"To: The Prosecutor General of the USSR
"From: Citizen Ramanauskaitė, Angelė, daughter of
Mykolas, residing at 29 Pakalnė Street,
Raudondvaris, Kaunas Rayon, the Lithuanian SSR
"On July 17 of this year, I went to visit Lithuanians living in Astravas Rayon in Byelorussia.
"On July 20 I met with the Luksa family. I played Lithuanian games with the children, taught them Lithuanian songs, and read stories. I was discussing amicably a number of things, among them religion, when several teachers from the Girios and Rimdžiūnai schools, accompanied by several intoxicated deputies, Prosecutor Abromovich of AstravasRayon, and several interrogators and policemen entered the house.
"Barging into the room, the interrogators and deputies demanded to see my papers. I did not have them with me. They proceeded then to scold in an angry and insolent manner: 'Why do you come here, and why do you bring Lithuanian books? Why do you collect useless folklore? The Lithuanian language is disappearing in these parts, and it's of no use to the people here. If you want to play with the children or read them Lithuanian books, go to the school and get the principal's permission to work with the children.' The interrogators then started harassing the children at length with threatening questions. Prosecutor Abromovich, cursing the Lithuanians, calling them Nazi degenerates, and banging his fists on the table, demanded that students stop coming here and that they collect their folklore in Lithuania, not in Byelorussia, since they were using the collecting of folklore as a cloak to spread bourgeois nationalism and religious superstition. By evening, after having completed their report, they took me to the Astravas police station to trace my identity and place of residence.
"On July 24 I was summoned by Prosecutor Abromovich, who charged me with the organized religious instruction of children and, even though only single copies of religious literature had been found in my possession, with the distribution of religious literature. During the interrogation he insisted that I reveal who had sent me and the names of the students who had accompanied me on my earlier visits to Lithuanian villages in Byelorussia. After the questioning, he stated that that evening I'd be taken to the Lida Special Reception-Processing Station, where my identity and place of residence would be investigated for one month. I was being held, he declared, for vagrancy.
"I was taken to Lida only on the 26th. In Astravas I was housed in a foul-smelling cold cell with drunken women. The police chief completely ignored my remarks about the disorder and the bad food.
"In Lida I was held for four days, alone, in a cell where it was impossible to lie down. I was given no bedding, there were no cots, and the floor was cold and damp. Later I was transferred to another cell which held vagrant and criminal women. Here we had wooden bunks but were given no bedding.
"From the very first day of my confinement, I was repulsed by the atmosphere of this so-called house of correction. The dishes were filthy and greasy. Often the guards would not allow us to wash them in hot water. At times we had to wait an entire day or more for soap and a towel because only the warden himself could issue these items. There were no disinfecting facilities even though some of the prisoners suffered from venereal disease. Throughout the entire day the cursing and yelling of the guards could be heard. It was difficult to draw them away from their card games long enough to bring us water, medicine, or to open the small window. 11 was disgusting to hear the way they spoke to the women confined in the cell.
"My cell was entered often. I don't know on whose orders the guards were acting, especially a certain J. Patorsky, who wanted to seduce me. Demanding that I submit to his embrace, he would twist my arms and gag me to prevent my screaming. He said he could rape me and no one would know. My complaints about Patorsky's brutal and immoral behavior were ignored by the warden, who did nothing to interfere with Patorsky's pleasure in torturing me. Even on August 5th, when a doctor was summoned because of my failing health, Patorsky dared to push me out of my cell with my arms twisted behind my back on the pretense of having me clean the guardroom. Because of this moral intimidation, I suffered a heart attack. No sooner had I recovered somewhat than Patorsky resumed his sadistic attacks.
"On August 17 Interrogator Bobrov arrived from Astravas. He presented to me the material collected from the preliminary investigation, and had me sign that I would appear for my trial when summoned. The following day, the 18th, I was allowed to go home.
"Since upon my release I was not issued with a document stating that I had been detained, my employer is threatening to fire me for an unauthorized absence.
"Under what law did the Astravas prosecutor confiscate the keys to my apartment? Why have they not been returned? Why was I kept away from my job and held for twenty-five days when my identity and my place of residence and employment had been determined within a few days? Why are innocent people allowed to be physically and morally abused, slandered, and subjected to violence? Why are such mistakes by Soviet security and police personnel justified and covered up? Why are Soviet laws being broken and why are the most basic human rights being violated? Why is a person's dignity trampled by the prosecutor himself and other high officials?
