To: The Head of the Lithuanian SSR KGB
Gopies to: The Bishops and Apostolic Administrators of Lithuania His Magnificence, Rev. Dr. Viktoras Butkus, Rector of the Kaunas Interdiocesan Seminary Vincas Platinskas, Agent of the LSSR KGB
From: Father Rokas Puzonas, Son of Juozas, born August 15, 1956 Residing in Kiaukliai, Rayon of Sirvintai
In May 1977, I submitted to the Rector of the Kaunas Interdiocesan Seminary, the Reverend Dr. Viktoras Butkus, my application to the seminary.
A month later, more or less, I received a summons to come to the cadre section of the Alytus Combine for Construction of Experimental Homes (AENSK — prior to entering the seminaray, I worked in the combine sawmill). When I arrived, Vincas Platinskas, a KGB agent from Vilnius introduced himself, and took me to the Alytus Section for Internal Affairs for a talk.
Taking a few sheets of blank paper, and seating himself across from me, he began questioning me, meantime making some kind of notes. The beginning of the conversation was pleasant enough: he asked me about work, my family, whether I had any complaints, etc.
Then we got to the point. KGB agent Vincas informed me that it is difficult to get into the seminary, that there is much competition, one must have contacts, but he said that he could help me. He emphasized that I had been a good and exemplary citizen in school and in the army; only in the eighth class had I misbehaved, refusing to write an atheistic term paper ridiculing the Church and clergy.
"Of course this single instance of misbehavior is not a serious obstacle to getting in," explained KGB agent Vincas. "But your whole family is steeped in bourgeois anti-Soviet attitudes, moreover, two of your uncles and your father were sentenced because they had maintained ties with the 'bandits'. It seems that they have learned their lesson but it is hard for us to trust and guarantee this anti-Soviet spirit will not show up in you. If you wish to prove to us that you are a good Soviet citizen, loyal to the Soviet government, you must sign a pledge!"
"I will never be a traitor! How can two contradictions, seminarian and KGB agent, fit into one person?" I shot back, angered by his unwarranted demand.
"What are you imagining? No one is telling you to be a traitor!" Vincas angrily said. "You will be doing good by reporting the mistakes and anti-Soviet transgressions of your fellow seminarians. Even the bible says you have to render to Caesar what is Caesar's and to God what is God's."
"You want me to be a Judas, to betray Christ, to interfere in other people's conscience. This doesn't square with a Catholic conscience. What talk can there be about cooperation? Even without the pledge, I'll be a good citizen and a good seminarian."
"Stupid! What is this Judas you're obsessed with? You are absolutely not betraying or selling out anyone!" the KGB agent shouted angrily. "You were in the army, so you should understand that this will be no betrayal, but only the honorable carrying out of a Soviet citizen's responsibility. Who gave you such strange ideas?"
"It's my conscience which is against it, not anybody's ideas," I explained.
"What's this conscience you have dreamed up? There is no conscience, and don't talk nonsense!" shouted KGB agent Vincas.
"I don't know about you but I really do have a conscience and I cannot ignore it," I shot back.
Seeing that I still would not accede to his demands, the KGB agent turned the talk to other matters. He asked whether I listened to the "libelous" Vatican Radio, Radio Liberty and Voice of America broadcasts. I replied that sometimes I did. Vincas besmirched the Vatican and the Pope as much as he could. After long questioning, the KGB agent stated:
"We need only your written pledge that you will be loyal to the Soviet government. You must understand, it's no great pleasure for me to waste my time here arguing with you. So let's agree: Take this piece of paper and write what I dictate. Only then do I guarantee you admission to the seminary."
"No. I will not write anything! This talk has been enough. I want only one thing: To be a good priest and at the same time an exemplary citizen. Only not an informer. I think it's useless trying again to convince me."
"Then you can forget about entering the seminary!" shouted KGB agent Vincas. "You can go on dragging boards around in the lumberyard the rest of your life. Don't think that we're just picking on you, and demanding this of you alone. After all, you seminarians and priests live in the Soviet society, so you have to take the requirements of the government seriously."
