Events in Lithuania (49.13)

<<No 49 : 14 May 1978>>

This section is largely based on material from issues 32 (31 March 1978) and 33 (31 May 1978; Note 6) of the Chronicle of the Lithuanian Catholic Church.

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At the beginning of December 1977, the workers at the Kaunas rubber-goods factory ‘Inkaras’ were given much lower wages than usual. It turned out that the management — with the consent of the trade union committee — had suddenly lowered the permitted rate of spoiled goods.

On 14 December 1977, the workers in the shoe-moulding workshop refused to work. The first shift went on strike for the whole of their eight hours, the second for the first four. State security officials led by a certain Mockus soon arrived to admonish the strikers; the head of the Industrial Department of the Pozeliai district Party committee was also present. The old spoilage rate was restored.

After the strike was over, the shift forewoman Mrs. Grumadiene was sacked, the senior technician Skriebulis was suspended, and the chief engineer of the factory Valaitis was severely reprimanded. During the strike, the worker Binkys was detained — he was taken to the police station and beaten up there.

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On 12 December 1977 Raslanas — an assistant to the Commissioner of the Council for Religious Affairs — came to Telsiai. In 1941, on the night of 24/25 June, just before the arrival of the Germans, 73 political prisoners in the prison at Telsiai were bestially murdered. Raslanas, then an official of the N K V D,— participated in these murders. (On page 39, Vol 3, of the Small Soviet Lithuanian Encyclopaedia it is stated that ‘Raslanas has been engaged in administrative work in Telsiai since 1940.’)

Arrests and Interrogations

On the night of 7/8 November 1977 Albertas Zabrauskas (born 1960), a student at the polytechnic, and Konstantin Zakshevsky (born 1960), a student at the commercial technical school, tore down 36 red flags on Zirmunu Street. The same night they were arrested.

In January 1978 Kazimieras Skiebera (84 years old, twice sentenced on political charges, has spent about 18 years in camps) was taken for interrogation to Vilnius. Skiebera was questioned about his memoirs, which were found during the search of Antanas Terleckas’s home (CCEs 47, 48, see also ‘The Trial of Gajauskas’ in this issue, CCE 49.5). Threats were made to Skiebera that if he did not stop ‘remembering the camps1 he could end up inside them again. At the end of the interrogation, hints were made to him that allegedly Terleckas was a paid agent of the KGB.

In January Angela Ragaisiene, who had brought a parcel for the imprisoned Viktoras Petkus, was interrogated at KGB headquarters. When asked how she had known of Petkus’s arrest, Ragaisiene answered ‘From foreign radio broadcasts’, but refused to answer any other questions. On 28 January, the newspaper Evening News published an article attacking Ragaisiene.

In January, at intervals of a few days, Procurator Bakucionis summoned Jonas Pratusevicius and Vitas Varkala, who had signed a protest against the arrest of Gajauskas and Petkus, to the Procurator’s Office of the Lithuanian SSR. When Baku5ionis asked them how they knew that Gajauskas and Petkus had not broken Soviet laws, Pratusevicius replied that his home had been searched and he himself had been interrogated in connection with the Gajauskas case; from the objects confiscated during the search and the questions asked by the investigator, he had realized that Gajauskas was accused of collecting material about the post-war years (see The Trial of Gajauskas’), but this could not be considered a crime. Varkala answered in much the same way.

On 1 March Captain Daugalas interrogated Antanas Terleckas at Vilnius KGB headquarters in connection with the Petkus case. Terleckas, alluding to the fact that he had been sentenced together with Petkus 20 years ago, refused to answer questions. Daugalas nevertheless asked him the following questions: What was Terleckas’s relationship with Petkus? What did Terleckas know about the Lithuanian Helsinki Group and the Chief Committee of the National Movements of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania? Did he know Kalnins, Calitis, Zukovskis and Niklus? After lunch Daugalas was assisted by his superior Major Rimkus. They began to make threats. Terleckas declared that he considered his summons in the Petkus case to be a provocation and was prepared to take responsibility for refusing to give evidence.

On 15 March Vilkas, the head of the Kapsukas KGB, interrogated Janina Buzaite. All his questions were about one thing: how had information about Buzaite got into the Chronicle of the Lithuanian Catholic Church?

On 28 April E. Paulienis, a student at the Kaunas theological seminary, was interrogated in connection with the Petkus case; on 5 May R. Dalgela was also interrogated.

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CCE 48 described the search of Petras Blazukas (his name was then wrongly spelt), a second-year student at Kaunas theological seminary, and the interrogation of Blazukas and Vytautas Pukas. At the request of Tumenas, the Council for Religious Affairs commissioner, Blaiukas and Pukas were expelled from the seminary. The Chronicle of the Lithuanian Catholic Church, number 33, publishes statements from the Vilkaviskis diocese and the believers of Prienai diocese, protesting against these expulsions.