"In this year, the sunny, peaceful, and safe International Year of the Child, not only interrogators and people's deputies but also the educators dare by force and threats to violate children's rights!
"For what purpose and at whose orders are students, scholars, and collectors of folklore being prevented from visiting the Lithuanians of Byelorussia? Why are we told to send Lithuanian books to Lithuanians abroad, and yet we are forbidden to bring them to the Lithuanians of Byelorussia? Why is the teaching of the Lithuanian language hindered in territories inhabited entirely by Lithuanians? Why is the instruction of Lithuanian as a foreign language permitted only from the third grade? If Lithuanians have the same rights as the Russians, they should not only have access to classes taught in Lithuanian but also to Lithuanian schools in Lithuanian localities such as Girios and Rimdžiūnai.
August 22, 1979
(The preceeding statement has been abridged — Ed.)
* * *
The Trial in Astravas
On September 18, 1979, an unusually large crowd gathered in the Astravas courtroom. The majority had come from Vilnius, Kaunas, and other Lithuanian towns; only eight had been sent by the party and the security police. The courtroom was small; there were only three benches, upon which sat some thirty people. The same number, or more, pushed their way behind the benches and to the sides and front of the "courtroom." Entering the room, the court officials demanded that those who were standing leave the room, but no one did. They had travelled a hundred kilometers or more and were not going to stand outside the door while someone dear to them was on trial. Someone suggested that the party and Communist Youth League representatives should leave the room since they didn't know the accused. But these sat frozen to their benches. A young perspiring official explained if the room were larger he would allow everyone to stay, but now that the court was temporarily holding its session in the Lenin Room, there was nothing he could do about it. Here and there a person left the room, but the others stayed. The court bailiff shouted angrily but then calmed down.
An elderly man with a cigarette clenched in his teeth entered the courtroom and began organizing some papers on the desk. It later became clear that he was the court secretary. A group of schoolchildren were brought into the courtroom: they were the witnesses. The children were accompanied by Luksa, a teacher at the Girios Elementary School.
Before the trial began, Astravas attorney Savich called over Angelė Ramanauskaitė and tried to persuade her to take him as her lawyer. The negotiations were unsuccessful. The lawyer then suggested that Ramanauskaitė put in writing her refusal of his services. She did so.
In another room, hidden from the people, sat an agent of the secret police from Kaunas. During the preliminary interrogation, during an entire day, he had attempted tc "reeducate" Ramanauskaitė into thinking that she had been deceived by the "hawks" (the Roman Catholic priests despised by the government), who were the real offenders.
The trial began at approximately 11 a.m. Astravas Rayon Prosecutor Abromovich, Judge Chalko, Counsellors Zeniuk (a woman) and Volkov, and Attorney Savich took their places.
The judge declared the trial open and stated that the court would hear the case of Angelė Ramanauskaitė, charged with violating Article 139, Paragraph 1, of the Criminal Code of the Byelorussian SSR. Boleslovas Ivaškevičius (?) from Kaunas, a university graduate, a Lithuanian fluent in both Lithuanian and Russian, was called upon to act as interpreter. The judge instructed him to start translating.
"The criminal case will be heard . . ." began the interpreter, continually faltering. Apparently he was fluent in neither Lithuanian nor Russian.
The judge checked to see if all of the witnesses were present:
"Siso, Darija Ivanova?"
"Bogachiov, Nikolai Ivanovich?"
"Krupica, Mikhail Ivanovich?"
The judge asked that the witnesses leave the courtroom and go to a special room, from which they would be called. As soon as they left, the judge began to question the defendant:
"Angelė Ramanauskaitė, daughter of Mykolas."
"When were you born?"
"February 11, 1956." "Where?"
"Lazdijai Rayon, Kapčiamiestis Township."
"Are you a party member?"
"No, I am not."
"Where do you work?"
"At the Kaunas People's Institute for the Advanced Training of Agricultural Specialists as a laboratory technician."
"Where do you live?"
"Kaunas, Raudondvaris, 29 Pakalnė Street."
"Did you receive the indictment?"
"Yes, last Friday."
"The indictment was sent out on September 6," the judge said, surprised that Ramanauskaite received her copy so late. The interpreter was translating with great difficulty, constantly raising laughter in the courtroom.
Prosecutor Abromovich demanded that the trial be postponed on the grounds that Ramanauskaitė received her copy of the indictment too late. The accused asked for an explanation of why it should be postponed. The judge explained that the accused must receive the indictment at least three days before the trial, and in this case it was served too late.