"But the Church is separated from the state, and entrance into the seminary must depend on the seminary rector or the bishop, and not on you," I tried to explain to him.
"Who filled your head with such anti-Soviet ideas? You've already managed to throw in your lot with extremist priests, and you want to follow in their footsteps. No, it's not going to be! Forget about the seminary then for good, and don't even imagine that acceptance into the seminary will not depend on the state. You're not going to frighten anyone with your refusal, but hurt yourself and the Church. Don't get hot under the collar; go by your head and not by indoctrination!" the KGB agent angrily lectured.
"Sometimes human wisdom is not enough. It's best to listen to one's conscience and the voice of God.
"If you always go along with the vagaries of conscience, you'll get nowhere. You had just better look at the life of the older priests and you see that they care little what conscience tells them, and live the way they please. We guarantee you a great future; we'll help you to advance into the hierarchy; you'll be able to work in a bigger parish and to travel abroad, if you only use your head. So sign the pledge and everything will be alright. We will part as the best of friends. Otherwise, we will have to be at odds all our lives. Also, think of your parents, brothers and sisters, that you could hurt them. Someday, you'll thank me yourself for giving you good advice," argued Vincas.
Exhausted by the "brainwashing" which had lasted almost three hours, wishing to be done with it as quickly as possible and greatly desiring to be a priest, in my ignorance I agreed to sign the pledge to be loyal and to supply the state security organs with information about anti-Soviet excesses in the seminar)'. I did this not of my own free will, but rather under the moral pressure which KGB agent Vincas Platinskas used; duress invalidates any document, since there is no free decision.
On parting, Vincas declared that before the opening of the seminary scholastic year, I would have to meet with him several times more, since some questions might arise. Moreover, he guaranteed beyond the shadow of a doubt my acceptance into the seminary, at his intercession through Commissioner for Religious Affairs, Tumènas.
Rev. Dr. Juozas Pranka, a lecturer at the only theological seminary in Lithuania, during class. Kaunas, 1980.
Our following rendez-vous he set, I believe, for July 19, in front
Seminarians commemorating the 50th anniversary of the death of Maironis, a Lithuanian poet and former rector of the Kaunas Theological Seminary. Enrollment quotas are kept purposely below the number of priests who die or become unable to work each year.
of the Dzūkijos Hotel in Alytus. He forbade me to say anything about the conversation to anyone.
At about 4:00 PM on the appointed day, the KGB agent was already walking around not far from the hotel. When I arrived, he told me that our conversation would take place on the second floor of the hotel. He entered the hotel first. He told me to come up to a certain room in a few minutes, because someone might notice us if we went together. During our rendez-vous, KGB agent Vincas inquired what was new, and asked whether I had not talked about our conversation to anyone. I replied, "No one!" I tried to convince him that during the whole time, my conscience had given me no peace, on account of that pledge. I asked him to destroy the pledge, but the KGB agent said that he did not have it. and that it was not worth getting upset over.
Vincas then told me that all I had to do was write my autobiography, choosing a pseudonym. He promised to send everything to Moscow, without anyone knowing about it.
"Do what you will, but I refuse to write anything else! I have decided that I should not go along with you. Why should I have to torment myself over the accusations of my conscience?"
"You really must have told someone everything! Probably one oi the priests! If so, then it will be bad for them and for you. here, we will not get away without prison. After all, it is betrayal of a secret! How about it? Talk, you bastard!" the KGB agent shouted angrily.
I replied that my conscience does not allow me to write what is contrary to my convictions; and that they know my autobiography well as it is. Then the KGB agent, even more angry, began to shout:
"How much longer am I going to waste my time and my breath with you here? I've told you more than once that if you don't work for us in accordance with your pledge, then your fate will be unenviable, you will be destroyed or shut up in prison!"
In this meeting, I was again kept for about three hours. I felt very unnerved. Seeing that it could end badly, and wanting to be a priest, I pretended to agree to write the autobiograph and choose a pseudonym; but I did not intend to go through with it.
