Events in Lithuania (44.22)

<< No 44 : 16 March 1977 >>

On 13-15 September 1976 in the Lithuanian Supreme Court the case of Genrikas Klimaškauskas and Zigmas Širvinskas under Article 199-1 of the Lithuanian Criminal Code (corresponding to Article 190-1 of the Russian Code) was heard in closed session.

Klimaškauskas and Širvinskas were arrested on 13 February 1976 in Kaunas (CCE 41). G. Klimaškauskas was held in the prison hospital of Lukiškis in Vilnius from 27 May, was ruled not responsible by a psychiatric team and did not attend the trial.

These items among the charges are known: the circulation of the journal Aušra and the translation of Gulag Archipelago into Lithuanian. The (incomplete) translation done by Klimaškauskas was found at a search. A witness at the trial testified that Širvinskas gave him Aušra to read. Širvinskas pleaded not guilty. He explained that he had bought The Gulag Archipelago and given it to Klimaškauskas so that he could explain to him certain Russian words; he did not know that Klimaškauskas was translating the book.

The court stipulated compulsory treatment in a mental hospital of a special type for Klimaškauskas and sentenced Širvinskas to 2 years of imprisonment in a strict-regime camp.

G. Klimaškauskas has been sent to Chernyakhovsk Special Psychiatric Hospital. Z. Širvinskas is in a camp in Alytus, OCh-12/4.

Both Klimaškauskas and Širvinskas are about 50, Both are former political prisoners and engineers by profession. Klimaškauskas was working in the Kaunas City Planning Institute, Širvinskas at a factory making artificial fibres. Širvinskas’s wife has been dismissed from her job. Klimaškauskas’s daughter was not admitted to a Vilnius art institute last summer although she passed her examinations with distinction and, according to the references of her teachers, is a talented artist.

*

On 21 December 1976 four men travelling in a car were arrested in Jonava.

They had a typewriter and some texts with them. Three of them were Genrikas Jaskunas, and Daugella from Jonava and Jonas Survilla from Kaunas.

The following day a search was conducted at Jaškunas’s flat by a KGB team under the direction of Lieutenant-Colonel Kovaleskas. Photographic devices and various documents were confiscated; everything (with the exception of one copy of the Chronicle of the Lithuanian Catholic Church No. 9) was in Russian. Among the materials confiscated were several copies of a “Manifesto” signed by the “Executive Committee of the AOIP” (Alliance of Organizations of Independent Peoples). The manifesto calls for the secession of “enslaved peoples” from the USSR by means of holding referenda in the near future.

Genrikas Jaskunas has twice been in prison: from 1946-55 in Inta, and from 1957-59 in Mordovia.

*

On 2 November 1976, the Day of Remembrance, Julius Sasnauskas lit candles at the graves of political and cultural leaders of Lithuania and at the graves of soldiers who fell in the struggle for the independence of Lithuania in 1919-20. Early in the morning on 4 November Julius was awoken by the police. He was taken off to the police station and interrogated on the pretext that his former classmate had allegedly committed a theft.

The major who interrogated Sasnauskas beat him up for refusing to speak in Russian. Pointing to his colleague in civilian dress, the major said: “This is your teacher of Russian. In a couple of days, he’ll teach you so that no one will realize that you’re not Russian.” Sasnauskas was taken off to a cell containing criminals and a few hours later was interrogated once again. The major again beat him, and Julius began to answer in Russian. He said that he knew nothing about the theft. In the evening he was released after being kept for the whole 12 hours without food and threatened at the end that after his military callup he would be sent to serve in Spitzbergen.

While he was at the police station KGB officials went to see his mother. Lieutenant-Colonel Baltinas told her that Julius had contacted nationalists and prison awaited him; his mother should help by finding out about his friendships and stopping them.

Julius is one of seven boys expelled from Vienuolis school in Vilnius (CCEs 40, 43). Since his expulsion he has been working in a bookstore and studying at evening school.

