It is four years since the complaint of 17,000 of Lithuania's faithful echoed around the world. Later, other events demanded the attention of the people of the free world, and the petition of the Catholics of Lithuania was forgotten.
The only ones who did not forget it were the KGB—the State Security Committee. They are still looking for the organizers of the petition, for those who collected signatures for it, and those who signed, in order fittingly to punish them.
At the end of September, 1975, Antanas Guginis, Director of the Kaunas Trade School of the Lithuanian Society for the Blind; Vaclovas Smalakys, Director of the Kaunas Inter-Rayon Building of the Lithuanian Society for the Blind and Teodoras Ignatavičius, Secretary of the Party organization of the Kaunas Trade School of the Lithuanian Society for the Blind, were secretly summoned before the Party Committee of Kaunas.
The executive director of the Party Committee indicated that in the Society for the Blind, there was considerable abuse:—little attention was being paid to the ideological training of the workers, and there was too little action against religion: Orchestra members from the Society for the Blind go to church, playing at funerals in connection with religious services. Smalakys, Director of the Kaunas Inter-Rayon Building of the Lithuanian Society for the Blind, was ordered to put an end to the orchestra members' "offenses". Director Ruginis, of the Kaunas Trade School of the Lithuanian Society for the Blind was told to discharge Juozas Menkevičius, superintendent of the plastics shop, and Pranas Inokaitis, superintend-ant of the brush shop. Both are practicing Catholics, highly respected by the workers.
During the Stalin era, Menkevičius and Inokaitis were both exiled to Siberia. In the days of Lithuanian independence, Inokaitis was an army officer, but now he is completely blind. An official of the Party Committee indicated persons who signed the petition of the 17,000 Catholics: Mrs. J. Bogušienė, Mrs. M. Misevičienė, Mrs. A. Krušinskienė, and others. He said that things must be made uncomfortable for those who had signed.
The Party Committee staff member said that a document received from Moscow indicated that Algimantas Šaltis, Inspector of the Kaunas Inter-Rayon Administration of the Lithuanian Society for the Blind, had signed the petition and had organized the gathering of signatures. He was to be discharged from his position without specifying the real reason.
Director A. Ruginis at the end of October summoned Chief J. Menkevičius, of the plastics shop of the Workshop for the Blind, and demanded that he voluntarily resign from his duties. He stated no reason, but only indicated that it was so ordered from the top.
Menkevičius, not wishing to make trouble, wrote his resignation. On October 28, 1975, the workers, having discovered the incident, wrote the secretary of the Executive Committee of the Communist Party of the City of Kaunas, a petition in which they set forth many of Menkevičius' merits and gifts, and asked that he be allowed to stay on as chief.
Even though two hundred workers signed the petition, it was nevertheless not heeded. The secretary of the Party organization of the combine and all the petty spies had their work cut out for them, to find out who had written the petition, who had gathered signatures, and to see to it that the text of the petition did not "show up where it shouldn't".
They took care of Inokaitis, the chief of the brush shop, somewhat more quietly: At the director's orders, Inokaitis was made a home worker. Ordinarily only those members of the combine work at home, who live far from the shop.
Kostas Bankauskas, Chairman of the Kaunas Inter-Rayon Executive Committee of the Lithuanian Society for the Blind, upon hearing that he would have to discharge Šaltis from work, became upset, saying, "Here's a man who has worked at the job for so long, who knows the job well; and now, out of the blue, I'm suppose to discharge him." However, Bankauskas, (a member of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union) became the most servile errand-boy to the Party.
On October 30, 1975, Chairman M. Poznanskas, of the Executive Committee of the Lithuanian Society for the Blind, arrived from Vilnius, and sternly rebuked Chairman Bankauskas, of the Inter-Rayon Executive Committee of the Lithuanian Society for the Blind, for procrastinating in the matter of Šalčius' discharge.
