My father, Jonas Sadunas, born September 8,1899, was the youngest in a large family. Five of them reached maturity: four brothers—Juozas, Sylvestras, Kazimeras and Jonas, and a sister, Ursule. They were born and reared in the village of Pusne, District of Giedraiciai, County of Ukmerge. He was intelligent, decent and very industrious. Working as a herder for a long time, he prepared himself for and successfully completed the gymnasium final examinations.
In 1924, he enrolled in the Department of Agronomy at the Agricultural Academy, passed all his semester and final examinations, completed a year of practicum, defended his thesis and, in 1930, the Jubilee Year of Vytautas the Great, on September 5, he received his diploma as a qualified agronomist and remained as a teacher in the same agricultural academy of Dotnuva. He was religious, but he became especially strong in his faith, so that when he visited Lourdes, in France, he could have joyfully died for God. That was Our Blessed Mother's gift to Dad.
During vacation, my father used to travel extensively with Professor Ruokis Ruseckas: they travelled all over Western Europe and visited Africa. He had a great love for the poor, and he used to help them greatly, because he had experienced much hardship himself while studying.
On May 10, 1934, he married. My mother, Veronika Rimkute-Saduniene, was born in early September, 1915, into a large family. There were eight children, among them an orphan cousin who later graduated from medical school. One brother, Aloyzas, died as a young child. Everyone used to say that such children do not live long. The good God took this little angel to Himself.
Mother was born and reared in the village of Juozapava, District of Svedasai, County of Ruokiskis. Like Dad, she was intelligent, industrious and deeply religious. She graduated from the gymnasium of Borsiai, and after marrying, enrolled in the Agricultural Academy of Dotnuva.
In the evenings, she liked to walk with my father along the park pathways. Students would hide behind the bushes trying to hear what the newlyweds were talking about, and they were greatly surprised to hear that the two of them recited the rosary as they walked along. On Friday, March 22, 1935, a son was born, whom, on May 12 in the Roman Catholic Church of Dotnuva, they christened Jonas Aloyzas.
Later, while expecting me, Mother contracted pleurisy. To save Mother's life, the physicians advised her to have an abortion. She would not agree, saying, "God alone is in charge of all life, and His will be done."
Early on the morning of Friday, July 22,1938,1 came into the world screaming loudly. I was born in the hospital which used to be on Donelaitis Street, in Kaunas. Mother bore me, like my brother, without pain, and so she used to tell me that as soon as she saw me, she looked at me lovingly and called me fortunate. Now the physicians unanimously agreed that only the birth had saved my mother's life!
After my birth, Mother was transferred to the sanitarium to recuperate, and Dad brought me home. He raised me with the help of his sister, Ursule, who spoiled me greatly. On October 2, in the Catholic Church of Dotnuva, Canon Kemesis baptized me Felicita Nijole. He was later arrested, and after being tortured, died in a Soviet prison. May he rest in the joy of the Lord!
I was already nine months old and walking, when mother returned from the sanitarium. Sometime later, she suffered from exposure to the cold on the way to church and contracted tuberculosis of the bone. This belated diagnosis was made when she slipped a disk; at that time she was admitted to the hospital where she lay motionless about three months. The disk slipped back into place, but did not have time to calcify properly.
The war broke out and we had to bring her home from the hospital. In 1941, Dad was informed that he and the family were slated by the Soviet occupiers for Siberia. Placing my mother, who could not walk yet, in a wagon with me and my brother, Dad got as far away from home as possible. In this way, the good God saved our family from death. In those days, men being exiled to Siberia used to be separated from their wives and children, and almost all of them died of starvation in the Siberian taiga. So the Soviet occupation authorities sentenced me to death in Siberia the first time when I was not quite three years old. And what for? Just because I had decent parents who loved God and people! After all, every decent person is the greatest enemy of the Soviets because he will never be enslaved to falsehood!
It was difficult for Dad with a sick wife and two small children, without shelter and without a source of income. A helping hand was extended by His Excellency, the Martyr-Bishop Vincentas Borisevicius of sacred memory, who engaged him to teach at the seminary in Telsiai, and arranged a place to live and food for the whole family. I was of a very lively temperament, according to my mother; like quicksilver unable to sit still. Mother, concerned for my future, took me to the Cathedral of Telsiai and commended me to the Blessed Mother, whose special protection I feel to this day, and to whom I am grateful from the depths of my heart for everything.
On June 10,1945, Jesus came to my undeserving heart for the first time in the Blessed Sacrament. That same day, Bishop Vincentas Borisevicius conferred on me the Sacrament of Confirmation, while the bishop's sister, Maryte, became my confirmation sponsor.