In the middle of October inscriptions appeared on the Vienuolis school building; “Russians, clear off home!”, “Freedom for Lithuania!”, and others. Two pupils who had been late for classes that day were interrogated at the KGB. At the same time similar inscriptions appeared on the building of the Exhibition Palace. Two former pupils from Vienuolis school (belonging to the same group of seven) who were working in the Palace were dismissed.

*

On 4 February, the trial took place in the case of the flag torn down from a Vilnius University hostel (CCE 43). Richardas Pikelis was tried together with Leonas Paulavičius, who had been arrested immediately after the event They are both second-year students in the department of Lithuanian studies.

Paulavičius was sentenced to 1 ½ years of imprisonment. Pikelis, who was at liberty until the trial, expressed remorse and received a 1 ½ year suspended sentence, but with compulsory labour to be specified by the MVD.

*

In the autumn of 1976, a first-year student in the chemistry faculty of Vilnius university, Ramanauskas, was arrested on suspicion of circulating leaflets.

At the end of January 1977, a group of students — four first-year students from Vilnius University and two from the Engineering-Construction Institute — carried away a bust of Lenin one evening from the hall of the central post office. While crossing the bridge over the river Neris, they saw a police car and threw the bust into the river. The bust remained lying on the ice, and the police arrested the students. S. Marcinkevičius, G. Šimkūnas and R. Stankevičius were expelled from the Komsomol and the university. B. Grigas was arrested. A court which sat during the first few days of March sent him for psychiatric examination.

*

On 7 February, several arrests were carried out.

In Kaunas, at the home of Balys Gajauskas (CCEs 34, 35), lists of political prisoners (present and former) were confiscated, an unfinished letter to a friend living in the USA which described a trip made by Gajauskas through Lithuania in the summer, the diaries of his mother (she has kept them since 1970), certain other manuscripts, a camera and an enlarger. After the search Gajauskas was taken to the KGB for interrogation.

In Šiauliai there was a search at the home of Jonas Petkevičius. The search was carried out by deputy head of the Šiauliai KGB, Alyšauskas. The order was written by Major Markevičius (one of the main investigators in case no. 345 — see CCEs 30-38). It also carried the signatures of the chairman of the Lithuanian KGB Petkevičius and the Procurator of the republic Kairelis. The search was at both his home and his place of work. Confiscated were books of religious content, 40 copies of the journal Trimitas (pre-war), photographic materials and cassette tapes. Also confiscated was an image of the horseman Vytis — the Lithuanian national symbol — which was hanging on the wall.

Those carrying out the search called the Vytis a bourgeois-nationalist and fascist coat-of-arms. They told Petkevičius that they knew he made these images and that he must stop doing so. Petkevičius retorted that Vytis was a historic symbol under which Lithuanian regiments had fought even at Gruenwald.

After the search Jonas Petkevičius and his wife were interrogated, as was their guest Vytautas Slapašinskas. Jadviga Petkevičiene was reproached for visiting the trial of Kovalyov and for meetings with Sakharov and Orlov.

There is also news of other searches in Šiauliai — at the home of Mečislovas Jurevičius (CCEs 36, 40), and of two searches in Kaunas — at the homes of the Stavskis couple and of Grigorens.

*

16 February was the anniversary of the declaration of the independence of Lithuania in 1918.

The previous day rumours circulated around Vilnius that bandits had robbed a savings bank during the night, killing a policeman. This and the following night the town was inundated with police and military patrols. Cars were checked, also passengers of trains going out of and even into Vilnius, some passers-by were stopped on the street as well.

On 15 and 16 February the correspondent of the newspaper The Financial Times David Satter was in Vilnius. On the evening of 16 February, he was due to meet Kestutis Jokubinas. Arranging to meet him over the phone, the correspondent asked Jokubinas to “bring the letter with him’. At the agreed time near the Hotel Neringa, where Satter was staying, Jokubinas was stopped by two men who introduced themselves as officers of the Criminal Investigation Department and took him off to the police station. Here an identification parade was held. A certain “witness” identified Jokubinas as a participant in the armed attack on the savings bank — “by his height and his walk’. Despite his protests, a search of his person was organized for Kestutis. “When you land here, those laws no longer apply,” replied the policeman to his demand for a warrant and the authorization of the Procurator. The letter was found and confiscated. It was a copy of an application to Podgorny for an exit visa to go to join his brother in Canada, which Jokubinas had sent long before to the addressee (CCE 42). An hour and a half later K. Jokubinas, the “dangerous bandit”, was released, after the letter had been returned to him.

