Tauragnai lies in an area of forests, lakes, hills and castle ruins in eastern Lithuania along the Tauragnai and Labe Lakes, in the Rayon of Utena.
The last church of Tauragnai was cruciform, with a single tower. Externally, it was simple in appearance, but inside it was ornate, and had five altars. The procession especially was rich and interesting. The history of this church ended July 1, 1944, when German planes set the church and other town buildings afire.
After the fire, the rectory was left, and next to it the parish hall, in which a church was set up. Its over-all length was 21 meters, its width 13 m. and its height 4 m. The building was really small. It could not accomodate the faithful for services. During the principal Mass in the summer the churchyard used to be full.
On feast-days, the local atheists, with the permission of the Rayon of Utena used to disturb services with various songs and music over loudspeakers from the nearby house of culture. The activities of the atheists, encouraged by the government and the press, became obnoxious. They were most unhappy with the presence of a house of prayer in the center of town, visited by large numbers of the faithful, including men and youth. On the evening of April 30, 1967, the parish hall, where the temporary church was housed, was set afire. The cause of the fire was unknown. Government officials said that the reason was that the wiring in the church was defective. However, there were people present at the time of the fire, who called attention to the fuses in the meter. They were working. Moreover, the fire quickly engulfed the entire structure, as though it had been somehow fueled.
Most probably on purpose the fire engines were summoned only after the building had burned down. At the start of the fire, many people gathered quickly to salvage church furnishings, but the pastor was absent and there was no one to organize the efforts. An interesting fact was that one atheist and some of his friends hampered the rescue efforts. In the burning church, an altercation took place. Believers beat the atheist for interfering with the salvaging of the church furnishings and liturgical robes from the burning church. Some valuable things were destroyed: Church vestments, pictures and all the stations of cross.
Shortly after the fire, Rugienis, the deputy of the Council on Religious Affairs, arrived in Tauragnai. He promised the people that they would be allowed to build a new church, and he suggested that temporarily they make use of a chapel in the cemetery. The chapel had been in disuse for many years. When the local committee had confiscated the cemetery from the church, the pastor of the parish had no longer been able to take care of the chapel, and the local authorities did not concern themselves about it. Hence its stone walls had cracks large enough for birds to get through the openings. Its length was 6 meters, its width, 3.5 meters, and its height, 3 meters. The Blessed Sacrament was taken to this chapel and reposed in a wooden box. An altar was improvised and services took place in the chapel.
Immediately after the fire, the pastor. Canon Misevičius, wrote to the diocesan chancery that on account of old age, he was unable to concern himself with the construction of a new church and asked to be transferred elsewhere. For a time, Deputy Rugienis did not allow the diocesan chancery to transfer the pastor of Tauragnai or to appoint one who could direct the construction of a new church.
An engineer-architect in Tauragnai promised to draw up blueprints for the new church. When the blueprints were finished., they were submitted to Deputy Rugienis. His response was,— "There can be no talk ot building a large church. You may build only an addition to the cemetery chapel, no larger than one hundred meters square."
The men of the Tauragnai parish council journeyed regularly to Vilnius, visiting various offices. They presented five petitions: To the Administration for Museums and the Preservation of Cultural monuments, to the State Committee for Construction, the Utena Rayon Division of the militia, to the Insurance Inspectors of the Rayon of Utena, and to the Committee of the District of Tauragnai.
Finally, in the beginning of September, a new pastor, Father Inkratas, was appointed to Tauragnai.
In the parish rumors spread that the church had been burned down by atheists, and that now they were interfering with the construction of the new church.
When the new pastor arrived, the militia of the Rayon of Utena warned him to stop looking for culprits in the Tauragnai church fire.
The new pastor of Tauragnai and the chairman of the parish council, Mackevičius, visited Deputy Rugienis. The latter forbade the pastor to concern himself with the construction of the church or to collect donations for that purpose, since this was solely the affair of the parishioners.