"Three days have already gone by since I've received the indictment," Angele said, "and I demand that the trial be held today."
The judge paused for a moment, counted, and realizing that three days had elapsed agreed to continue the trial.
The make-up of the court was announced:
"This court is presided over by People's Judge Chalko, the People's Counsellors are Zeniuk and Volkov, the State Prosecutor is Astravas Rayon Prosecutor Abromovich, and the accused is represented by Attorney Savich."
The interpreter translated:
"The criminal case . . . will be heard . . . mmm . . . Ostrovec . . . How do you say in Lithuanian? Aah . . . Astravas People's Court . . . Presiding Judge . . . Chalko . . . People's counselors Zeniuk and Volkov . . . upheld by AstravasRayon Prosecutor Abromovičius . . . Case upheld by attorney Savich . . ."
"I refuse the services of a lawyer," declared Ramanauskaitė.
The judge interrupted and explained that she would have an opportunity to state her views regarding counsel at a later time.
"Defendant Ramanauskaitė, do you entrust the members of this court, the secretary and the prosecutor, with the examination of your criminal case?"
"Do you believe in the prosecutor . . ." interpreted the translator, sweating.
"I give my consent to have them examine it," answered Miss Ramanauskaitė.
When asked whether he had confidence in the members of the court examining the case, the attorney muttered, "I do."
The judge explained to the accused her rights, while the interpreter continued:
"You have the right ... to complain . . . you have the right . . . hmmm . . . final word . . . hmmm . . ."
"Do you understand your rights?" the judge asked.
"No, I do not."
Again the judge patiently explained that the accused had the right to present testimony and explanations, to state requests, to participate in the court's arguments, and to address a final statement to the court. The interpreter did a slightly better job of translating.
"Did you understand?" asked the judge.
Again Angele Ramanauskaitė refused the services of a lawyer. The prosecutor rose and explained that the lawyer had the right to be present because the proceedings were being conducted through an interpreter and because a prosecutor was participating.
"I demand that the attorney leave," insisted the defendant, but the judge did not allow Savich to leave.
"Let him stay," the accused gave in, "but I don't need him to speak for me."
The prosecutor demanded that Public Prosecutor Klimčienė (a man) participate in the proceedings. The defense attorney countered that this was unnecessary because the prosecutor was fully capable of pleading the case, but the court upheld the prosecutor's motion. Klimčienė, a teacher at the Girios Elementary School, took a seat next to the prosecutor.
The judge read:
"The indictment: Angelė Ramanauskaitė, daughter of Mykolas, is charged under Article 139, Paragraph 1 of the Criminal Code of the Byelorussian SSR, on July 30, 1979, by the Prosecutor's Office of Astravas Rayon in a criminal case of religious instruction of minors in violation of provisions set down by law.
"At the preliminary interrogation it was determined that: Angelė Ramanauskaitė, daughter of Mykolas, having arrived at the village of Girios in Astravas Rayon from the Lithuanian SSR, did, on the days of July 18, 19, and 20, 1979, instruct in the home of citizen Lukša minors of the Girios Elementary School in religion using religious literature.
"Upon being indicted, under interrogation the accused Angelė Ramanauskaitė denied her guilt. She testified that she had arrived at the village of Girios from Kaunas on July 17, 1979, for the purpose of gathering Lithuanian folklore. She claimed that some of the religious literature found in her possession belonged to her father and that the rest was given to her by a priest when she was a child. She had allegedly brought the books for her own personal use. The defendant met the children in the village of Girios, brought them together, talked to them about their studies and about learning the Lithuanian language, and taught them games. She denied teaching the children anything about religion. On July 18 and 19,1979, she was at the Lukša home but did not teach the children about religion. The guilt of Angele Ramanauskaitė is fully established, however, by the evidence in this criminal case.
"The witness [Miss] T. V. Lukša testified that a girl who said she was a student and lived in Kaunas and who called herself Angelė had come to the village of Girios, Astravas Rayon, several times. Angele came to their house on July 17 and said she would gather together a group of boys and girls and teach them religion at the home of the witness. At the beginning of 1979 on her second visit, Angelė gave the witness a religious booklet. On July 18,19, and 20, 1979, Angelė instructed minors in religion. She told them about God and taught them prayers.
