THE ARCHDIOCESE OF VILNIUS
On September 5, 1972, the faithful of the parish in Ceikiniai, which is in Ignalina Rayon, sent to Leonid Brezhnev, the General-Secretary of the Central Committee of the CPSU, the following petition:
"It is very regrettable that we must appeal as high as to Moscow for such a trifle as the repair of a church storehouse. This trifle reminds us of a whole series of other painful matters which we would like to forget.
"Near the churchyard in Ceikiniai stand a decrepit parochial woodshed and a dilapidated storehouse. In their place we would like to build one orderly storehouse. We requested a repair permit in the beginning of 1971. After many trips and appeals, Vaitonis, the vice-chairman of the rayon Executive Committee, stated on May 27, 1971, that if we wanted to obtain a repair permit for this storehouse, we would have to apply to Vilnius to the commissioner of the Council for Religious Affairs. We went there. The commissioner again referred us back to the rayon office. And there is no end to it—nearly two years have now passed. We made numerous trips ourselves, desiring to obtain a permit for these alterations, and rayon officials visited us a number of times. The vice-chairman of therayon Executive Committee came to see us with an interrogator, also the chief of the financial department, the police, the rayon architect (as many as four times), and, on several occasions, the locality's chairman and the secretary of the Party ... The documents concerning the materials purchased for the repairs were inspected as many as three times —as if they were capable of multiplying themselves.
"On June 30, 1971, we wrote to the Council of Ministers of the LSSR. Finally, on August 30, 1971, the rayonExecutive Committee gave us permission to repair this building. One noted builder from the rayon advised us to buy a house from people who had to move from their farmstead because of land-reclamation work and transport it here to be used as the storehouse. We did not want to ruin the timber, so we began to construct a storehouse that was 80 cm. wider but considerably shorter. In addition, we shifted the storehouse one meter away from the churchyard toward the garden.
"For this reason, on July 21 of this year the rayon authorities ordered us to tear down the structure we had begun to build. Even our appeal to the commissioner of the Council for Religious Affairs was to no avail. We were accused of building illegally.
"In a rural area at some distance from the road, is it really that important whether this structure will be 80 cm. wider or narrower? Apparently the cause is not to be found here. The people have a saying: 'He who wants to strike will find a cane.' In this case the violation of building regulations is merely a pretext. On June 30, 1972, the Executive Committee of our religious community was summoned to the rayon office. There the commissioner of the Council for Religious Affairs told us: 'Banish the children from the altar so they wouldn't assist at mass, so they wouldn't scatter flowers in processions; see to it that priests who come from elsewhere would not assist in the church—then we'll allow you to repair the storehouse.'
"But does the Mass really have any connection with the repair of a storehouse?
"In 1965 the rayon administration pulled down a cross in Ceikiniai that was dear to us, arguing that it supposedly interferred with traffic. Now shrubbery grows and an electric power line pole stands in place of the cross.
"On December 2, 1966, we were fined 59.76 rubles for 'violating' the environmental protection laws by chopping down in our cemetery some rotten birch trees, which were threatening to fall over and smash some grave markers. Are rotten birch trees also included among the objects under protection? If so, why do the responsible agencies let them fall over and rot completely? Where is the logic? The reason is clear: we are believers.
"We have written many times in regard to similar wrongs.
"On May 10, 1964, and on March 16, 1965, we wrote to the commissioner of the Council for Religious Affairs.
"On December 19, 1966, and on April 16, 1967, we wrote to the chairman of the Council of Ministers of the LSSR.
"On March 25, 1968, we asked the commissioner of the Council for Religious Affairs to indicate which laws or decrees prohibit children from serving mass. He has not indicated any as yet.
"On March 3, 1969, we wrote to the Ministry of Public Education.
"On May 30, 1971, on December 9, 1971, and on June 20, 1972, we wrote to the commissioner of the Council for Religious Affairs.
"On June 30, 1971, and on July 27, 1972, we wrote to the Council of Ministers of the LSSR.
"We also appealed many times to the rayon administration.
"On June 24, 1968, the commissioner of the Council for Religious Affairs called in the parochial committee and told them not to write any more petitions. But he who feels pain complains.
"On June 30, 1971, we enumerated the following troubles of ours to the Council of Ministers of the LSSR:
"1. Since 1940 not once has the sacrament of Confirmation been administered in our church, that was why we requested that Bishop Steponavičius be permitted to come to Ceikiniai at least once to administer the rite of Confirmation.