On 16 February proclamations circulated in Kaunas. They read: “Freedom to Lithuania! “, “The Russians are Occupiers — not Liberators!“

On 16 February, many Lithuanians celebrated the 50 anniversary of the death of the doctor and public figure Jonas Basanavičius, the founder of the first national journal Amra (1883-1886). At the Rasos cemetery in Vilnius, where Basanavičius is buried, KGB officers were on duty that day, observing visitors but not preventing them from laying flowers.

The Lithuanian Helsinki Group

In January 1977, a member of the group, Tomas Venclova, left the USSR. He had previously, over several years, been refused permission for a trip abroad he had been invited to make.

*

On 11 January, a member of the group, poetess Ona Lukauskaite-Poškiene, who lives in Šiauliai, was summoned to the Procuracy, The Procurator of the town of Leonovičius and another man (who did not introduce himself) had a talk with her. The latter asked Lukauskaite whether she was really a member of the Group and had signed its documents. Lukauskaite confirmed both points. Then those conversing with her said that the Group was circulating slander, in particular when it talked about the Russian occupation of Lithuania. “How old were you in 1940?” asked Lukauskaite. “Nine, eleven.” “But I remember well how the Red Army entered Lithuania, it was a real occupation.” “What are you personally dissatisfied with?” they asked Lukauskaite. “I do not have claims of that sort,” They warned Lukauskaite that, while they took her age into account and would not therefore apply repressive measures to her, she herself must show caution when putting her signature to documents drawn up by other people.

Then they tried to tell her about some circumstances that allegedly compromised other members of the group, in particular V. Petkus. Lukauskaite told her interlocutors they should be ashamed of themselves and refused to hear them out. The stranger then said to her that she was not entirely clean herself. “We have information that you denounced the writer Kazys Boruta,” “That is a lie and a provocation,” declared Lukauskaite.

Ona Lukauskaite-Poškiene is 70 years old. Before the war she published several books of poems and was active in left-wing causes. In 1946 she was convicted in the same case as the aforementioned K. Boruta [1905-65] for writing a “Memorandum on Lithuania” addressed to the West. She served nine years. Now her memoirs have been circulated in samizdat in Lithuania.

*

The Lithuanian Helsinki group published a Report on 28 February which stated:

“Recently in Lithuania the authorities have intensified repression against participants in the movement for the rule of law and the national movement, against church activists and persons struggling for the right to emigrate.”

The group reports on searches and arrests (see above). Then it says:

“In Vilnius, the Catholic priest Kazimieras Vasiliauskas is being persecuted for his link with members of the Helsinki group. The KGB is shadowing members of the group around the clock. Their friends and acquaintances are being forced by methods of blackmail and threats to make statements compromising members of the group …”

*

In Lithuania there are now seven samizdat journals: The Chronicle of the Lithuanian Catholic Church has been coming out since March 1972, Ausra (Dawn) since November 1975, Laisves Sauklis (Herald of Freedom) since May 1976, and Path of Truth since January 1977. The others are God and Mother- land, Voice of Lithuania and Varpas (The Bell).

From the Chronicle of the Lithuanian Catholic Church No. 25 (31 December 1976)

On 19 October 1976 Jonas Matulionis and Vladas Lapienis were arrested in Vilnius (there was a short report on this in CCE 43).

Matulionis is 45; he graduated from the department of Lithuanian philology, then studied at the conservatory, from which he was expelled for taking part in church singing. He worked in a library and later was the director of a picture gallery.

Lapienis is 70. He is an economist who graduated from Vilnius University.