A few men began to fashion beams for a storage shed which they were planning to erect in a corner of the cemetery. The following day, rayon authorities through the local authorities forbade construction of the storage shed.
At the end of September, Chairman Mackevičius of the parish council submitted to Rugienis a third plan for an addition to the cemetery chapel, since the first two plans had been rejected. Rugienis promised to approve the third plan once it was drawn up in proper fashion. When the engineer-architect had completed the plans, the leaders of the Rayon of Utena began to object to the construction in the cemetery.
In the middle of October the first communique from Rugienis was received, in which he blamed the parish council for going unnecessarily to the State Committee for Construction. Further the deputy stated that the plans submitted for approval were incomplete, that it would be necessary to supply complete technical data.
At the beginning of October a petition was submitted to the electric networks to supply the cemetery chapel with electricity. At the end of the month, the electricians connected temporary lines to the cemetery, but the local committee would not allow the lines to be connected to the chapel. The pastor spoke about the connection of electricity to the chapel with Vice Chairman Labanauskas of the Rayon Executive Committee. The latter promised not to interfere with electricians. At the end of November the pastor for the nth time went to Utena to engage the electricians, but they excused themselves, saying that they had no time. In the middle of December the electricians from Utena submitted the plans for the electrification of the chapel, but they did not begin work, saying that they had no poles.
Even though Vice Chairman Labanauskas of the Executive Committee had promised the pastor not to interfere with the electricians; nevertheless, the entire time, the electricians were forbidden to go to Tauragnai.
In the beginning of March of 1968, the electricians erected the poles in the cemetery. Then the demand was made, "We will connect electricity to the chapel only on condition that the parishioners pay all expenses for lighting the cemetery." Finally, after six months had passed, the petition was granted to connect electricity to the chapel.
In the beginning of February the Deputy promised Mackevičius to approve the plans for the addition to the chapel. The people went to work to clear the ground for the construction of the annex to the chapel. Several scores of men met and some old headstones in the cemetery were removed.
On May 31, the pastor and Chairman Mackevičius of the parish council were summoned to the offices of the Tauragnai District. There Vice Chairman Labanauskas of the Executive Committee harshly scolded them, saying that they were damaging the cemetery. He pretended to have forgotten that in March he himself had advised them to clear a place for the construction by removing from the site a few tombstones. The vice chairman threatened to bring the matter to court. Labanauskas told them to forget about building in the cemetery, and advised them to find a house in town and to request permission of the rayon to locate the church in this house. Immediately therayon officials summoned the parish council of Tauragnai and indicated to them which house could be bought, instructing them to go immediately to discuss the matter with Rugienis.
When the men from the parish council visited the Deputy, he promised to allow them to erect an extension to the chapel in the cemetery.
On September 10, the parish council of Tauragnai was summoned to Utena. There they were received by Deputy Rugienis and Labanauskas. Afterwards, they all came to Tauragnai. Here they were told what house they would be able to purchase and given permission to set up the church there.
The house was very inconveniently located, about 3 km. from the cemetery. There were very few believers in that neighborhood, since 3 km away was the boundary of the Parish of Daunoriai.
A consultation of the parish council took place. Everyone was annoyed at the arbitrariness of the government, its dishonesty and with the new proposal. Some men went to talk with the father of the owner of the above-mentioned house. The owner was a teacher somewhere. The father relayed the daughter's price — 10,000 rubles. This was just one more instance in which atheists ridiculed believers: The house was worth 3,000 rubles.
Not only were the faithful disappointed, but the members of the parish council saw that they are powerless to overcome the obstacles posed by the government. Mackevičius announced that he was resigning as chairman of the parish council.
A new chairman, Musteikis, was elected. Everyone understood that the government was purposely presenting all kinds of difficulties, and that it would really not allow the church to be erected. Preparations were made to pass another winter in the chapel.
