: it is too small, the columns obscure visibility, the acoustics are poor, etc. Despite all these shortcomings, a new cultural center is not being built, but instead, major repairs have been undertaken on our former church. Already the presbytery has been demolished, and the foundation for an addition is being built right next to our present house of worship, which is an ordinary little shack.

"People at prayer have already been disturbed by music, orchestras, noisy programs, and even by not infrequent incidents, such as, for example, when a few years ago the director of the cultural center himself had broken windows with rocks during the services. When the addition will be built, the distance between the cultural center and our house of worship will decrease by five or six meters, and the noise and the music will interfere with the believers' prayers even more.

"Today, with aching hearts we gaze at the overturned cornerstone of the church and our sanctuary, which is being ravaged. It's the same as if they were ravaging our very hearts.

"Our present house of worship is very small, uncomfortable, and cannot accommodate all the faithful. It can accommodate only two to three hundred persons. In winter the ceiling and the walls freeze over, and on Sundays, when the people gather in great numbers for the services, condensation of vapors occurs, and it literally rains from the ceiling. Thus the place is damp and stuffy. In addition, it is not only the believers from the parish in Ignalina who gather to pray here, but also the people from neighboring parishes who have come to the marketplace or on other businesss and hope to fulfill their religious obligations at the same time. As a rule, however, during the services a majority of them are forced to stand outside in foul weather and in the cold.

"Seeking the return of our church, we have appealed twice to Comrade Vaitonis, vice-chairman of the rayon executive committee, who replied rudely to us: 'It's useless. Don't expect anything—I won't return anything! You should have brought this matter to my attention in 1950. Now it's too late.' Is this the sort of answer one would expect from a responsible official? And is it truly too late now? for the wounds of the war have been healed everywhere during this lengthy period of time. Why was it a possibility in 1950 when accommodations truly were a problem for everyone, but today—after so many years of progress and achievement—our last hopes are being taken away.

"In the summertime many vacationers and tourists from various corners of the Soviet Union pour into Ignalina. They are amazed at the wrong that has been inflicted upon us! Why haven't we the right to have suitable conditions for praying? Is it really too late to heal this grievous wound of ours?

"Putting our trust in the humane laws and the constitution of the Soviet government, which guarantees religious freedom, we trust that you will grant our request for the return of our church, and that we shall not need to turn to higher authorities concerning this matter.
March 14, 1971" 

This petition was signed by 1,025 believers. 

A short time later an unknown representative of the government arrived at Ignalina and, summoning the chairman of the Ignalina Parochial Committee, an old man of eighty, inspected the exterior of the little church and paced off the area it occupies. It was later learned from rayon officials that this had been Rugienis, the commissioner of the Council for Religious Affairs. After this visit by the commissioner, the parochial committee once again appealed to the authorities of the Republic.

"To: The Chairman of the Presidium of the Supreme
Soviet of the LSSR 
The Central Committee of the Lithuanian
Communist Party 
The Chairman of the Council of Ministers
of the LSSR 
The LSSR Commissioner of the Council
for Religious Affairs 
The Curia of the Archdiocese of Vilnius

A Petition

"In response to our petition of March 14, 1971, a representative of an unknown agency arrived from Vilnius on March 29 of this year to acquaint himself with the condition of our house of worship.

"The Ignalina Parochial Committee wants to find out why the aforementioned individual failed to meet with all the members of the parochial committee but contented himself with a talk with one old man.

"In our opinion and according to the old man's assertion, he familiarized himself with the situation only superficially. He did not go inside our house of worship but only paced off its exterior dimensions (20x8). That would amount to 160 square meters, whereas the interior of the structure occupies considerably less (17x6). In addition, the usable space for the believers is even smaller. The presbytery takes up about 30 square meters; the catafalque, the confessionals, the stairs, the space for a small choir, the pews, the benches, and the remainder also take up usable space—from this one can form a picture of how much space is left for the believers.

"We are most concerned that an erroneous decision based on the above-mentioned individual's misleading data would not result.

"We therefore request that you ascertain the opinion of the entire parochial committee and not just that of one person who does not constitute the entire committee and cannot speak in its name.

"Because we do not know which governmental agency the aforementioned individual represented, we are therefore sending our petition to all the agencies to which we sent the previous petition.

April 7, 1971"


The petition was signed by seven members of the parochial committee. Four representatives of the committee delivered the statement to each of the agencies. When they came to the office of the commissioner of the Council for Religious Affairs, Rugienis, he upbraided them, called them saboteurs, and angrily retorted: "If I grant you this, you'll be wanting something else. Don't ask for anything; you won't get it!"

After several weeks had passed, Rugienis sent his reply through Vaitonis, the vice-chairman of the rayon executive committee. The members of the parochial committee and several believers went to see him. Vaitonis did not want to admit the believers but was forced to give in. Vaitonis read the memorandum from Rugienis, which he would not allow anyone to look at, even from a distance. The basic idea of the note was: no one is pulling down your church, no one is interfering with your prayers, and you have sufficient space; as for the cultural center— no one will ever give you the cultural center.