The arrests took place after a search at the flat of Matulionis, where Lapienis was also present. They confiscated a typewriter, the Chronicle of the Lithuanian Catholic Church no, 24, and Gulag Archipelago in translation into Lithuanian. Three days later there was another search in the cellar and the attic.

On 26 October, a search was made at the home of Matulionis’s sister, Albina Kibildiene, who lives in the country. She herself was not at home, as she had taken a package to her brother. Those carrying out the search broke down the cupboards. They confiscated the book by Jurgutis, How they Shot us, a typewriter and clean paper.

On 20 October, a search was made at the flat of Lapienis, lasting eight hours. Confiscated were Aušra no. 3, the Chronicle of the Lithuanian Catholic Church no. 24, Gulag Archipelago, the Chronicle of Current Events no. 40, the article “Mikhail Suslov — Hangman of Lithuania” and other works, and three typewriters.

On 23 October KGB officers came to the flat once again to take away a bundle of papers which Lapienis himself had allegedly asked for. This time they took another 20 kilograms of thin paper, carbon paper, etc.

A group of priests published a statement of protest addressed to L. I. Brezhnev concerning these arrests. The statement asserts that whatever relation the arrested men had to the Chronicle of the Lithuanian Catholic Church they are in any case not guilty, as the Chronicle of the Lithuanian Catholic Church “gives objective, albeit to some people unpleasant information”. V. Lapienis and J. Matulionis — it says further — are widely known in Lithuania as deeply religious and highly-principled people who are not capable of spreading slander. Their conviction “will only seriously distress the masses of believers and compromise Soviet authority”.

*

On 20 October, a search was carried out in Panevėžys at the home of Ona Pranskunaite — at her place of work and at her flat. The search was led by Lieutenant-Colonel Petruškevičius of the KGB. At work they confiscated a typewriter, 16 copies of [Steponas] Grauslys’s book In the Darkness, Light prepared by an electrographic method, and certain other books. The search at the flat lasted through this and the following day. (She was taken to the KGB for the night, and her flat was sealed up and guarded.) In the bathroom they discovered an apparatus of the ‘Era’ type. They confiscated a lot of paper, devices for book binding, and many books of religious content.

After the search, interrogations lasted three days. O. Pranskunaite explained that in the summer she had let the room to two men; they had printed prayer-books and other religious literature on the ‘Era’, she had only helped to clean the place up. Pranskunaite refused to name the two men, and also the authors of letters to her, confiscated at the search, “as she did not want the state security organs to trouble innocent people’. The investigator tried to convince Pranskunaite that many people had been arrested, including the author of the Chronicle of the Lithuanian Catholic Church, the priest S. Tamkevičius, who had allegedly confessed that he had given the Chronicle of the Lithuanian Catholic Church and Aušra to her to be duplicated. The investigator even gave Pranskunaite “the evidence of Tamkevičius” to read, after which she stated that only a madman could have written such things. The investigator stated to Pranskunaite that he knew she was a nun, and he knew the other nuns who had brought her paper.

The investigator said that if she would not give evidence, she would get eight years in prison. “You don’t yet know what Siberia is like.” But it turned out that Ona did know: in 1951, as a 15-year-old girl, she had received a 10-year sentence for composing a song against the collective farms (she was released in 1957), Seeing her stubbornness, Petruškevičius and other investigators began to call her rude names and threatened to knock her teeth out.

After the interrogations, uninterrupted surveillance of Ona was instituted; agents accompanied her everywhere.

On 6 December 1976 she was summoned to an interrogation in Vilnius. The interrogation again lasted three days. They questioned her about the priests Buliauskas, Babrauskas and others She was again threatened with prison, and also with the loss of her cooperative flat and other property.

*

Beginning in September 1975, an inspector of the Kaunas Training and Production Combine of the Society for the Blind, Algimantas Šaltis, has repeatedly been told to hand in his resignation. “Write yourselves that you are dismissing me for my faith”: he replied, “If I, as a believer, cannot work in the post of inspector, it means that in the Soviet Union discrimination is practised against believers.’

