On September 12, 1981, four young men came to Šiluva from Estonia to pray: Ants Tomson, Tanne Kelam, Tonis Arro and Run-no Vissak.

Pilgrims gather for procession to Šiluva, 1977.


The militia detained them at the church and interrogated them. One of them, student Runno Vissak was expelled from Tartu University merely for going to Šiluva.

On October 25, 1981, 17-year-old Kęstutis Variakojis (from Pane­vėžys), a student of land drainage in trade school, came to Raseiniai intending to go to Šiluva and pray in the church there. Since an an­nouncement was posted in the Raseiniai bus station that buses would not run to Šiluva on Friday, Saturday or Sunday (October 23, 24 and 25), the teenager decided to continue his journey on foot. Militia vehicles closely patrolled the road; he therefore took paths through the woods. When he re-emerged on the main road near Šiluva, a militia vehicle immediately pulled up, several militiamen jumped out and sternly ordered him to get in their vehicle for an "in­vestigation."

Kęstutis asked why he was being detained, but the militiamen retorted angrily, "Get into the car quickly or we'll throw you in and you'll get ten days!"

In Šiluva, they took the teenager to the militia department where uniformed officials and plainclothesmen (chekists) began to inter­rogate him:

Where are you from? When were you born? Where do you live? Why were you going to Šiluva?"

One of the militia officials who searched Variakojis' pockets and confiscated his wallet and rosary continued the interrogation:

"Where did you get the rosary? Where are you studying? Where do your parents live and work?"

An interrogator who arrived some time later charged Variakojis with allegedly resisting the militiamen. (Kęstutis' question about the reason for his detention was considered "resisting".) The interrogator asked why the young man went to church, why to the Šiluva church and not some other? . . When Kęstutis replied that he went to pray for Lithuania, the interrogation was terminated and he was taken to another room where many detainees were already being held. A half hour later they were all taken to Raseiniai. In Raseiniai, the officials summoned Variakojis first and, shoving a sheet of paper under his nose, ordered him to read and sign that he had been informed of the charges against him. After being held at the militia for quite some time, he was taken to Raseiniai Rayon People's Court Judge E. Jaras, After threatening that Kęstutis would be expelled from the trade school and the Communist Youth League, he ordered him to pay a ten-ruble fine because he "resisted" militia employees when he asked why he was being detained. After being held for five hours, Variakojis was released.

At the trade school, Kęstutis was interrogated by the department head and on October 28th he was further interrogated at the militia department, following which he was placed on three months' militia probation.

On October 24, 1981, chekist Norkūnas detained Father Jonas Kauneckas on the road from Varniai to Laukuva. After being taken to the Telšiai Security Police Department, Father Kauneckas was warned that, in view of the programs planned in Šiluva that Saturday and Sunday, he was forbidden to leave Telšiai. The priest claimed he knew nothing about that, was travelling for personal reasons and planned to return to Telšiai that afternoon, and further­more he had much work to do on those days and could not go any­where. Despite this, Father Kauneckas was openly followed every­where.

On those days, agencies were forbidden to authorize the use ol buses even for funerals or anniversary commemorations. School stu­dents and the employees of most agencies were warned not to attempt to go anywhere. Roads to the Rayon of Kelmė were under surveillance, as they had been on August 23rd. The Tytuvėnai-Šiluva-Raseiniai bus routes did not operate "due to road repairs." Kaunas students, native to the area, were forbidden to go home on those days.

On November 6, 1981, Father Jonas Kauneckas wrote the follow­ing complaint to the Prosecutor of the Lithuanian SSR:

"This is to inform you of my arbitrary detention without any cause, without any charges, by State Security employees.

"On October 24, 1981, I was travelling to Šilalė on personal business. Security agent Norkūnas detained me near Laukuva (Rayon of Šilalė) and ordered me out of my car. After being taken to the Telšiai Rayon militia substation, I was released. I was not pre­sented with charges, they did not even ask my name. I was warned not to leave Telšiai on October 24 or 25, although no reason given me . . ."

At around 2:00 A.M. on October 25, 1981, a group of ten young people left Kelmė for Šiluva. They marched with a prayer on their lips and love in their hearts for the Mother of God and their persecuted homeland. They could not take the Kelmė-Tytuvėnai road for militia road-blocks were set up at brief intervals in three places. The youth proceeded across fields along the Dubysa River and reached Lyduvėnai at 7:00 A.M. During their trek, they often had to hide from chekist vehicles. In Lyduvėnai they split into three small groups, the better to avoid the pursuing chekists and militia. A mere 5 km. (3 miles) from Šiluva, the group, which included former prisoner of conscience Ona Vitkauskaitė, Regina Teresiūtė from Kelmė, Kaunas resident Bena Mališkaitė and Arvydas Juška from Vilkaviškis, was stopped by officials who jumped from a vehicle. The "keepers of the peace" wanted to know first of all where those ap­prehended were going and, having learned that they were going to Šiluva, immediately radioed for a van which brought six officials who placed the detainees in the van and took them for "identity verification". When questioned where she lived and worked, Onutė Vitkauskaitė replied that she had just returned from the Panevėžys forced labor camp and was in the process of getting her papers in order. At the labor camp she had been told for one and a half years that the Faith is not persecuted in Lithuania, that believers can pray freely, but barely had she left when she was prevented from thanking Our Lady of Šiluva: another example of religious persecution.

