To: The Esteemed Mrs. Coretta King
Sincere Christian thanks to you who, continuing the work of your honorable husband, that great champion of human rights, Martin Luther King, Jr., support Father Alfonsas Svarinskas, a son of our Christian homeland, who is wearing the shackles of imprisonment for that same sacred cause of human rights. By way of thanking you, we are resolved to support you with our prayers. We ask Almighty God to bless you, your family and the cause you defend.
The Faithful of Lithuania
We Thank Him for His Sacrifice
On October 17,1987, after serving a three-year sentence in the prison of Novoorlovsk (Region of Chita), Father Jonas-Kąstytis Matulionis returned to Lithuania.
Father Matulionis was arrested November 9, for visiting the cemetery in procession, together with the faithful, on the eve of All Souls' and praying there in public. On June 18, 1985 (under amnesty), he was released from Anachovo Camp (Region of Smolensk). On June 26, two KGB agents presented themselves at the apartment of Father Matulionis, and saying that they would like to talk, took the priest out. It later became clear that Father Matulionis had been re-arrested and without benefit of trial, taken to the Novoorlovsk Camp to finish his sentence.
They took Father Matulionis away from Vilnius July 4, by prison transport. Smol Voronezh, Chelyabinsk, Irkutsk and Chita prisons followed, until on the moring of September 8, he was brought to No 1986, the Commissioner for Political Affairs suggested that Father Matulionis write a petition for early release. Father Matulionis refused to write.
On December 10,1986, an administrative commission demanded that he acknowledge his guilt. The priest categorically refused, and as a result, the persecution and ridicule by camp staff and even prisoners escalated. The amnesty proclaimed June 18, 1987, began to be implemented at the Novoorlovsk Camp at the end of August.
On September 2, Father Matulionis was summoned before an administrative commission consisting of: Camp Director Badmazhapov, his Assistant for Political Affairs Fedor, and Special Section Chief Shevchenko. Camp Director Badmazhapov asked whether the prisoner admitted his guilt and whether he admitted that the court sentenced him justly. Father Matulionis stated that he did not consider himself guilty; by the same token, it was the court which acted unjustly.
That same evening, one of the prison staff conveyed to him the political chiefs "instruction" to speak differently to the procurator; he a made statement to the camp director, in which he writing, that he did not admit any guilt and did not intend to reform. In the statement, he explained, with arguments, that he does not believe in the decisions of administrative commissions or their power, since by decision of the administrative committee of June 1985, which consisted of more than fifteen persons, among them the procurator, he was released from Anachovo Camp, but on June 26, he was again apprehended and against the law — without trial — he was brought to Novoorlovsk.
In order that events not repeat themselves and, with a month of the sentence remaining, to avoid being brought by exhausting prison transport to finish serving his sentence, Father Matulionis refused the amnesty, especially since the aforesaid "amnesty" requires those released to admit guilt. He asked to remain in camp until the end of his sentence.
On September 25, a meeting of the administrative commission took place with the procurator participating. To the surprise of the camp administration, Father Matulionis again did not acknowledge any guilt, but presented the procurator with a copy of the aforesaid declaration. It is unique for a prisoner to refuse amnesty, said the camp staff. The procurator took the file of Father Matulionis, with the notation "for review", to Chita.
On October 14, another session of the administrative committee took place. Father Matulionis was not invited to it. In the evening, he was informed that the procurator had signed the amnesty. On October 15, Father Matulionis was released.
The morning of October 17, Father Matulionis, thanking the Lord for the path assigned to him, offered Mass in the Chapel of the Gates of Dawn.
On the evening of October 23, the people of Kybartai met Father Matulionis at the railroad station in Kybartai. Over one hundred people gathered to meet the returning priest-prisoner, including many children and quite a few teenagers. From the railroad station, the faithful escorted the priest to church. Father Matulionis fell to his knees before the main doors of the church and prayed for a while in silence, while those who had accompanied the priest to the churchyard sang Marija, Marija. Father Matulionis thanked everyone for their prayers and blessed them. KGB officers and militia did not interfere in the reunion directly; they kept their distance.
On Sunday, October 25, the people of Kybartai and faithful -- mostly youth — from various corners of Lithuania: Kėdainiai, Zarasai, Vilkaviškis Kaunas, Vilnius, Garliava, Šeštokai, Marijampolė and elsewhere, greeted Father Matulionis in church. All of them thanked him for his sacrifice, the example of loyalty to Church and country which he had given, and apologized for those fellow countrymen who, out of fear or the desire for advancement, had been afraid to defend him and others innocently sentenced, by their signature or word.
Father Matulionis recalled the priests still in prison, Fathers Sigitas Tamkevičius and Alfonsas Svarinskas, and all those persecuted for the truth. He sincerely thanked them for their prayers and letters which used to reach him in the far-away camp in Transbaikal. He thanked everyone: those in the homeland and those living abroad — U.S. Congressmen who have concerned themselves and do concern themselves with the fate of those under sentence.
Finishing his brief talk, Father Matulionis promised that in prayer, and the sacrifice of the Mass, he would continue to remember those who in one way or another help and support those innocently imprisoned.