"The witness [Miss] M. R. Ravoit testified that on July 17, 1979, she in the company of some friends met a girl called Angelė in the village of Girios, Astravas Rayon. She had met this girl in the winter of 1979 on the latter's visit to Girios Village. Angelė told the witness to come to the Lukša home at 3 p.m. on July 18,1979, and she would teach them religion. When the witness arrived at the Lukša home at the appointed time, the Girios schoolchildren were there. Angelė told them about God and taught them some prayers. This took place on July 18,19, and 20, 1979.
"The witness [Miss] I. E. Kutko testified that on July 17, 1979, she and her friends met an unknown girl in Girios. She told them she was a student and invited them to come to the Lukša home at 3 p.m. She told them to bring with them other children their age. At the assigned time there were quite a number of Girios school students and people from the village gathered at the Lukša home. The girl talked about God, taught some prayers, and invited everyone to come back the following days.
"Furthermore, Ramanauskaitė's guilt has been corroborated by the testimony of the witnesses V. V. Avgul, R. B. Shturo, V. B. Urbanovich, L. B. Urbanovich, V. P. Petrik, L. B. Shturo, and V. G. Kasevich, as well as by the report of July 20, 1979.
"As stated in the search and confiscation report, the literature confiscated from A. Ramanauskaitė was of a religious nature. According to the report of August 13, 1979, the confiscated literature was meant to teach minors about religion.
"On the basis of the evidence presented, Angelė Ramanauskaitė, daughter of Mykolas, born on February 11, 1956, in Kapčiamiestis, Lazdijai Rayon, Lithuania, of Lithuanian nationality, of average education, single, with no previous record, employed as a laboratory technician at the Kaunas People's Institute for the Advanced Training of Agricultural Specialists, residing at 29 Pakalne Street, Raudondvaris, Kaunas, is charged with organizing minors upon arriving from the Lithuanian SSR to the village of Girios in Astravas Rayon and with instructing said minors in religion on July 18, 19, and 20,1979, at the home of Lukša using religious literature, that is, by her actions committing an offense under Article 139, Paragraph 1 of the Criminal Code of the Byelorussian SSR."
Having finished the indictment and having the interpreter more or less successfully translate it, the judge asked Miss Ramanauskaitė:
"Is the charge clear to you?"
"You are being accused of coming to Girios, organizing the minor children of the Girios Elementary School, and teaching religion on the 18th, 19th, and 20th of July, 1979, in the Lukša home. Do you understand the charge?"
"No! It seems to me that talking about God and religion and teaching children to pray is not a crime," explained the defendant.
"Do you admit your guilt?"
The prosecutor proposed the following order for the proceedings: first, to question the defendant and then the witnesses Sizo, Krupica, and the others, and to finish with Bogachiov. Everyone agreed to the motion, including the court's public prosecutor and the accused. The judge ruled that the court had decided to examine Ramanauskaitė first and then the witnesses, and, finally, to present the documentary evidence.
The judge addressed Angelė Ramanauskaitė, giving her the opportunity to testify regarding the offense.
"My testimony was recorded during my interrogation. I refuse to participate in this trial," the accused stated.
"You refuse to testify?"
"Yes, I do."
The judge declared a five minute recess.
The spectators created a din in the courtroom. Someone assailed the interpreter: "What kind of a Lithuanian are you if you can't even speak the language!" He vowed that he really was a Lithuanian. Cookies brought in by someone were passed from hand to hand. Everyone ate; they were even offered to the "guests" of the party. But these shook their heads, claiming they didn't want any. "Don't be afraid — they're not poisoned! Have some." A few relented and ate. During the recess a long-legged youth stepped in through the open window, since a group of young people from Kaunas had not been admitted into the courtroom. Immediately a young Communist Youth League member sitting in the courtroom audience got up and summoned the bailiff, who screamed furiously, "Things will end badly!" A police major, who had been sent to the scene, admonished everyone to keep order, ending the "incident." Apparently, the security agent sitting in the other room had cooled the over-zealous Byelorussian officials by warning them that it wasn't worth provoking the crowd.
Examination of the Witnesses
The first witness to be called was Darija Ivanovna Sizo, chairwoman of Girios Township. The judge recited a standard admonition that the witness speak nothing but the truth and directed her to sign an affidavit of responsibility against refusing or avoiding testimony or giving false testimony.
