Father Alfonsas Svarinskas writes: "For to love is to sacrifice,
To love is to take the heavier part of the burden,
To love is carry the lamp and light the way.
To love is to believe ..."
I wrote a brief letter in February, but I guess you didn't receive it. This week or next, I shall leave Vilnius, our capital, and Lithuania, for a long, long time, perhaps forever. Only the Lord knows, but in this regard, I repeat with Job from the bible, "God gives and God takes away . . . May His will be done!"
I'll be writing from camp, it appears, twice a month. I'll write either to you, or to my brother and sister. My health (both physical and spiritual) is good. I have no complaints. It's true that my lip has not healed yet, and I've broken my dental plate. 1 suppose that I'll be able to receive competent help in camp.
I'm not hungry. Thank you and thank everyone for the money and for the food packages.
I have some food reserves for the journey. If thieves don't take it away, I'll have a little something on the way, only it's too bad that it's warm, and everything quickly spoils and mildews. But this is no great danger. I'll be able to receive packages only in August, 1984 — 5 kg every four months.
Every day in my prayers, I remind God, "Not my will but Thine be done." May the grace of God lead the steps of all of you.
A prisoner in Christ — Father Alfonsas P.S. The KGB censored sixteen lines of the letter.
In his letter dated June 7, 1983, he writes:
I greet all my dear and beloved brothers and sisters in Lithuania. All kinds of blessings from God! I wrote a letter from the KGB prison before leaving. From the transport station in Pskov, a Ukrainian promised to write about me. Now I am trying myself.
I was fortunate in taking my leave in four months, and (Mrs.) Bieliauskienė from Garliava, in seven months. I think that Father Sigitas' trial will come up about the middle of August, and in the beginning of September, he also will leave Vilnius. (Trans. Note — As of September 22, 1983, word of Father Tamkevičius' trial had not reached the West.) A few times, I heard him laughing heartily, but I did not run into him. I think he will hold up. I have been praying for him from the first day of my arrest. After my trial, they questioned me about him. I refused to talk. My reason: The shameful juridical way of getting rid of people. It appears that today, there is less justice than thirty years ago. I met a man who murdered his wife, and received nine years! There are many thieves en route, but they get two, three, four years — rarely more.
In Vilnius, my health and spirits were good. I prayed a lot. I will probably make up prayer for all my failure to pray while free. Before lunch I used to pray one living rosary for priests (for the intention of the Samogitians), five Our Fathers, Hail Marys and Glorias for government officials whom I happen to run into, the Litany of the Blessed Virgin Mary for those in the KGB prison,the Joyful mysteries for the Suffering Church, the Sorrowful Mysteries for the Suffering Church in Lithuania and the Glorious Mysteries for the land of our fathers.
After lunch, I say the Joyful Mysteries for a favorable outcome of my trial (after the trial, that the Lord would grant me a happy eternity. I ask that He would consider me as the Thief on the right hand). The Sorrowful Mysteries for those defending the Church and our country, the Glorious Mysteries for Viduklė and other parishes where I have worked: For the seminarians, brothers and sisters, families, Cardinal Slipyj and those who came for my trial (and even suffered for it), and who defended me that God would reward them all. After evening clean-up, the Joyful Mysteries for my parents, deceased family and relatives. During Lent, I made the Way of the Cross every day; now I do so only on Fridays. So I thank God that I can pray. The Way of the Cross especially does me good, knowing that one can, according to Saint Paul, join one's own poor sacrifices to the redemptive sacrifice of Christ.
I left Vilnius May 27, at 8:00 PM. At 9:00 AM Saturday, I was in Pskov. In the afternoon, I was in the prison itself. Conditions here are terrible. There are very many people here, and I wound up in the cellar. My cell is dark, without flooring, and water seeps up from beneath, through the clay. The bedbugs, mosquitoes and fleas! Sixteen individuals in a small cell! I have been eaten up by bedbugs. Last Friday, I got to a cell on the third floor. It was dry there. I did my laundry and was issued bedding of sorts. Thank you for the padded jacket. It really protected me from the cold during the trip. The journey was not difficult, because I had some food. On the way, one poor wretch asked for my sweater. I gave it to him.
On the train, and in my cell, I am the only political prisoner, so the talk and the profanity are horrible. Sometimes, you can't even pray. Those are terribly dehumanized individuals. Here I had some opportunity to speak about God. Yesterday, I met a Latvian student. He was sentenced for speculation to 2.5 years. I spoke about Christ. He is very interested. It would be good for our atheists to see this crowd. Perhaps they would understand where they are leading our people, to what terrible destruction. They take away not only eternity, but also earthly enjoyment.
They respected me as a priest. In Pskov, they even gave me a place on the lowest shelf. Everybody calls me "Father", "Pop", "the Old Man". Don't tell me I am so old! Where has my youth gone? If I return, I will be sixty-eight years old.
Sunday, they took us to the camp from Pskov about 7:00 AM. It was good that we did not have to reach Yaroslavsk Prison. There are many criminals going into exile, so Moscow assigned a special railroad car, and we are going to Perm. I don't know where I'll end up, but it looks like Perm. Today we passed Yaroslavsk, and from here, the road is to Mordovia. Tomorrow evening, we'll be in Perm, and perhaps Sunday, in camp. I'll probably meet Viktoras and Balys. In Mordovia, I wanted to meet Janulis, who on the Feast of the Assumption (August 15 — Trans. Note) leaves for home, but apparently, God's will was otherwise. In Perm, there will be more young people. In a word, God will provide, and everything will come out alright..
From Vilnius to Pskov, I received 1 kg of bread (a small loaf), two partially rotten herrings (which I did not eat because they are very salty), and 10 grams of sugar. From Pskov, I received three little loaves of bread. So, with my last plastic container of fat, and 2 kg of sugar, I'm not hungry, and I can even treat others.
The only trouble is, that there is one place on the train for each two people. The places are hard; I must be getting soft, or perhaps it's old age.
My spirits are evenly good. At this time, I am taken up with the priesthood of Christ. From my heart, I repeat daily to the Lord, "Fiat — Thy Will be done!"
I did what I could for the honor and glory of God, for the good of the Church and my country. So I have no regrets, except that the Lord might blame me for doing too little. Pray for me, that as a priest I would always be facing up to the enemies of God and the Church.
Perhaps by the Feast of Saint Anthony, I will be able to write you from camp. Greet everyone, everyone. I really loved Viduklė and offer up the most for it. For Kulautuva, six years, for Vidukle, ten. This year, Igliauka celebrated the centenary of the church. It would be good if the pastor and a group of people from Vidukle would go (find out date), and place flowers at the grave of Father Kačergis. For the church in Naumiestis, it will soon be two hundred years . . .
A Prisoner in the Lord — Father Alfonsas
From the letter of June 8: efforts to comfort me made no impression . . . Let us pray for one another, that we would not buckle under the cross of the Lord.
A Prisoner in the Lord — Father Alfonsas
On June 11, Father Alfonsas was brought to the site. From there, the camp commandant sent a report containing his address. They write that he may receive two 1 kg packages a year. He will be allowed to write two letters a month, to have one personal visit a year and to receive an unlimited number of letters.
Once half the sentence is served, in three and a half years, he may be sent one 5 kg package. His address:
618263 p. Kuchino Chusovskogo r-n. Permskoy obi. Ucrezdenie VS-389/36 Svarinskas, Alfonsas, Vaclovo
The confessional of Father Sigitas Tamkevičius in Kybartai. Standing at left is Father Jonas-Kastytis Matulionis, a graduate of the underground seminary.