On September 18, the Chairman of the Council of Ministers was sent a request to allow construction of the church of Tauragnai on the site of the old church which had been destroyed. The petition carried over 1300 signatures.
The new chairman of the parish council visited Vilnius many times and went to various agencies. One time Deputy Rugienis reprimanded the chairman and ordered him not to seek permission to build a church. He was very annoyed about the new request by the people of Tauragnai, carrying the signatures of many faithful.
On January 10, several scores of the inhabitants of Tauragnai went to Vilnius and demanded permission to erect a church. That large group of men and women went from Deputy Rugienis to the offices of the Supreme Soviet. This action on the part of these brave people gave the effort new momentum. The officials began to speak politely, since they feared similar delegations of people would be repeated to various agencies.
Exactly a month later Vice Chairman Labanauskas of the Executive Committee summoned the parish council of Tauragnai and announced that Musteikis was being removed from duties as council chairman. Once more the chairman would have to be Mackevičius. The Vice Chairman rebuked them for their group visit to Vilnius and threatened them with a criminal court case.
Someone suggested that the people of Tauragnai could purchase a suitable house in some village and move it to Tauragnai after having conferred with the rayon authorities.
A large old house was found in the Village of Priepala. It was necessary to purchase it and to move it. Repeated overtures were made to the insurance inspectors to have the insurance for the burned-down church paid to the parish of Tauragnai. Funds were needed to purchase the house and for other construction outlays. However, the Insurance Inspector's Office of the Rayon of Utena remained silent. A petition was written to the Ministry of Finance concerning the payment of the insurance, which the Finance Division of Utena could not pay the church without informing the ministry. The Ministry of Finance said in writing that it was the business of the rayon administration. In a meeting of the rayon administration it was decided that the 5,540 rubles insurance for the burned down church had to be used for road construction. Thus ended the lengthy negotiations over payment of the insurance. Once again the Communists showed that they are not only heedless of believers, but even of their own laws! Atheism is above everything!
It was necessary to pay 2000 rubles for the house (17 m.x6.17 m.) in the Village of Priepala.
On April 7, the rayon administration set aside Lot No. 20 next to the Tauragnai cemetery for the house-church. Various obstacles were still posed. Only after six weeks were the documents received from the architect, because it was necessary to get signatures from five agencies, which constantly procrastinated, in an effort to please the rayon government.
A tractor was hired to level the plot for the house. The tractor had not finished its work when an order was received forbidding the use of communal farm equipment and it became necessary to do the leveling with shovels.
The atheists of Tauragnai asked the rayon administration to come and inspect the new construction.
Once again there was a great problem about transportation for the stones and the dismantled house. However, late at night occasional trucks brought the stones. In the early days of June, the pouring of the foundation began. Two laborers brought a electric cement mixer, but the informers were at work. They reported it to the rayon. A militiaman arrived and threatened jail for "stealing" the cement mixer. The mixer in question had been lying unused near a pig-farm.
As the work of pouring the foundation of the church neared the end, a dozen or so men were involved. Word was received that a complaint had been sent to the rayon that many workers were employed in the construction. Labanauskas came and found on the site a carpenter with two old men helping him. He strictly forbade the taking on of any workers for the project. If communal farm workers wanted to help they could work only Sundays. But on Sundays no one worked on the project.
An architect had been assigned to oversee the construction, but he did not show up even once. The rayon government forbade him. All the measurements had to be made by the pastor with the foreman. The foreman was seventy years old, assisted by other elderly pensioners. Only on Saturday evenings would younger men and women show up to help.
Several weeks later, a new complaint reached the rayon: young men were working on the project. After that officials came daily to see who was working on the construction of the church. They always found a few old men working, whom it was impossible to reprimand or to fine.
The shingles, the paneling for the walls and the ceiling, and the flooring were obtained from Riga. As construction of the church was being completed, vacationing students showed up from somewhere. They offered to decorate the church. When their services were not accepted, the artists left discontented. That same day four candelabra were stolen from the cemetery chapel. This was the vengeful work of the rejected artists, for they were the only ones loitering about the cemetery that day.