Poznanskas told Bankauskas to have Šaltis write a statement that very day, to the effect that he was voluntarily leaving his job. That same day, Bankauskas summoned Šalčius and in the presence of Bookkeeper Petronėlė Kaupienė (a spy for the Executive Committee) declared that Šaltis could no longer work on the Executive Committee, and would have to leave his position within twelve days.
Šalčius asked why and on whose orders he was being discharged from his job. When Bankauskas refused to give any explanation, Šalčius asked what criticisms the Superintendent had concerning his work as inspector.
Bankauskas replied that he had no criticism concerning his work.
Šaltis then declared that he would not submit his resignation, nor would he give up his position, because that would be a transgression of every code of rights.
"Well, think it over until Monday. You won't be able to work here any longer, anyway," said Bankauskas.
The news of Šaltis' dischaige from work spread immediately throughout the combine. The blind workers expressed their shock at such injustice.
On November 3, Bankauskas again pressured Šalčius to write a statement that he was resigning voluntarily; otherwise his work card would be marked so that he could find work nowhere. If he resigned, Bankauskas promised to intercede in getting him work at the radio factory.
Šaltis firmly protested that he would not allow himself to become an object of ridicule, in the way that prisoners under fascism were ridiculed: They would throw down a potato and make the prisoner push it along with his nose, snorting all the while. If they wanted to discharge him from his job, let them make an entry in his working papers, saying that he had been discharged on account of his faith.
Bankauskas said that he was being discharged in connection with a cut-back in personnel.
On November 8, Šaltis went to Vilnius to see Chahman Poz-nanskas, of the Executive Committee of the Lithuanian Society for the Blind.
"Chairman, I would like to know why I am being discharged from work? Bankauskas ordered me to submit a written resignation, and to leave my position," said Šaltis
"Don't you even have an inkling why? It would be well for you to recall what occurred during the sociological experiments. (In 1969, a group of students from the Association of the Blind, traveled throughout Lithuania testing the visually impaired. During his free time, Šaltis used to go to chuich to pray, while the others got drunk. A participant in the sociological experiments, the correspondent V. Dubinskas, arrived at the administration and announced the fact that Šaltis goes to church and organizes other to pray.— Editor)
"To go to church on my own time and to pray are personal matters," answered Šaltis.
"I am an atheist and I want everybody else to be one. And you are a believer, therefore . . .", Poznanskas motioned with his arms, "our opinions do not coincide. You are impeding the atheistic work".
"Show me just one instance when I have impeded the atheistic work."
"You impede it by your example. The official ideology of the country is atheism. Presendy, great requirements are set. You are unable to do supervisional work with the public. We attempted to re-educate you but we did not succeed. You must choose a different kind of occupation. When you are no longer in our employ, you will be able to go to church, admire the architecture there, to pray, or do whatever you desire."
"It looks as if a believer must run for the woods or take to the desert, since there is no work which is not collective".
"I am not telling you that you must go into the desert or into the woods. If you wish you may go to the combine and punch out snaps."
(The Soviet government tries to see that believers are employed at the most menial jobs, that there should not be any intellectuals among the believers, so that the government could scoff: "Only the uneducated and the ignorant believe in God."—Editors of the original).
"Since, as a believer, I may not work as an inspector, this means that the faithful are being discriminated against in the Soviet Union."
"Please do not use this overseas propaganda on us," Poznanskas mumbled, not knowing what else to say. Šaltis asked that since his occupation was not in education, why then did they have to discharge him from his position.
"We waited as long as we could. We have our orders. The batde over ideology is being intensified," Poznanskas attempted to defend himself.
"We are not at fault here," the chairman of the Association for the Blind, K. Martusevičius, (a security agent—Editors of the original) agreed with the chairman of personnel. "Our orders are to eat the mess. There is nothing we can do about it."
Poznanskas ended the discussion, by demanding that Šaltis write an explanation as soon as possible, and leave his position.