Finally, I wrote the autobiography. Then the KGB agent told me to chose a pseudonym. When for a long time I could not think of any, he himself suggested Vyturis (Lark). The KGB agent told me to write a pledge in which I stated that I would sign any reports intended for the KGB with the pseudonym Vyturis. All this I would also have to keep secret. At the end of our meeting, Vincas stated that on August 2, we would have to meet in Vilnius, he gave me an address and telephone number.
Early in the morning on the day appointed, I travelled from Alytus to Vilnius. We met in front of the Gintaras Hotel. Here he again entered the assigned room first, and told me to come up in a few minutes.
My attitude interested KGB agent Vincas. He inquired about my acquintanee with zealous priests whom he called "extremists'. He asked what I had heard about the ex-priest Starkus who had abandoned the priesthood in the parish of Sidabravas. He extolled the latter as a person without hypocrisy who had found the right way. Father Alfonsas Svarinskas, Father Sigitas Tamkevicius, Father Juozas Zdebskis and others he described as calumniators of the Soviet system.
This meeting lasted about two hours. As we parted, Vincas gave me 25 rubles for travelling expenses, first telling me to write that I took the sum indicated from the KGB for operating expenses. Noticing my unease with regard to the agreement to cooperate, the KGB agent told me to come back to Vilnius in a week, August 9.
On the appointed day, I went to Vilnius once more. When I telephoned, Vincas instructed me that the interview would take place at the hotel not far from the monument to the author Žemaitė. We entered the room indicated in the usual way: he first, and I following a few minutes later. He asked me about a number of things. He wanted me to be careful in the seminar) with other seminarians, lest I somehow reveal my cooperation. As we parted, he once more gave me 10 rubles for traveling expenses, and confirmed that my enrollment in the seminary was guaranteed, that I didn't have to chew my nails — everything would be just fine. He promised to phone me at home during the Christmas holidays. Once again, we would have to meet because various questions could come up.
This fourth meeting with KGB agent Vincas in Vilnius was the last to which I went in response to a verbal invitation. I never went to such meetings any more, and in the future, I would not go, because it was not compatible with the conscience of a seminarian.
On September 10, I received a telegram that I had been accepted for the Kaunas seminary, no one, neither among the priests nor among my friends suspected how difficult my "entrance examinations' which had forced me to compromise my conscience had been.
During the first Christmas vacation, KGB agent Vincas, not having received any phone call, telephoned me at home. Not finding me, he introduced himself to my family as a good friend whom I was supposed to call. I understood what kind of "friend" had called. Not receiving a call from me during this vacation, he tried to catch me during others, but he would never find me at home. Only at the end of my second year, at the Easter vacation, when I picked up the phone, Vincas asked why I had not called him. I replied that I did not know him and did not wish to have anything to do with him. The KGB agent threatened that this would not end happily. Then, without letting myself get involved in any discussion, I hung up.
May 27, 1980, received an official announcement from the KGB in Vilnius. In it, I was informed that I was being summoned to see Interrogator Balčiūnas at 10:00 AM on May 28 as a witness.
To my great surprise, at the KGB offices, KGB agent Vincas turned up again, not Interrogator Balčiūnas. Immediately I declared,
Charter members of the Catholic Committee for the Defense of Believers' Rights (from left) Father Vincentas Vėlavičius, Father Alfonsas Svarinskas, Father Sigitas Tamkevičius, Father Juozas Zdcbskis and Father Jonas Kauneckas. Since the imprisonment of Fathers Svarinskas and Tamkevičius, the Committee has been disbanded and the work has gone underground.
"I was summoned not to see you, but Interrogator Balčiūnas! What did you come here for?"
The KGB agent shouted, "What, you snot, you bastard! You don't want to know me anymore? Have you managed already to forget what you promised in Alytus? You're not going to tell me what to do, you lout, you'll talk with me and Interrogator Balčiūnas."
"Please don't scold! I'm not going to talk with you!"
"See what all these Svarinskases and Tamkevičiuses have made of you! You've become a big-shot and don't want to talk with us any more!" the KGB agent said ironically.