The Testimony of Sizo: "On July 20 an unknown man called the township soviet and said that a children's meeting was being held at the Lukša home in Girios Village. I then telephoned the chairman of the Rasviet Collective Farm, but he wasn't in. The vice chairman was summoned, and I asked him if he had scheduled any meetings for the children. The vice chairman replied that there were no such programs. I then told him to wait for me, that I was coming over. I telephoned the principal of the Girios Elementary School, scolding him for not keeping the children busy during the summer and ordered him to wait for me. I picked up the collective farm vice chairman, the principal, a teacher, and we went to the Lukša home. We found a group of children, questioned them, and wrote up a report, which was signed by the Deputies of the Girios People's Soviet whom I had brought along."
"How many children were there?" asked the judge. Five.
"What type of literature did you find?"
"On the table there was literature in Russian, stories and poems."
"What other types of books were there?"
"I didn't see any others."
"What explanation did the children give?"
"They said that this girl was teaching them religion. One boy said he knew two or three prayers. The children said they had been learning for three days."
The lawyer interrupted:
"Did you see any religious literature?"
"No," the witness replied.
Testimony of M. J. Krupitsa: "I was in the collective farm office. The chairwoman called and asked whether we were conducting any sort of program for the children. Chairwoman Sizo said that some type of activity was being held for the children. We picked up the principal around 2 p.m. and drove to the Lukša home. There, we questioned the children. At first they kept silent but later said that a girl had taught them religion. They said they knew one or two prayers. A report was written. The police arrived, and I was a witness during the search."
"Were there any religious books in the room?" the judge asked.
"There was one booklet. Then more were found during the search."
Testimony of [Miss] Tatyana Lukša (Born in 1969, a resident of Girios Village):
"Where did you meet this girl?" asked the judge, indicating Ramanauskaitė.
"In our home," answered the slender girl timidly.
"What did she talk about?"
"She talked to us about God and taught us prayers."
"For how many days?"
"How many children were there?
"What did the girl call herself?"
"Did she give you any booklets?"
"We had a prayer book. I don't have it now." (It was confiscated during the search — Ed.)
"Where did you get that booklet?"
"The girl gave it to me earlier."
Testimony of [Miss] Maria Ravoit (born in 1969, a fourth-grade student at the Girios Elementary School):
"Are you acquainted with this girl?" the judge asked.
"When did you get to know her?"
"Whom did the girl come to visit?"
"What did she teach you?"
"She taught about God and prayers."
"How many days did she teach?"
"I was there one day."
"How many of you were there?"
"When did she tell you to come?"
"Angelė told us to come at 3 p.m."
"Did she say why you should come?"
"She said she was going to teach about God."
"Have you ever seen Angele before?"
Testimony of [Miss] lrina Kutko (born in 1968, a student at the Girios Elementary School):
"Did you know this girl?" the judge asked.
"Yes. I met her last year."
"Was she in Girios this year?"
"Who invited you to the Lukša home?"
"How many children were there?"
"What did you do?"
"She talked about God."
"Did she tell any stories?"
"She did not tell stories."
"Did she sing any songs?"
"No, we didn't sing." (The children, it seems, had been intimidated and lied, because on each of the three days they not only talked about God but were also taught poems, songs, stories, and games — Ed.)
"Did she give you any booklets about God?"
"How many days did you go?"
"One. My father wouldn't let me go again."
As the witness left the room, a boy was escorted in by a policeman.
Testimony of Roman Shturo (born in 1965, an eighth-grade student at the Girios school):
"Did you come to the Lukša home alone?" asked the judge.
"I came with my sister."
"Why did you go?"
"Kasevich said there was a student visiting there, so I went. She talked about God. She showed pictures about God."
"Did she teach prayers?"
"She didn't teach any the first day."
"Did she give you any booklets?"
"She did. There were short prayers in them."
The judge excused Roman.
A policeman brought in [Miss] Rima Urbanovich.
Testimony of [Miss] Rima Urbanovich (born in 1967, a sixth-grade student at the Girios school):
"When did you get to know this girl?" asked the judge.
"My friends told me. They said she would be teaching songs."
"Did she teach songs?"
"No, she didn't. Angelė talked about God."
"How many days did you go?"
"I was there for only the first day."
"Did she show you any booklets?"
"No, she didn't."
Testimony of [Miss] Valentina Urbanovich (born in 1966, a seventh grader at the Girios school):
"Where did you get acquainted with Angelė?" the judge asked.
"I met her at the Lukša home."
"Why did you go there?"
"All the girls went."
"Why did they go?"
