I entered the Kaunas diocesan seminary still during the times of Khrushchev, in 1955. Probably, I was lucky since no one tried to recruit me to be a spy, no one threatened me with anything for which I could have been expelled from the seminary if I did not do. In the third year of my studies, I was called to serve in the army and upon returning encountered a different situation: both the administration of the seminary itself and its spirit had changed. The former rector of the seminary Kazimieras Žitkus (Vincas Stonis) was replaced by Rev. Alfonsas Lapė. I was unpleasantly surprised by some seminarians who agitated for eliminating prayer. When in the summer of 1961 I was called to the Lazdijai district passport division, from which I was delivered to the KGB department where the officer Jonas insistently urged me to "be a friend," I understood who had mixed up the seminary's spirit. Although the bloody period of Stalin was fading, ever denser clouds were gathering over the Homeland and the Church. The 'always correct and never misleading' communist party was planning 'a bright future' for us, which nationalism and religion could hinder. The Council for Religious Affairs diligently implemented the party's program - to destroy religious belief. Not only were the activities of the seminary restricted, but attempts were made to isolate the priests in their parish houses behind a barbed wire of laws and instructions. Punishments ranging from a ban to carry out the duties of a priest to imprisonment threatened those who did not obey them. There was a lack of necessary articles for believers: catechisms, prayer books, and even rosary beads. Under such circumstances one had to decide whom to obey: God or a man? The first opposition steps that led to the origin of the Kronika were made at this time.

Like-minded priests from time to time met to discuss current events and questions concerning priest affairs. The vague future was one of the greatest problems: scores of priests passed away every year, while the seminary admitted only five students each year, leaving other candidates behind the seminary's gates. The plan of the Soviet authorities was clear: to reduce the number of priests to a minimum as quickly as possible, to lock up those working in their parish houses, and make some of the priests their agents. In this way, the Church will be fatally injured - after losing its pastors, it will lie still in agony.

 What to Do?

This question made everyone who cared for Church affairs feel uneasy. In 1968 while discussing Church problems, the idea arose to demand the abolishment of the limit on the number of students admitted to the seminary and to try to notify the free world about the persecution of the Church.


I learned about The Chronicle of the Catholic Church in Lithuania in the first year of its issuance. Encouraged by Rev. Jonas Lauriūnas SJ, I began to write news items for the Kronika in 1973. Usually, they concerned university life. Afterwards, asked by Lauriūnas, I began to translate into Lithuanian news items received from Russia and Ukraine.

  While working at the Institute of Physics of the Lithuanian Academy of Science and being a post-graduate student preparing a dissertation, from 1973 I began to study at the underground seminary for priests. I had to pass examinations given by Lauriūnas and the Jesuit Provincial superior Jonas Danyla. They would also sent me to Rev. Vaclovas Aliulis MIC and the Marian Provincial superior Pranciškus Račiūnas probably with the intention that they would be better acquainted with the candidates seeking priesthood in the underground seminary.

In August 1982 I was ordained a priest and in November of the same year I traveled to Ukraine hoping to be employed there as a priest (as another graduate of the underground seminary Vytautas Merkys SJ had done). Unfortunately, after a month the local KGB ordered me to leave Ukraine within 24 hours.

I came back to Lithuania at the beginning of January 1983. Soon afterwards the repressions against the members of the TTGKK and the publishers of the Kronika began. On 26 January 1983 Alfonsas Svarinskas was arrested and in May - Sigitas Tamkevičius. I had been keeping close ties with Tamkevičius since my ordination as a priest. He had asked Bishop Julijonas Steponavičius to ordain me in the small church of Skaistgiris, to which he accompanied me along with Rev. Leonardas Jagminas SJ. They were the only witnesses to my ordination. After returning from Ukraine, I would often visit him and help him in priestly work.