"2. For a long time the rayon administration did not allow us to install electricity in our church. In 1965, the vice-chairman of the rayon Executive Committee said: 'Six old ladies will light up the place with candles, and you won't need electricity.' And last year, the rayon administration cut off the three-phase electric current so that it would not power the organ, supposedly because electricity had to be conserved. But we use so little in the church—in 1970 the total was only 457 kw.
"3. Collective volunteer help is often organized in our country: the volunteers come from the city, other villages, even from other Republics. But we are forbidden to call even neighboring priests to our assistance. When on March 14, 1965, we appealed to the commissioner of the Council for Religious Affairs regarding this matter, he rebuked us angrily: 'You're men, and yet you concern yourselves with church affairs! Aren't you ashamed of yourselves?'
"On June 8, 1966, before the Feast of St. Anthony, [Mrs.] Gudukienė, the chairman of the rayon Executive Committee, who did not even accept our petition, treated us similarly.
"4. On May 7,1967, Jadzevičius, the head of the rayon education department, arrived and called our pastor out of the church, interfering with the services, and questioning him as to why the priest from Švenčionys was assisting here without permission.
"5. In 1966 [Mrs.] Šiaudinienė, a teacher at the Ceikiniai school, punished Martinkėnas, a sixth-class student, by ordering him to wash the classroom floor for a whole month because he would park his bicycle near the churchyard.
"6. On December 9, 1968, P. Juršėnas, a student at the Ceikiniai school who had died in an accident, was buried in Ceikiniai with religious burial rites. The funeral took place after classes, yet the students were purposely not allowed to leave the school. Even his classmates could not accompany the deceased to the cemetery in a funeral procession.
"7. On April 16, 1964, the head of the Ignalina Education Department together with other individuals called B. Laugalis, a student at the secondary school in Ignalina, out of class and threatened him because he was living with the priest of Ceikiniai; they promised to give him a poor character reference: 'You won't get into any schools'; they threatened to expel him from school and ordered him to sign a statement against the priest, saying: 'We'll take care of him.' Scarcely had he turned sixteen, when the Ignalina police took away his birth certificate and fined our pastor because the student was living with him without registering and without a passport. But how could he have obtained a passport if the police had not returned his birth certificate?
"Similar things also happen to other students if they attend church and do not join the Young Communist League. In 1971 a Ceikiniai resident, an eleventh-class student at the secondary school in Ignalina stated the following when pressured to join the League: 'We are free to either join or not join the Young Communist League. Besides, I don't see any good examples in the Young Communist League. League members Ručenko and Dervinis are even sitting in jail for their activities. That's why I won't join.' On another occasion the secretary of the League, Suminas, shut the same youth in a room and stamping his foot angrily on the floor demanded that he 'obey his elders.'
"8. On the evening of April 5, 1971, while driving the pastor of Daugėliškis an Ignalina taxi also carried several students from Ignalina Secondary School No. 1. This was noticed by Jadzevičius, the head of the education department. It seemed to him a 'great crime' that the children were travelling together with a priest. Immediately he threw everybody into an uproar. He forced the children to write 'explanations' at the school. That was not enough. So that he would be able to acuse the priest, after reading those papers the principal himself ordered the students to 'correct' them by writing in untrue facts; namely, he told the students to write that they had returned home after 10 p.m., although in fact they had returned at about 9 p.m.
"9. At the end of May, 1971, in Ceikiniai, while the teacher [Mrs.] Daukšienė dictated, [Miss] Rakštelytė, a fourth-class student, wrote down a 'declaration' stating that the pastor of Ceikiniai was preparing children for their First Communion. Then the teacher frightened some little children (R. Miklaševičius, Z. Maskoliūnas) into copying that note and signing it. The parents of the students went to the school and demanded: 'We must know what our children are being forced to write.' No one even showed the parents those papers.
"10. On May 31, 1971, we drove to Vilnius to see the commissioner of the Council for Religious Affairs and asked him to refer the matter of the storehouse to the rayon architects for a decision. Unfortunately, we gained nothing by this. We are amazed that nonspecialists interfere in and direct the work of highly-skilled specialists. It would appear that vice-chairmen of rayon executive committees and commissioners of the Council for Religious Affairs are electrical engineers, architects, artists, and finally, the chief sacristans who administer all matters connected with the church and pressure the faithful.