"Everyone was saying that she was going to teach poems."
"How many times were you there?"
"I was there only the first day."
"Did you learn any poems? Did you sing?"
"She didn't read any poems. We didn't sing any songs. She talked about God and taught prayers."
"Did she test you on prayers?"
Testimony of Leonid Urbanovich (born in 1967, a sixth-grade student at the Girios school):
"How many times did you go there to learn?" the judge asked.
"I was only there the first day."
"Where did you go to learn?"
"To the Lukša home."
"Who invited you?"
"They said that someone had come, and we went. We went to learn prayers."
"Did this girl teach you?"
"Did she give you any booklets?"
"She didn't give me any. She gave them to the other children."
"How many times did you meet?"
"Three or four times."
The judge excused the boy.
Testimony of Viktor Petrik (born in 1968, a fifth grader at the Girios school):
"Viktor, when did you become acquainted with the girl sitting on the bench?" asked the judge.
"At the Lukša home. I don't remember the day."
"What did you do there?"
"We learned prayers."
"Who taught you?"
"What did she show you?"
"Pictures of God."
"How many days did you go?"
"Did you play?"
"We played a little."
The witness was excused.
Testimony of [Miss] Lilija Shturo (born in 1967, a sixth grader at the Girios school):
"Do you know this girl?" asked the judge.
"The girls told me her name."
"Why did you come to the Lukša home?"
"I thought we would read poems and stories."
"Did she teach prayers?"
"How many times were you there?"
The witness was excused by the judge.
Testimony of Viktor Kasevich (born in 1969, a fourth grader at the Girios school):
"What did this girl talk about?" asked the judge.
"She talked about God and prayers."
"Who else was with you?"
"Roman Shturo, Lilija Shturo . . ."
"She didn't show you any pictures?"
Principal Bogachiov of the Girios Elementary School was called to the witness stand.
Testimony of Bogachiov (born in 1927, residing in Girios):
"The district chairwoman telephoned me at my apartment and asked what the children were doing during the summer. I told her that there was a school plan. The children were supposed to collect tree branches for fodder. The chairwoman then told me to wait since we would go to the Lukša home. On our arrival we looked inside. Among the children was this citizen (indicating Angelė). She was teaching religion."
"How do you know she was teaching religion?" asked the judge.
"The children told us. They had prayer books."
"Have you ever heard of this girl being in Girios before?"
The judge declared a five minute recess.
After the recess, the judge announced the evidence in the case which the court had in its possession:
(1) References from her employer: "Angelė Ramanauskaitė has been employed as a laboratory technician since 1974. She has performed her work conscientiously and neatly. She keeps to herself and does not participate in any Communist Youth League activities or social projects."
(2) Reply from the Dean of the University of Vilnius: "Angelė Ramanauskaitė is not registered as a student in either the university's day or evening program."
(3) Report of Interrogator Bobrov, the witnesses Doner and Step, and the Lithuanian-language teacher A. B. Avgul. Upon examining the books confiscated from Ramanauskaitė, Avgul explained that one book is entitled Tėve mūsų (Our Father). It is a second-grade textbook, containing religious material for beginners. The other book is a Catholic catechism suitable for teaching religion to children and adults. On some loose-leaf sheets were instructions in initiating religious lessons.
Speech by Prosecutor Abromovich
"The court is examining the case of a criminal act committed in violation of the law on 'Separation of Church and State and of School and Church.' I want to stop and examine the sociopolitical significance of this case. The Soviet government is careful with questions that deal with religion. Article 50 of the Constitution proclaims that all citizens are guaranteed the freedom of conscience, i.e., the right to profess any religion or none, to engage in the practice of religious groups, or to promote atheistic propaganda. Inciting disharmony and hatred in connection with religious beliefs is forbidden. No one can prevent the faithful from performing their religious rites. The Soviet government merely supervises that the laws are obeyed. Everyone is equal before the law; atheists are as accountable as nonbelievers. The state cannot excuse believers from observance of the law.
"Angelė Ramanauskaitė has crudely violated the law on 'Separation of Church and State and of School and Church' because she organized and systematically taught minors religion. The Regulations for Religious Associations allow the study of religion in seminaries only. According to the July 1, 1966, decision of the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet of the Byelorussian SSR entitled 'Regarding the Application of Articles of the Criminal Code of the Byelorussian SSR,' a violation of the law on'Separation of Church and State and of School and Church' requiring prosecution under Article 139 of the Criminal Code is understood as being any organizing and systematic implementing of activities involving the religious instruction of minors in violation of regulations provided by the law. Religious instruction is understood to mean any form, such as the organizing of special clubs, groups, or religious instructional activities.
