Statement from Ignas Klimavičius to the Attorney General regarding a cross that was destroyed
To: Attorney General of the Lithuanian SSR, Copies to: Bishop of the Kaunas Archdiocese and Vilkaviškis Diocese,
Soviet Commission for Religious Affairs A Statement from:
Citizen Klimavičius, Ignas, son of Kazys
Residing in the Lazdijai Rayon, Village of Buckūnai.
One year ago I erected a wooden cross next to my front steps. This is an ancient tradition in Lithuania: out of respect for the cross, Catholics erect it in fields, near homes, hang it on the walls of their homes, wear it around their necks and so on. I was convinced that since I do not need the Government's permission to hang a cross around my neck or on my wall at home, I do not need it either to erect a cross next to my own front steps. However, the officials of the Lazdijai Rayon Executive Committee decided otherwise and ordered this cross removed. Of course, as a Catholic, I can only respect the Cross and not desecrate it; therefore, I did not remove the cross. I consider criminal the very order to a Catholic to remove a cross. How would it look if a Communist were ordered to tear down Lenin's portrait or demolish his statue?
On July 25th of this year, while I was at work, a representative of the Šeiriai Security Police, Alberov, came to my house along with the Secretary of the Žagariai District and administrator of the Meteliai Fishing Commission for the Buckūnai area, A. Gereltaus-kas; they looked around for a while and left. An hour later, car LIS 29-46 from the Lazdijai fire department arrived with two men who, according to the account of witnesses who had gathered around the house, were quite drunk: namely, Lazdijai Fire Chief Vincas Janušauskas and Markevičius, an employee of the Lazdijai Executive Committee. After frightening my wife and children, these men knocked the cross down into a flower bed and quickly left.
That same day, I asked the Lazdijai Rayon Security Office to investigate who had come to demolish the cross and whether they were really drunk, because the next day they would have recovered from their drunkedness and it would be impossible to establish the facts. I heard officials at Security headquarters say: "Look at the old boy. He came to complain to the Chief of Security. We should lock him up; that would teach him!"
Vice-Chairman Jurkevičius of the Executive Committee stated that the Soviet government had not given and would never give anyone permission to erect crosses. In addition, I would have to pay 50 rubles to those drunkards for destroying the cross. I stated that I could not believe there was a government in this world that would force its citizens to pay drunkards for their misdeeds. Even if forced, I would still refuse to pay. Let them take my coat, cow or other goods.
I am asking the Attorney General's Office to investigate this crime committed by officials of the Lazdijairayon and act accordingly. I would also like to have the following explained:
1. Does the Soviet Government really forbid the erection of a cross near a house or next to the front steps of a private home? If it is forbidden, who can grant me permission?
2. Did the Lazdijai Executive Committee have the right to send two drunken men to demolish, without my knowledge, a cross which was erected not in the fields, but next to the front steps of a home? Or perhaps Catholics can be treated in any way and there are no laws to protect their rights?
Buckūnai, July 30, 1975 Ignas Klimavičius
The Attorney General's Office of the LSSR assigned the Lazdijai District Attorney to investigate Ignas Klimavičius' complaint. Agent Alberov of the Šeiriai Security Police came to Buckūnai and questioned the women who had seen the cross being demolished: (Mrs) Teofilė Abromaitienė, (Mrs) Marė Jusevičienė and (Mrs) Ona Buš-kevičienė. However, he intentionally neglected to mention in his report that the women testified that the men who had demolished the cross had been quite drunk. The women wrote statements to this effect and wanted to present them to the Lazdijai District
Attorney through Klimavičius, but the former would not accept these written statements.
On August 12th Lazdijai District Attorney Pigėnas sent Ig. Klimavicius the following reply:
"Your complaint regarding the demolition of the cross has been investigated.
"After examining the records of the Lazdijai Executive Committee and the legality of the decision and actions of various individuals, the following findings have been reached:
"In the Spring of 1974, you errcted a wooden cross on your property without a permit from the area architect-inspector. You thus violated article 3 of the Individual Building Code, enacted by the LSSR Council of Ministers on April 12, 1974.
"According to the LSSR Civil Code, article 114, constructions, erected without the necessary permit, are to be torn down by the builder himself or at his expense, following a decision of the rayon Executive Committee.
"On July 1,1975 the rayon architect signed an illegal construction complaint.
"The rayon Executive Committee deliberated the above-mentioned complaint the very same day and ruled that the illegally erected cross is to be demolished.
"Since you did not demolish the cross, this was done by the employees of the volunteer fire company. Expenses incurred during the necessary demolition of the cross have not yet been calculated.
"There are no facts to prove that the cross was torn down by drunken men.
"The ruling of the "Rayon Executive Committee and the actions of the persons who carried it out are legal.
"Permits for yard installations and constructions are issued by the "rayon" architect-inspector.
Lazdijai District Attorney Pigėnas."