In 1963 Šaltis was sentenced to one year in camps for teaching children the catechism. When Šaltis later tried to enter the Ecclesiastical Seminary, its rector V. Butkus, after finding out about his conviction, told him to discount any possibility of entering the seminary.

The main reason for the new persecution of Šaltis is his part in the collection of signatures for the Memorandum of 17,000 Lithuanian Catholics in 1973 (CCE 29).

Mečislovas Jurevičius (CCE 36, 40) continues to try to get his job back. In numerous statements he writes that the Constitution guarantees him both the right to work and the right to worship freely. Jurevičius also poses a specific question in his statements: “Can I in exchange for overtime work obtain additional free time during religious holidays?” But he receives no reply to it.

In April 1976, the police began to warn Jurevičius that he would be prosecuted as a parasite. Jurevičius replies that he is not “a parasite or a tramp, but an honest worker forced into unemployment”.

Believers continue to write letters to the authorities (with hundreds of signatures) in defence of the priest J. Zdebskis, who was deprived of his driving licence on a false charge of driving his car in a drunken state (Chronicle 41). An anonymous “counter-letter” arrived at the Curia of the Kaunas diocese — about the allegedly immoral behaviour of J. Zdebskis and his poor execution of his duties.

The priest S. Tamkevičius, the senior priest of the church of Kibartai, has also been deprived of his driving licence — for an ‘accident’: his car was hit by a lorry which suddenly forked to the side. The car inspector at the site of the incident said that no one was guilty of the collision, but a week later KGB Lieutenant-Colonel Kolgov said to another priest that Tamkevičius had caused the accident by overtaking two vehicles.

In the hospital in Skuodas the head doctor Mažrimas would not let a priest be fetched for a dying man. In another hospital in Biržai a good and experienced sister, Aldona Šukite, was dismissed for bringing a priest into the hospital and in general for her active religious motivation.

Commissioner Tumėnas of the Council for Religious Affairs, together with one of the senior priests, inspected the church banner prepared for the feast of St Sebastian in Veisėjai, and ordered the decoration and text on it to be altered (in the words “The Cross is the Hope of a Drowning People” he ordered the substitution of ‘believing’ for ‘drowning’).

In a small place called Salos a statue of the Holy Mary erected by an inhabitant, Ona Kiseliene, in memory of her son who died in the war, was ordered to be removed from the church porch.

In certain cases, the activity of believers is, by contrast, being encouraged. In November 1976 signatures were collected without hindrance on a request that the Vatican appoint the administrator of Telšiai diocese, the priest Vaičius, a bishop.

The authorities are, as before, trying hard to ensure that priests and other persons do not teach children and do not prepare them for first confession. Priest A. Jokubauskas (in Chronicle 43 mis-spelled Jakubauskas) was fined 50 roubles for doing this. He handed in an appeal to the people’s court, stating that he had not taught children but only tested their readiness for their first communion. In the appeal he notes that even if he had propagandized religion, “even then I would not be guilty, either before the Constitution or before the law’. The court refused his petition.

In order to uncover similar ‘crimes’ by the priest Jagminas the deputy Procurator of Kėdainiai district, Januškevičius, interrogated schoolchildren and their parents in October 1976. Two months before this the chairman of the village soviet drew up a record stating that this priest had tested children, and then asked him to sign his name on it and on two blank sheets, claiming these were for copies of the record. Then there appeared on these blank sheets a text about instructing children — the very ones whom the Procurator interrogated.

The section “In Soviet Schools” reports on the persecution of religious children and their parents, in one case with the direct participation of KGB officers, who conducted ‘interrogations’ of children and briefings of teachers (town of Kibartai).

*

On 8 March 1977, the 26th issue of the Chronicle of the Lithuanian Catholic Church came out.

The Chronicle of Current Events salutes the Chronicle of the Lithuanian Catholic Church in connection with the fifth anniversary in two days’ time — on 18 March 1977 — of the appearance of its first issue and expresses on this occasion the hope that the mutual cooperation of both publications will continue in the future, until the time when both will cease appearing because of a complete lack of material.