"On July 17,1979, Angelė Ramanauskaitė arrived in the village of Girios from Kaunas and on July 18 to 20 invited children to the Lukša home, where she taught them religion. She brought fourteen religious publications, Teve mūsų (Our Father, 104 pages), Katalikų katekizmas (A Catholic Catechism, 252 pages), question pages, and religious themes. There were two copies of some of these publications. During the interrogation Ramanauskaitė denied her guilt; however, her guilt has been fully established on the basis of the testimony of witnesses (at this point the prosecutor listed the witnesses and their testimony — Ed.), the confiscated religious literature, and the prepared question sheets for testing. Thus, Ramanauskaitė clearly intended to teach religion to children and her actions fall under Article 139, Paragraph 1 of the Criminal Code.
"In conclusion, it only remains for me to tell the court my opinion: Ramanauskaitė is educated, knows the laws concerning religious groups, has never been prosecuted before, and has good references from her employer. You must find her guilty, and I ask the court that she be fined 50 rubles. In this way not only will Ramanauskaitė be punished, but it will also serve as a lesson to those who would attempt to break the law."
(The foregoing is a condensed version of the prosecutor's speech, without any change in meaning of the original text — Ed.)
The interpreter continuously faltered while translating: "This trial will be a lesson . . . hmm . . . not only to Ramanauskaitė . . . hmm (someone from the audience prompted: 'but to future generations as well' — Ed.) . . . but to future generations too." The audience burst out laughing. Even the prosecutor smiled often. From time to time the judge's eyes darted to the audience, settling the rising uproar with angry glances. Following the prosecutor, Public Prosecutor Klimcienė was allowed to speak.
"The accused, taking advantage of the fact that the teachers of Girios were on vacation, taught religion at the Luksa home. The whole community of our rayon was shocked by Ramanauskaitė's behavior. Even as Soviet citizens, guided by the party, are establishing a bright Communist future, Ramanauskaitė has been dragging children's souls into darkness. Religion paralyzes a child's spiritual development. The Girios Elementary School staff led by Bogachiov, Decorated Teacher of the Byelorussian SSR, has devoted considerable energy to the education of our children according to Communist moral principles. Ramanauskaitė wanted to interrupt this process. She wanted to instill the children with an idealistic outlook. Speaking on society's behalf, I ask the court to impose on Ramanauskaitė the punishment she deserves."
(The speech of the public prosecutor has been condensed without changing the meaning of the original text — Ed.)
Speech by Attorney Savich
"The crime of Angelė Ramanauskaitė has been examined by both the prosecutor and the public prosecutor; therefore, I will be brief.
"Ramanauskaitė has said that she is convinced that it is no crime to teach children about God.
"The children have testified that the defendant taught them religion, that they learned prayers and looked at religious pictures. That is a crime under Article 139, Paragraph 1 of the Criminal Code of the Byelorussian SSR. Ramanauskaitė, however, has had no problems with the administration, has no criminal record, and has been given positive references from her place of employment that she performs her duties well. There is, however, a negative aspect in her reference in the fact that she keeps to herself, does not participate in community projects, and has ignored the requests of the secretary of the Communist Youth League. Because she is young, these proceedings will be a lesson to Ramanauskaitė. Therefore, I ask for the minimum penalty under Article 139 of the Criminal Code of the Byelorussian SSR."
At this point the judge expelled a female member of the audience from the courtroom for not being able to suppress her laughter at the translator.
After the attorney finished speaking, Ramanauskaitė asked the court to allow her public defender to speak, but the judge stated that requests from the accused could no longer be admitted; she should have stated her wishes at the beginning of the trial.
Final Remarks by Ramanauskaitė
"From all these trial proceedings it is not clear to me of what I am being charged. I do not feel guilty. The guilty ones are those who have brought this action to court. I have nothing to be sorry for. I do not think it is a crime to speak to children about God, and I will never think it to be so. Children should be allowed religious education in both Lithuania and Byelorussia. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights and Lenin's decrees allow the teaching of religion to both adults and children. Not only I but others as well will continue teaching religion to children in Lithuania and Byelorussia, and the children will realize that religion is not a collection of old wives' tales but the foundation of man's entire life."