In August, Rugienis' assistant came and ordered the parish books and records of all income and expenses be taken to Utena the next day.
In three months the building was erected to accomodate the church. Private electricians installed the electrical wiring in the church. Journeys began, lasting a month and a half, before permission was obtained to bring in the electric lines and to connect them. It seems that the rayonadministration, atheists, took great pleasure in posing all the obstacles they could think up for the faithful. Especially annoying was the nit-picking of the fire-prevention bureau.
On the eve of the Feast of the Holy Rosary, October 11, the dedication of the church took place. It was carried out by the dean of Utena. About four hundred people gathered for the festival. The faithful were in a great holiday mood, understandable only to those who for two years had put up with the various results of the fire and the repression by the rayon government. In the cemetery chapel, there used to be indescribable misery, since only a few score people could fit in the chapel. It used to be so crowded that one could not move one's arms. Those in the chapel considered themselves fortunate, because they did not have to put up with summer heat or rain outside, or the cold or damp of winter. Throughout those two years or more the people came to services in very great numbers.
On October 12, 1969, the Feast of the Holy Rosary was celebrated in the new church. About 2,500 people poured in. Rayon officials allowed only two priests to be invited. The building was too small; there was no way for all the faithful to be accomodated.
The exterior of the church is indistinguishable from a residence, because the government warned, "It will go badly, and you will regret it, if you try to enlarge the house when you buy it and transfer it to Tauragnai."
Before Christmas the pastor applied to the Executive Committee of Utena for permission to build a rectory in Tauragnai. After a month, the communal farm of Tauragnai decided to assign the pastor a lot for construction of a rectory. In February, the Notary of Utena confirmed plans for the proposed residence and the agreement with the communal farm.
In May a hired excavator dug the basement of the house. Simultaneously, some men were pouring the foundation for a proposed little belfry, for which the rayon had not issued a building permit. When the belfry had been constructed in two days, and the bells had been hung, once again a complaint summoned Laba-nauskas from Utena. He scolded the pastor for unauthorized construction, and the following day sent the militia to ascertain where building materials for the belfry had been obtained. Fortunately, he could not find anything to object to, since most of the beams were charred, and it was obvious that they were remnants of the burned-down church.
The next day, an order was received from the rayon to halt construction of the pastor's house. Later the reason was explained: The house was being built by the parish, and communal farm workers were helping in the work. Such construction is forbidden by Deputy Rugienis.
A few days later, Chairman Triukas of the Tauragnai Communal Farm announced that the lot assigned to the pastor had to be returned to the communal farm, and he would be reimbursed for the foundation which had been poured and the basement, according to expert estimates. At the area soviet a sales contract was drafted, according to which they were supposed to reimburse the pastor, Father Inkratas, costs incurred pouring the foundation and basement, according to official estimates. Here again Soviet officials showed their true face: They paid only a third of the damages.
In connection with the construction of the belfry, a militiaman arrived and interrogated the workers in an effort to find out who had organized its construction. They coerced the pastor to explain where the building materials had been obtained, who had delivered them, and where they had been purchased. But the records were in order. Later it became clear that the rayon had sent a militiaman to find gaps in the records, so that they might confiscate the newly erected church, as had been done in Klaipėda: There they had made a newly erected church into a philharmonic hall, calumniated priests in the press, and put them in prison.
In 1971, the new deputy for religious affairs, Tumėnas, promised to allow the pastor to build himself a home. The government of Utena, through the chairperson of the rayon, announced that the pastor would have a lot assigned to him. When the meeting of the administration of the communal farm agreed to give the pastor a lot, the government of the rayon demanded that the lot be given to the pastor as far as possible from the church.
The pastor, lives in a private home he rents not far from the church (about 1.5 km.).