During the trial of Svarinskas to which he had to travel, Tamkevičius invited me to stand as his replacement in the parish. Before departing to the courtroom, he took a sheet of paper and a pen (which usually helpedus 'to talk' so that the 'listening walls' would not hear us) and wrote: "If necessary, take care of the Kronika.'" 

(The Chronicle of the Catholic Church in Lithuania)


    After the signing of the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact by the USSR and Germany on 23 August 1939, Lithuania was assigned to the Soviet sphere of influence and was occupied on 15 June 1940. The USSR, however, did not want to have an official occupational status, and, thus, organized the farce of elections to the Liaudies Seimas (People's parliament) on 14-15 July 1940. During its first session on 21 July 'the elected' Seimas declared Soviet rule in Lithuania and decided to ask for Lithuania's admission into the Soviet Union. On 3 August the delegation of the Seimas brought 'the sun of Stalin' to Lithuania from the session of the Supreme Soviet of the USSR in Moscow. After registering officially "the voluntary entry of Lithuania into the USSR" on the basis of a juridical farce, the occupants could begin fulfilling more openly and boldly their political, economic, and social goals - to sovietize all spheres of Lithuania's life as quickly as possible according to the USSR model.

    The restrictions of the rights and activities of the Church began immediately after the occupation: the decree on separating the Church from state and school was promulgated already on 25 June 1940. Religious classes in schools were abolished; chaplains were expelled from the army, schools, and prisons; the faculty of the Theology-philosophy Department of the University of Vytautas the Great in Kaunas was abolished; all Catholic institutions of teaching and care were closed; religious press was forbidden; mandatory civil registration of marriages was established. On 5 August all the land belonging to the Church was nationalized and at the end of October also all the buildings. The Concordat with the Holy See was broken off.1

    Although the leaders of Lithuania's Catholic Church tried to find a modus vivendi in the new occupational conditions, the ever growing restrictions on the activities of the Church and its protests against them made it clear that it would be impossible to reconcile the Communist
1 Arunas Streikus, "Lietuvos Katalikų Bažnyčia 1940-1990," [The Catholic Church in Lithuania 1940-1990], LKMA metrastis [LKMA Chronicle], XII, pp. 39, 40.

authorities and the Church. The Communist authorities were forced to fight against Lithuania's Catholic Church not only for ideological but also for political reasons: they viewed the Church as the main ideological force and leader of the Lithuanian nation not to yield to the occupation and annexation.

(The Chronicle of the Catholic Church in Lithuania)

    As was mentioned earlier, at the end of the 1960s (1968-1970) diligent priests began writing declarations to Church and civil authorities demanding liberties for the Church and believers. The first priests to attract the KGB's attention were those who submitted or sent declarations as well as those who gathered the signatures of their colleagues. The priests of the Vilkaviškis diocese Sigitas Tamkevičius, Juozas Zdebskis, Pranas Račiūnas, Alfonsas Svarinskas, Petras Dumbliauskas, Lionginas Kunevičius, and Gvidonas Dovidaitis comprised one of the most active groups. The KGB wanted to find out who were the organizers and authors of these declarations and how the documents managed to reach Western countries. For this purpose the KGB used the agents it had among the priests, especially those working in the offices of dioceses. With the appearance of a new declaration all the agents who had possible access to the information were called to action.1 Other operative measures were also employed.

    In 1969 the representative of the Council for Religious Affairs deprived Tamkevičius and Zdebskis of their priest registration certificates because of their active priest activities and refusal to obey Soviet prohibitions (by catechizing children, collecting signatures for collective priest declarations). In 1970 after their certificates were returned, Zdebskis became the vicar in Prienai while Tamkevičius was appointed to Simnas, but the two priests continued to maintain relations. In 1971 secret listening equipment was installed in Zdebskis's apartment. The KGB more than once recorded parts of the conversations between Zdebskis and Tamkevičius who sometimes visited Zdebskis (they were very cautious and avoided talking loudly on important issues) from which the KGB surmised that materials were being gathered for some publication.2 This increased the suspicions of the KGB who devoted even greater attention to the priests.