The court withdrew to consider its verdict. The recess lasted for more than an hour. There were some who believed that because of her final statement Ramanauskaitė would receive a harsher penalty, but she only smiled and was, it seemed, completely unafraid of the most severe sentence under Article 139, one year in a labor camp.
"In the name of the Byelorussian SSR, September 18, 1979.
"The People's Court of Astravas Rayon, People's Judge I. P. Chalko presiding, Counsellors G. I. Zeniuk and V. K. Volkov participating, State Prosecutor A. I. Abromovich and Public Prosecutor Klimčienė attending and Attorney N. I. Savich defending, after examination of the case of Angelė Ramanauskaitė, in an open trial, concerning a crime committed under Article 139, Paragraph 1 of the Criminal Code of the Byelorussian SSR, has decided:
"The accused Ramanauskaitė has violated the law on the 'Separation of Church and State and of School and Church.' The crime was committed in the following way: Ramanauskaitė came from Kaunas to the village of Girios in Astravas Rayon and on July 18, 19, and 20,1979, at the home of Lukša, instructed lower-grade students of the Girios Elementary School in religion with the aid of religious literature.
"During the trial Ramanauskaitė decided not to testify concerning the charges brought against her and would not admit her guilt.
"Her guilt has been fully established, however, by the testimony of witnesses and by the evidence presented in this criminal case.
"Under questioning, the witness Sizo testified that on July 20, 1979, she was informed that someone was conducting a meeting for the students of the Girios school at the village residence of citizen Lukša. She came to the village accompanied by school Principal Bogachiov and the vice chairman of the collective farm, Krupica. They found approximately six students of the Girios Elementary School at citizen Lukša’s home as well as the defendant, Ramanauskaitė. Upon questioning the children, they determined that Ramanauskaitė over a period of three days had taught religion, prayers, and had shown pictures of a religious nature. Both Bogachiov and Krupica gave similar testimony. It was determined from the witnesses T. Lukša, M. Ravoit, I. Kutko, R. Shturo, R. Urbanovich, and others that Ramanauskaitė gave lessons to the students, taught prayers, showed religious photographs and distributed religious literature on July 18, 19, and 20, 1979.
"The report of August 18,1979, indicates that religious literature, meant to teach minor children about religion and material for her own religious instruction, were confiscated from Ramanauskaitė.
"Ramanauskaitė's actions qualify under Article 139, Par. 1 of the BSSR Criminal Code. The defendant broke the law of the 'Separation of Church and State and of School and Church' by organizing and systematically teaching minors religion.
"In determining the severity of the penalty, the court took into account the fact that Ramanauskaitė had not been tried before, had good references from her employer and, therefore, considers a monetary fine sufficient punishment. (The interpreter translated: 'And consider . . the fine ... 50 rubles.') The court finds Ramanauskaitė guilty of breaking the law of the 'Separation of Church and State and of School and Church' and according to Article 139, Par. 1 of the BSSR Criminal Code imposes a fine of 50 rubles. Upon the implementation of this ruling, the ban of Ramanauskaitė's leaving her residence will be lifted.
"The exhibits used as evidence, the religious literature, are to be given to the Byelorussian SSR Ministry of Justice Criminal Museum. All items that are not of a religious nature are to be returned to Ramanauskaitė.
"The decision of this court may be appealed through the Astravas People's Court within seven days to the Gardinas District Court.
"The court also rules that Ramanauskaitė be obligated to pay Attorney Savich 30 rubles for his work as defense counsel."
Having read the judgement, the judge asked:
"Ramanauskaite, do you understand the verdict?"
"No, I do not."
"A 50-ruble fine and 30 rubles for the defense!"
After reading the decision, the judge suddenly shouted angrily:
"Clear the court immediately! Quickly!"
Outside the court some congratulated Ramanauskaite, while others offered money for the fine. The police urged everyone to leave. Gathering in the churchyard near the locked doors of the church (The church in Astravas is beside the courthouse), everyone sang "Marija, Marija." Fearful that a demonstration of some type might develop, security agents milled about the churchyard. In the street, those who attended the trial sang "Lietuva brangi, mano tėvyne" (Beloved Lithuania, my homeland). Passersby stopped, puzzled at hearing the Lithuanian song, so rarely sung today.
* * *
Angelė Ramanauskaitė's trial is an example of an attempt to block religious thought and the Lithuanian heritage from reaching the Lithuanians of Byelorussia.