At the combine, Bankauskas started a rumor that Šaltis was dismissed from work, not because of his religious beliefs, but because he had signed the petition of the 17,000 Catholics; that Šaltis was involved with the underground and that he must be avoided. On November 10, Bankauskas again demanded that Šaltis write a statement and when the latter refused, Bankauskas threatened: "Very well! We wanted to deal with you as with a human being, but since you are unwilling, things will be different. You did not cooperate the easy way, now we will do it the hard way."
Suddenly the mood of Bankauskas and his cohorts changed— everyone became most pleasant, and it seemed that everything would end well. In reality, only the tactics were changed. It was decided to contrive all kinds of pretexts at Šaltis' place of employment—like writing reprimands—in order to have Šaltis dismissed as an unconscientious worker. Presendy, systematic harassment of Šaltis began at his job and on December 10, 1975, the first reprimand, accusing him of "irresponsibility on the job", appeared. This censure was written in secret, without adhering to any judicial norms. The second reprimand Bankauskas wrote on December 17th, accusing Šaltis of "not following orders," even though Šaltis was innocent of these charges. The Supervisor of the Staff at the Association of the Lithuanian Blind, Martusevičius, advised Bankauskas not to issue these reprimands too often, since such pressure would be too noticeable.
The various harassments continued for three months. Šaltis was hampered in the performance of his tasks, scolded and even screamed at for nonexisting transgressions, his bonuses were reduced, his subsidy was not awarded, and gossip was spread that Šaltis was a very inferior worker, even though in seven years of work, he had received only commendations; attempts were made to keep Šaltis from socializing with his fellow combine workers, an impression was given that instead of working, Šaltis was wasting time. In this persecution of Šaltis, Supervisor Bankauskas was most zealously assisted by the bookkeeper (Mrs.) Kaupienė, and Communist Youth members (Miss) Kamorūnaitė and (Miss) Bankauskaitė. The Communist Youth members.fawning on Bankauskas, slandered and made fun of Šaltis.
On February 2nd, Šaltis had a discussion with the staff supervisor of the Association for the Blind, Martusevičius, who let it slip that the directive to discharge Šaltis came from the house to which all must submit. What kind of a house could this be, which wields so much power in the Soviet Union, while at the same time being so timid? All obey its orders, therefore it is powerful;
timid, because it masks itself with the likes of Bankauskas, Martusevičius and others. This house is the KGB.
On March 29th, Bankauskas summoned Šaltis to his office and said:
"All deadlines for your resignation have expired. The final one was March 15th., and now it is March 29th."
"This is the very first time that I have heard of any kind of deadlines!" exclaimed Šaltis with amazement.
"The fact that they do not tell you does not mean that they do not tell me, remarked Bankauskas. "Write your resignation. If not, it will go badly for you, because we will discharge you as an unsatisfactory employee."
On March 30th, the Lithuanian Society for the Blind Central Committee Chairman said to Bankauskas, "You know, if you don't discharge Šaltis, you will be unemployed yourself."
On April 12th, Šaltis was issued a third reprimand "for negligence on the job." After this reprimand, Šaltis wrote that since "It is my belief that this reprimand is a premeditated provocation, a conscious attempt to dismiss me from my job." In reality, Šaltis was completely innocent of the charge that he had misplaced the claim of the invalid (Miss) Balčiūnaitė. This was done by Bankauskas.
After three reprimands, Šaltis was still at his job. But Bankauskas never lost an opportunity to scold and embarass Šaltis. The superior was furious, that he was unable to deal with a subordinate in the manner that the KGB desires—to discharge Šaltis as soon as possible, and while he was still on the job, to isolate and embarass him with his co-workers. By devious means, Bankauskas attempted to foster an impression among fellow-workers at the combine that Šaltis was undutiful and undisciplined. Within earshot of others, Bankauskas would start scolding Šaltis, as if the latter had done something wrong. On May 14, because during the Easter holiday Šaltis failed to appear at work, he was issued a fourth reprimand.
Šaltis' persecution is continuing. His health is rapidly deteriorating.