Kučiūnai. In approximately 1901, Bishop Baranauskas, on his way from Veisiejai to Seinai, was met at the Briniai village crossroads by the faithful of three villages: Pazapsiai, Briniai and Kalėdiškiai. The Bishop spoke in Lithuanian, blessed the people and asked that a cross be erected at the crossroads in remembrance of this meeting. Each village erected a cross, three in all.
In recent years the state built a fuel tank next to these crosses. In 1975 the faithful replaced the three rotting crosses with one wooden cross.
After Easter, Kučiūnai District Chairman Kočiūnas and the Lazdijai Rayon Architect asked the people why they had erected a cross in such an unsightly spot. They should have chosen a more becoming place for the cross, near a home...
In the middle of June, the cross was demolished by bulldozers, crushed and its pieces hidden under the fuel tank.
* * *
Simnas. On August 6, 1975 a statue of the Virgin Mary was erected in the Simnas churchyard. Local atheists quickly informed the Alytai authorities of this "offense."
On August 7, 1975 the rayon architect-inspector came from Alytai and wrote the following report:
"I, Engineer-Inspector Balsys, A.S., of the State Building Inspector's Office, in the presence of Chairman S. Šlenfuktas of the Simnas Executive Committee and Secretary D. Zurnandžian of the Simnas Executive Committee, found, after an investigation, that the Simnas Church Committee (presided over by Br. Mardosa) has illegally erected a religious sculpture in the Simnas churchyard.
"The following work was noted during the inspection: in the churchyard there stands a religious sculpture on a concrete pedestal, it has been painted, the area around the sculpture has been completely restored and landscaped.
"Construction was begun August 5, 1975. There are no documents.
Executive Order: The Simnas Church Executive Committee is to demolish the illegally erected construction by August 8, 1975 and to restore the area to its original state.
A. Balsys S. Šlenfuktas D. Zurnandžian
The pastor of the Simnas parish, Father J. Matulevičius, explained that the statue had been erected without a permit, because government offices will not issue one.
The following day, Chairman Mardosa of the Simnas Parish Council and the pastor, Father J. Matulevičius were summoned to the Alytai Executive Committee. The following individuals had come to the Rayon: Soviet Commissioner for Religious Affairs K. Tumėnas and Vice-Chairman E. Misiulis of the Commission for the Preservation of Museums and Cultural Monuments. Once again questions were raised about why the statue had been erected without a permit from the architect, as if the latter had the right to issue such permits. The Vilnius officials attempted at length to convince the Church Committee Chairman that an offense had been committed and that the statue should be eliminated.
In the afternoon, Soviet Commissioner for Religious Affairs Tumėnas, along with E. Misiulis, came to Simnas to inspect the statue. In the opinion of Tumėnas, the statue was erected in an overly visible spot. It should have been placed in a corner of the church vestibule or in the cemetery.
The faithful of Simnas were deeply scandalized by the "zeal"' of the Rayon and Vilnius officials. Vigils were kept at night, so that hired hoodlums could not knock down the statue.
On August 17th, the statue of the Virgin Mary was blessed in the presence of a large crowd of faithful.
The Executive Committee of Simnas was issued a reprimand for
not interfering with the erection of the statue.
* * *
Šaukėnai. On May 8, 1973 the pastor of Šaukėnai, Father T. Švambarys erected a wooden cross in his small yard. Šaukėnai area and Kelmė Rayon officials stirred into action and Secretary Daraška of the Agricultural Party Organization was heard to say: "You can bet on it, I will tear down that cross."
The Vice-Chairman of the Kelmė Rayon Executive Committee summoned the pastor and assailed him: "Did you erect a cross? Do you have a permit?" Then Father Švambarys asked: "Does the state farm have a permit when it half buries tires near workshops? Do forestry nurseries have a permit when they bury trees stripped of their bark?"
When the pastor refused to remove the cross, Grabauskas threatened to notify the Bishop of Vilnius and Telšiai that the pastor was not obeying him, the Vice-Chairman.
Several days later, the pastor was visited by Šaukėnai Area Chairman Jankus and Secretary Gramatas of the Šaukėnai Communist Youth League. They demanded that the pastor remove the cross within three days. The pastor refused.
Soon Commissioner for Religious Affairs K. Tumėnas appeared in Šaukėnai.
"You will have to remove the cross," said the Commissioner.
After inspecting the cross and seeing that the pastor would certainly not remove it, Tumėnas requested that the cross be moved farther back from the street.
Zarasai. Nine years ago a shrine to the Virgin Mary in Zarasai, on M. Melninkaites g., was blown up during the night. The faithful loved this shrine and often prayed there.
To: The Editor of the Alytus rayon newspaper "Communist Tomorrow"
Copies to: Bishops L. Povilonis and Dr. J. Labukas of the Kaunas Archdiocese and the Vilkaviškis Diocese.
On July 26, 1975 the Alytus rayon newspaper "Communist Tomorrow" printed an article by S. Noreika, "Problems of Atheistic Work," in which the author calls the women of Simnas Parish "long-tongued religious fanatics" and the priests "narrow-minded churchmen." Would it not be fitting for the rayon Communist Party organ to maintain a more cultured style, even with regard to persons of other ideological persuasions? Especially now that the leaders of the Soviet nation have signed the Helsinki document which deals with humane behavior, respect for principles and so on.