Persecution of Believers

Adutiskis (Svencionai district). On 15 October 1977 Father B. Laurinavicius sent Brezhnev an open letter, 73 pages long, about the violation of believers’ rights in Lithuania. The letter gave many examples of insulting behaviour directed against priests and believers. The author asserted that the general decline of morality among the people was the direct result of thoughtlessly inculcated atheism.

Telsiai. Attempts are continuing to intimidate and compromise the local priest, Father Kauneckas. KGB officials demonstratively record Kauneckas’s sermons on a tape-recorder. The head of the local KGB department personally interrogates members of the choir, school- children who go to church and their parents. In the village of Vesvenai members of the ‘Lenin’s Way’ collective farm were summoned to a general meeting, at which the religious collective farm members were asked to demand the removal of Kauneckas; people were asked to sign an already-formulated complaint. Nobody signed it.

Zalioji (Vilkaviskis district). On 22 February 1978, the deputy chairman of Vilkaviskis district soviet executive committee, Urbonas, summoned Mrs. T. Kaminskiene, Mrs. B. Gudaitiene, B. Kardauskas, B. Mickevicius, A. Nesukaityte and Mrs. A. Anskaitiene, who had signed an appeal from the believers of Zalioji (CCEs 47, 48) to Brezhnev. Urbonas declared that the church, closed since 1963 on the order of the Council of Ministers, would not be opened. Urbonas refused to prove this by showing a written document.

On 16 March 149 believers from Zalioji village sent a statement asking for the church to be opened to Kuroyedov, the Head of the C R A attached to the USSR Council of Ministers, and to J. Maniusis, Chairman of the Lithuanian SSR Council of Ministers.

On 19 March 114 believers from the neighbouring village of Klausuciai sent a letter containing the same demands to the same addressees.

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Skuodas. The chief doctor of the local hospital, Mazrimas, will not allow the priest to visit dying patients. In February 1977 81-year-old Kazimiera Akliene, after being refused a visit from the priest, asked to be taken for an hour to a friend’s house, where she could make her confession before dying. Mazrimas ordered the sick woman to be carried out into the corridor and told her husband that he would not take Akliene back. The dangerously-ill Mrs. Akliene lay in the corridor for a few hours, in a draught, and died the same day.

Gargzdai. On 24 March 1978 Father Antanas Seskevicius was summoned to the invalids’ home to see Stanislovas Milasius, who was dangerously ill. It turned out that there were other sick believers at the invalids’ home who wanted to confess and take Communion, but Striauka, the director of the home, pushed Seskevicius out of the door.

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Salos. At the end of 1977 Danute Cesoniene, secretary of the local soviet, was sacked for having her daughter christened. Party member Jana Butkeviciene, a team-leader on the state farm, was sacked for giving her mother a church funeral.

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Telsiai. On 16 February 1978 Andriauskas, head of studies at school no. 4, threatened nurse Zelviene that he would ’hand her son over to the KGB’ for going to church and smiling during atheist lectures. Andriauskas constantly intimidates the children, saying it’s dangerous to go to church because criminals — like the organist Induikis — work there, while the priest Kauneckas (see above) is mentally ill.

On 20 February the class teacher, Miss Slivinskaite, forbade her pupils to go to the funeral of a schoolgirl’s mother. On 23 May KGB officials talked to the schoolgirl Birute Ribinskaite about the fact that she often went to church. Before that they had talked to her parents: ‘You’re doing everything you can to ensure your daughter ends up in prison.’

In November 1977 Mrs. Rumbutiene, the teacher of class 10 at school 5, forbade her pupils to participate in the funeral of a pupil’s mother.

Siauliai. On 1 April headmaster Snieskus told the father of 9th class pupil Dala Judikaviciute that ‘religious faith will block Dala’s road to higher education’, and that the KGB was interested in her.

Stebuliai (Lazdijai district). On 4 April, the pupils of class 7 were kept behind in the classroom after lessons. Then they were summoned in pairs to the staff room, where the teacher Eugenija Smaidziunicne tried to persuade them to join the Komsomol. ‘Whoever joins the Komsomol will be given a good report, but anyone who doesn’t will be put on the blacklist.’

Zemikaciu Kalvarija (Kalvarija district). The headmistress, Mrs. Satikiene, summons pupils from their classwork and asks them who makes them go to church and sing in the choir. Was someone not paying them to do so?

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On 10 April 50 priests of Kaunas archdiocese signed a statement addressed to the Presidium of the Lithuanian SSR Supreme Soviet, concerning the draft Constitution of the Lithuanian SSR. In the statement they point out that the clauses of the draft Constitution referring to religious cults infringe the rights of the vast majority of Lithuanian believers. They also suggest that the Constitution should contain clauses defending believers from arbitrary repression by local authorities.

Twenty priests of Telsiai diocese supported this statement.

Similar statements were sent in April by 780 believers of Telsiai diocese and 975 believers of the Kybartiai congregation.

In a similar statement six priests (including three bishops) suggest that the rights of believers and the state should be more concretely defined in the Constitution.

CCE 47 reported the participation of Lithuanian priests in the discussion of the draft Constitution of the USSR.