The persecution of Šaltis began in 1974, when a member of the Lithuanian Society for the Blind, the invalid Krusinskas, reported his lawful wife to Security. On this occasion, the accuser let it be known that Petras Pluira, A. Jaugelis, A. Šaltis and others used to visit them to discuss and gather the 17,000 signatures on the petition. After this betrayal, the Security forces followed Šaltis for a year, and after that ordered the superior of the Lithuanian Society for the Blind to deal with him.
For the second year, an individual is being terrorized, whose only crime is—he is a believer. To break him morally and physically, the KGB organizes a mass of individuals, from presidents of societies down to Communist Youth members, and forces them to maul one another like beasts in the jungle, fighting for their contemptible existence. To all these who are thoughtlessly executing the malicious intentions of the KGB, we wish to cite the words of the wife of Kostas Bankauskas: "Kostai, Kostai, remember that you will not succeed in life persecuting innocent people. Do you understand what you are doing? You are supporting various drunkards and libertines, while persecuting the innocent for their nobility. Remember, God won't bless you. Submit your resignation and leave your job, and then your conscience will be at peace. Aren't you ashamed, you careerist. You are afraid of losing your position . . . ready to do anything out of fear."
Šaltis once attempted to enroll in the Seminary. The rector of the seminary, Viktoras Butkus, discovering that in 1963, Šaltis was tried for teaching religion to school children, told him that he should not even think about entering the seminary. Monsignor Telksnys let it slip that: "In all truth, you should be among the very first to enter, but since the enrollment of seminarians is in the hands of the Deputy for Cult, we are powerless to act in this matter."
The persecution of Šaltis began when he was still a schoolboy. The principal of the Kėdainiai Middle School No I (Mrs.) S. Laurinaitienė, on numerous occasions berated Šaltis in the teachers' room, threatening him with expulsion, and ordering him to write statements that he would not attend church. Algis was criticized in wall newspapers, and discussed at specially convened teachers' meetings. Šaltis was told to write statements as to why he is a believer in God, on the orders of the principal at one of these meetings. Later he was referred to as an ignoramus in the wall newspapers. The principal ordered the other teachers to persecute Šaltis. Many of the teachers failed to adhere to these orders, but there were also fanatics, such as teachers Aleknavičius, Gumbrevičius and Tvarionavičius, who persecuted the student by any means they were able to devise: insults, lowering of grades etc.
Principal (Mrs) S. Laurinaitienė, ordered the parents of Šaltis, not to allow their son to go to church. "Let him erect a large cross in his home like those in the cemetery and pray all he wants, but he must not go to church."
The youth, terrorized by his intimidated father and the principal, left Middle School No. 1 and entered the Kėdainiai Evening School. Šaltis' father intimidated by the security police, threw his son out of his home. For explaining religious truths to students, Šaltis' grades were reduced to a "2" and he was expelled from evening school. The Chronicle of the Catholic Church in Lithuania had previously written about Šaltis' sentence to one year of prison for instructing children in religious beliefs. The court decided to have Šaltis, as an "unreformable criminal" locked up with robbers, murderers and moral perverts, and to destroy the literature (144 books and various manuscripts) which was seized during the searches. Šaltis was tried in the auditorium of Kėdainiai Middle School No. II, into which the pupils were herded, in order to observe the fate which awaited them, if they failed to bow to the atheistic dictatorship. But when the pupils in the auditorium began to show loudly their displeasure at the proceedings, they were quickly escorted out and were not even allowed to remain around the school building.
When he returned from his incarceration at camp, Šaltis worked as a sacristan at the parish of Skaruliai, but not even here did he have peace. Government officials by means of their cohorts continuously slandered Šaltis, and the Deputy for Religious Affairs Rugienis ordered the pastor of the Skaruliai parish to discharge Šaltis from his job as sacristan. This the pastor refused to do. Then, arriving at Jonavė, Rugienis forbade Father Jokūbauskas to perform his priesdy duties, and instructed the president of the Skarulis Parish Council to lock up the church and not to allow either the pastor or the sacristan to enter it. Government officials roamed the villages gathering information on Šaltis' activities, but they were unable to fabricate a new trial.