Noreika writes that work is delayed in the Buktininkai area because of various religious holidays, and there are losses.
It is common knowledge that farms, shops and factories experience great losses not because of religious holidays, but because of insane drunkenness and unscrupulousness. As long as people in Lithuania seriously observed religious holidays, there was very little drunkenness and unscrupulousness. These two vices began to flourish in Lithuania in post-war years when people were being pressured into atheism.
Noreika writes that the ministers of the Simnas church "are not ashamed to persistently offer their services." I have been working in the service of the Simnas parish for six years and during that time neither I, nor the pastor, have ever buried any atheists, nor have we christened their children, because, in religious matters, Catholic priests serve only religious persons. Let Noreika give at least one example of when and to which atheist we offered our services!
Only the atheists of Lithuania are not ashamed persistently to offer their services. They want Catholics to act against their conscience and be married and buried in civil ceremonies. Communists are severely criticized if they bury their religious parents with the rites of the Church. In the magazine Time and Events (1975, No. 6) Chairman E. Miškinis of the Kratiškiai District was criticized for having buried his devout mother with Catholic rites. The following advice is given in that same issue: "Efforts should be made to convince family members and relatives of the absurdity of religious rites and, if that should prove impossible, categorically to refuse to attend funerals and christenings."
The article "Problems of Atheistic Work" writes that the Simnas Agricultural Communist Youth Organization complains that "individual members participate in religious rites, and celebrate Christmas and Easter. They must be required to carry out conscientiously the statutes of the Lithuanian Communist Youth League.
Wisdom should dictate that the Communist Youth Organization accept only atheists into its ranks. At present, not only in Simnas but throughout Lithuania, efforts are made to enroll all religious young people into the Communist Youth Organization, and later they are forced "conscientiously to carry out the statutes of the Communist Youth Organization"; that is, act against their conscience. Thus, young people are taught to be hypocrites and all moral foundations are weakened.
Noreika is pleased that "atheistic work among school-age children has greatly improved."
The essence of atheistic work in the Simnas middle school, as in all Lithuanian schools, amounts to the moral rape of religious school children. The Soviet press has often lamented that, before the war, non-believer children were forced to take religion courses. If that was wrong, why are believing children now being forced not only to learn about atheism but also to act against their conscience. Teacher Meškelevičius of the Simnas middle school gives failing grades to religious children who refuse to do the atheistic assignments he gives. How can all of this be reconciled with respect for the rights of believing children and their parents? Can this injury to the children be called discipline and considered good?
Simnas, August 7, 1975 Father S. Tamkevičius
To: Soviet Commissioner for Religious Affairs From: Father A. Ylius, Pastor of Šiupyliai
At the end of July or the beginning of August 1946, I was tried under paragraph 58, section 10, line 1A, USSR Criminal Code, for organizing an attempt to restore freedom, independence and a democratic republic to Lithuania. The interrogation lasted nearly ten months. In the records of the interrogation, as far as I remember, evidence of atrocity was not presented, terrorist or criminal acts were not proven and there was no evidence regarding weapons. At the time of my arrest, there were no weapons, no ammunition in my apartment.
Who gave S. Laurinaitis, a history student, the right to slander me publicly in the press (Komjaunimo Tiesa — The Truth of the Communist Youth,, May 2, 1975) by accusing me of atrocity and other crimes?
When, on January 30, 1961, I was deprived of my registration certificate as a minister of cult, I went to the Commissioner for Religious Affairs Rugienis to ask why this was done.
"You have committed atrocities," said Rugienis.
"Please prove what atrocity I committed while pastor of Leščiai from 1956 to 1961."
Instead of proof, Rugienis took the magazine Tiesos Kelias (The Way of Truth) from his desk drawer and showed me the obituary
I had written on the late Father Štombergis, pastor of Saločiai, and he told me to read it.
"Would you please see when that article was written," I suggested to the Commissioner.
The article was written in 1939. In other words, by writing the article, I committed an atrocity against the Soviet government, which did not yet exist in Lithuania at that time. My worst crime in Leščiai was to repair and repaint the church and revive the stagnating Leščiai parish.
What kind of history student is Laurinaitis if he does not know whether he is distorting historical facts? Father Lelešius was never a member of the Marian order.
When dealing with the decline of monasteries in Lithuania, Laurinaitis should not have relied solely on the statements of J. Anyčas, but on objective sources. I personally clearly remember how, in 1940, on the order of Maurukas, chief of the Marijampolė District, the Marian monastery in Marijampolė was evacuated. The article "The Truth About Monasteries" (Komjaunimo Tiesa — The Truth of the Communist Youth, May 2, 1975) is a pure falsification of historical facts for anti-religious propaganda purposes. Aren't atheists ashamed to use such forgery? Does this conform with moral standards? History will not forget such forgers.
Šiupyliai Father A. Ylius
Pastor of the Šiupyliai church
(The statement has been shortened. — Ed. note in the original Lithuanian text.)