Seeing that I was angry and did not wish to speak with him, Vincas telephoned another KGB agent who did not give his name, obviously a higher official. The latter brought with him some kind of papers, probably my file, and began naming the "offenses" I had committed in the seminary. The first offense was that on Saint Joseph's
Day, I read a fourteen-minute report in class about the Rūpintojėlis (the Pensive Christ — a national religious symbol — Trans. Note) and the Vytis (the mounted Knight — the emblem of independent Lithuania — Trans. Note). I understood that I was not the only out in my class who had been recruited, that there was someone else zealously informing security organs.
The second was that I had written letters to political prisoners. Of the ten letters written to prisoners, only Nijolė Sadūnaitė received hers, since she was already in exile. All the others were intercepted by the Vilnius KGB. The KGB agents were particularly displeased by my Easter greeting:
"Dear Brother (Sister) in Christ. The history of Christ's cross does not end with His death. We must look beyond the grave and the final triumph of the cross." (Easter, 1979.)
Having read the letter addressed to Viktoras Petkus, the unknown KGB agent asked why I was writing him greetings. After all, he was no relative of mine. I replied that he was my spiritual brother and that it was a Catholic's duty to help the prisoners with food, clothing and at least, a letter.
"Don't think that we are stupid and don't understand what's concealed in that religious thought. What the hell kind of victory and triumph are you wishing that bandit' ?" the KGB agent agitatedly demanded.
And as much as he could, the KGB agent denigrated Viktoras Petkus and Petras Paulaitis. When I tried to contradict them, they told me to be quiet. Similarly, they called my father a "bandit". They said that I was following in their footsteps, too.
After that, Interrogator Balčiūnas entered. He was interested in knowing whether I knew Anastazas Janulis, and whether he was not in the habit of bringing underground literature to the seminary. I replied that I did not know him intimately, but had only heard about him, and that he had never brought anything to the seminary. The interrogator was angry, and threatened me with criminal prosecution for false testimony. He affirmed that Janulis had admitted that he used to bring me underground publications at the seminary. I denied everything. The interrogation lasted one hour. At the insistence of Interrogator Balčiūnas, who threatened me with expulsion from the seminary, I signed the record of interrogation.
After he had left, the KGB agents continued to "educate" me.
They asked who else had remained seated during the national anthem on the occasions of the October holidays. I replied that I had not seen. They asked why I had gone to visit Father Alfonsas Svarinskas and Father Sigitas Tamkevičius, and what we had talked about. I replied that this was a matter of conscience for me. Then one of them began to shout that there is no room in the seminary for such as I, because that is where those like Svarinskas and Tamkevičius incubate. They told me to write an explanation for all these "crimes" committed in the seminary over three years. I categorically refused to write because I did not consider them crimes. As we parted, they said it would go badly with me if I did not do what I had promised. And ill continued to conduct myself in that way, I would have to leave the seminary. They said we would still have to meet during the summer.
Altogether that day, I was kept at KGB headquarters for live hours. The main reason for the summons had been not so much to question me in connection with the Janulis case, as much as to intimidate me. I was "educated" by Interrogator Balčiūnas and four other KGB agents.
I would like to remind you, Chief, and all KGB agents, of the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights, passed December 10, 1948. Articles 12 and 20. which KGB agent Vincas Platinskas and your other agents transgressed:
Article 12 proclaims: "No one shall be subjected to arbitrary interference with his privacy, family, home or correspondence, nor to attacks upon his honor and reputation. Everyone has the right to the protection of the law against such interference or attacks."
Article 20, (2) proclaims: "No one may be compelled to belong to an association."
Concluding this open letter to you, Chief, I ask and I demand you:
1. To consider my pledge, signed in June, 1977, to cooperate with State Security Organs, null and void since moral force was used.
2. Not to blackmail nor force young men desiring to be priests to cooperate with the KGB.
3. To allow the bishops and Church administrators in Lithuania and the seminary administration to decide about the suitability of a candidate for the priesthood, independently of the Commissioner for Religious Affairs.
4. To leave the bishop or administrator of each diocese complete freedom to appoint or transfer a priest to any parish.
In appealing to you, I base myself on Article 47 of the LSSR Constitution which allows one to submit suggestions to state organs and to criticize shortcomings.
Father Rokas Puzonas
Pastor of Kiaukliai Kiaukliai, December 25, 1985