After interrogating them all, the officials launched a particularly vehement attack against Arvydas Juška, a minor. After the usual in­sults they drove the young people to some woods about 50 km. (30 miles) away and released them. The young people had to wander about on foot since buses did not travel along the narrow road through the forest. A similar fate awaited the second group as well: they were all arrested and taken to Raseiniai for "identity verification" . . . Only the third group, like partisans during the war, managed through woods and meadows, hiding from the fierce glances of the chekists, to reach Šiluva which, glimpsed from a hill, was red with militia uniform caps.

On October 24, 1981, thirteen believers from the Molėtai parish went to Raseiniai intending to proceed from there to Šiluva. At the bus station, according to orders as the clerk explained, no tickets were sold and no buses ran to Šiluva. Having come such a distance, the people from Molėtai decided to walk the remaining 20 km. (12 miles) to Šiluva. They had gone but 8 km. (5 miles) when militiamen pulled up to them in a bus and a passenger car blocked their way. Three militiamen got out and began to interrogate the people from Molėtai:

"Where are you going? Where are you from? Let's see your papers!"

The people replied that they did not carry their papers with them and furthermore they had committed no offense. So why were they being detained?

"You're going to rob the pastor, and it is our duty to protect him," responded the militiamen, "and if you proceed any further, we'll put you all in the bus."

The children who accompanied their mothers became frightened and began to cry. Everyone had to return because the militia had strength on its side. Upon returning to Molėtai, they all wrote a letter of protest to Secretary Griškevičius of the Lithuanian Communist Party, asking that those who persecuted the faithful — militiamen — be ordered to refrain.

On October 25, 1981, Albinas Chščenavičius, his wife Danutė, their daughter Odeta, son Gintaras and their son's friend Rimantas Jasinskas proceeded from the Town of Pagiriai (Rayon of Kėdainiai) to Šiaulėnai through Šiluva. They wanted to place flowers and pray at family graves in Šiluva. Not far from Šiluva, they were stopped by militia officials who checked their documents and car trunk and told them they could not continue any further by car. Šiluva was only 5 km. (3 miles) away, they therefore decided to walk. Mr. and Mrs. Chščenavičius walked first with their daughter, and several dozen feet behind them walked their tenth-grader son Gintaras and Riman­tas Jasinskas, who had graduated from middle school the year before, and worked in Pagiriai as a driver. The two militia officials standing near the woods allowed the first three to pass, but stopped Gintaras and Rimantas and asked where they were going. At the same time a Volga pulled up to them and, without any explanation, militiamen grabbed Gintaras and Rimantas and pushed them roughly into the car. Seeing this, Gintaras' parents raised their hands in an attempt to stop the vehicle and asked where the young people were being taken. The driver slowed down, but when the parents approached the vehicle to ask where the children were being taken, he suddenly ac­celerated and knocked them into the dirt. They got up and had barely washed at the pond near the road when a van full of militiamen pulled up to them and they were informed that they were all under arrest.

At the Šiluva militia, Gintaras and Rimantas were inter­rogated by a woman who did not venture to give her name. Rimantas Jasinskas stutters and in school he had been excused from oral answers and exams. The terrified youth began to stutter and could not answer the interrogator's questions. She then summoned militiamen, one of whom kicked Rimantas in the chest and hit him on the back. The youth lost consciousness and fell off his chair. Later, when she learned that Rimantas could not talk, the interrogator ordered him to write his first and last name, when he left home, who incited him to take the trip.

The three arrested members of the Chščenavičius family were also taken to the Šiluva Militia. They were interrogated by a woman who, even when asked, did not give her name or rank. The chekist asked the mother and daughter whether they were believers, why they were going to Šiluva, bemoaned the fact that the believing mother was handing her beliefs down to her daughter and was corrupting her. She then ordered them to write an explanation to Chief of Militia Kolelkov.

From Šiluva they took them to Raseiniai and wrote up false reports alleging that Albinas Chščenavičius and his wife Danutė, by stopping a militia vehicle had caused a potential accident. They were ordered to sign, and when they refused, they were both taken to court where the judge, without identifying himself, fined Danutė Chščenavičienė thirty rubles for alleged hooliganism, and her husband Albinas Chščenavičius to a week in prison.