"11. When we started to repair the church's leaking roof, a rayon representative arrived on June 22, 1971, and began questioning us whether we have a permit and where we were able to buy the materials. He badgered the workers, interfering with their work. One volunteer was even made to stop working because... his wife was a teacher.
"12. The Feast of St. Peter is one of the most important of our religious feasts, during which a Solemn High Mass is celebrated. This has been approved by all government agencies. On the morning of June 29, 1971, however, the chairman of the Ceikiniai Collective Farm, incensed that the pastor was saying mass in church, began to defame him before the collective-farm workers, calling him a bandit who should be shot or turned over to the secret police, and so on.
" A girl member of the Young Communist League recounted how once the wife of the chairman of the collective farm was collecting signatures for some sort of declaration accusing our pastor. 'All kinds of nonsense was written there,' she candidly explained. 'I didn't sign it. N.N. didn't sign it either.' But, of course, there will always be those who will sign even under untrue things to curry favor with their superiors.
"During 1971 certain students from Ceikiniai who were studying at the secondary school in Ignalina were called out of class even during their lessons regarding such declarations, grilled, and forced to confirm by their signatures such charges directed against the pastor, about which they had not even heard anything.
"These matters, which are set forth in our June 30, 1971, note to the Council of Ministers of the LSSR are recurring in many places.
"Therefore, we request that all these wrongs be abolished.
"As we were writing this petition, on August 11, 1972, rayon authorities informed us through the Ceikiniai Locality office of its written decision of July 21 to demolish the storehouse we had begun to construct. After signing that he had been informed of such a decision, the chairman of our parochial committee added this remark: 'Until a final decision arrives from Vilnius or even Moscow, please do not hurry to execute this decision.'
"On August 14 of this year, we sent another separate memorandum regarding this question to the rayon administration: 'Since this is a disputable question, we are appealing to higher authorities and ask you not to hurry with the execution of your decision until we have received a reply from the higher authorities.'
"On August 24 of this year (while everyone was still asleep), two policemen arrived with eight men at approximately 4:30 a.m. and, with the chairman of the Ceikiniai Collective Farm participating, demolished the structure we had been repairing. They broke and sawed up the timbers and even dug up the entire foundation with some kind of machine. Now the place looks as if there has been a bombardment—one cannot even walk through it. What is the purpose of this senseless destruction of the people's labor and property? Does such action increase the Soviet government's authority in the eyes of the people?
"It seems as if the rayon Executive Committee has been granted supreme authority, and there is no point in appealing to higher levels of government. For instance, when we went to Vilnius to see the commissioner of the Council for Religious Affairs with our complaints on March 14,1965, he referred us to the rayon administration: 'Everything will be taken care of over there.' Afterward, Vaitonis, the vice-chairman of the rayon Executive Committee, told us: 'Well then, did you gain much in Vilnius? I'm not changing my mind.'
"Our petition of 1971 addressed to the Council of Ministers of the LSSR, which was also referred to the rayon Executive Committee, bore no fruit.
"On September 5 of this year, the commissioner of the Council for Religious Affairs informed us: 'Regarding your petition addressed to the Council of Ministers of the LSSR and referred to us, we are informing you that the question of constructing the storehouse must be settled in conformity with the procedure set down by the laws.'
"But does the rayon administration itself observe the laws which guarantee all citizens equal rights and freedom of conscience?
"Therefore we, hundreds of the faithful, are appealing to Moscow.
"We are enclosing three photographs of the buildings under repairs and after demolition.
"A reply may be sent to: Juozas Maldžius, Didžiasalis Village, Post Office of Ceikiniai, Ignalina Rayon, the LSSR."
This petition was signed by 1,709 believers.
Four months after this petition was mailed to Moscow, on December 29, 1972, the vice-chairman of the Ignalina Executive Committee, Vaitonis, summoned J. Maldžius, in whose name the petition of the believers from the parish in Ceikiniai was sent to Moscow. At the Executive Committee's office, four officials of the civil administration questioned the seventy-four-year-old man for over two hours, asking who had written the petition, scolding, and even threatening him with prison. Finally, they said: "Your declaration to Moscow didn't do any good. The church buildings are ours. We only let you use them. Withdraw the children from the altar, and then we'll permit you to repair the storehouse."