Among my childhood impressions from those days, the image of Bishop Borisevicius stands out, bright as that of a saint. He stood out among all others in goodness and simplicity. His sister told me that Bishop Borisevicius prayed to God from his youth for the gift of martyrdom, as the greatest grace. His prayer was heard. In 1946, he was arrested and for long months, tortured in the cellars of the KGB. When his sister Maryte would take food and clothing to be handed on to him, they used to give her Bishop Borisevicius' torn and blood-soaked clothing. On a few occasions, the clothing was soaked in sewage and, in laundering, gave off a very foul odor.
More than once, they kept Bishop Vincentas in a punishment cell full of sewage, and when he lost consciousness, they would pull him out. All those articles of clothing I saw with my own eyes. New linen bore great bloodstains, and was torn to ribbons. So terribly did they torture Bishop Vincentas in their desire to force him to consent to falsehood. They were unable to do so; he remained faithful to God and the truth.
For this, on August 26,1946, he was libeled by the KGB in the Supreme Court of Vilnius and condemned to death. His sister, Maryte, touched him as they took him past her. There was no flesh, just skin and bones; but from his tortured and emaciated face radiated peace and joy and he smiled at his sister. During his trial, he uttered just one sentence, "Before God and man, I am innocent!"
A student who had been in the death cell with the bishop and had miraculously survived, told me that Bishop Vincentas strengthened them all spiritually, explaining the truths of religion, giving conferences, and spending most of the time in recollected prayer on his knees. Whenever he received a small packet of food, he immediately divided it among everybody, leaving nothing for himself. When they would take him out for interrogation, apparently they were always expecting to break his faithfulness to the truth. He would leave as if on his way to death, blessing everyone.
More than once, they threw him back in the cell unconscious. They would place steel plates on either side of his head and press them together until he lost consciousness. But they were unable to enslave the powerful spirit of the bishop to falsehood. Then once, his blessing was final: They took him from the cell and never brought him back.
His Excellency, Bishop Vincentas Borisevicius, and Father Pranciskus Gustaitis were shot at the foot of Gediminas Hill in Vilnius, in the yard of the barracks standing beyond the Vilnele River. Early in the morning they brought them in a covered truck, lifted them both out because they could not stand, jammed them back-to-back like shocks of wheat, and killed them with pistol shots to the temple. When they slumped to the ground, they were kicked over on their faces. Their hands, tied with rope behind their backs, were freed when the ropes were cut with a knife. With a few more kicks, the bodies of the martyrs were pushed into a grave which had been dug right there. The soldiers immediately filled the grave, and covered it over with yard dirt, so that no sign would remain of the burial.
The date and place of the execution was leaked by a KGB agent, who had purposely worked there so that he might help the prisoners as much as possible, to a relative of his, who like all Lithuanians of good will, held the bishop in high esteem. Early that morning, she went up to Gediminas Hill and hid in the shrubbery. She saw everything herself, and later told me. "It was so terrible that for a long time, I could not sleep, I was so shocked. I can still see it all.... I would never go again to see it. . . ."
In the words of our Martyr-Bishop Mecislovas Reinys: "Happy are those who have not bowed to falsehood, they live forever! They reinforce our ranks!" All you holy martyrs of Lithuania, pray for us!
We lived in Telsiai until the end of 1945, and when the KGB began looking for Dad, we immediately left Telsiai in secret for Anyksciai. There, a good friend of Dad's, Antanas Stomas, was employed as Director of the Experimental Station at Elmoninkai. He took Dad on as a senior research assistant. We went to live with mother's aunt in Anyksciai, and later obtained an apartment in the suburbs—in Jonydsenos.
Around us was a stand of pine, and nearby, the River Sventoji. Dad used to go to work on a bicycle, and in winter, on horseback. His place of employment was five kilometers away. We experienced much hardship, and even starvation. Dad used to earn in a month just enough to buy three kilograms of butter. There was a shortage of bread. Sometime later, some good people gave Dad a cow to support himself. In the garden, he used to grow potatoes and vegetables. We got back on our feet, but whenever we heard automobile motors roaring early in the morning, we would all run out into the grain fields to hide, lest they take us off to Siberia. This is how most Lithuanians lived, as if on the rim of a volcano.
At our nextdoor neighbor's was the headquarters of the Communist irregulars. Words fail me in describing their cruelty. Here they used to torture partisans, and throw their terribly mutilated corpses out in the yard, next to the well from which we used to draw water. Later, those corpses used to lie for weeks in the town square of Anyksciai. They were not allowed to be buried. They used to kill people without compunction. Often, if peasants just visited their neighbors, the irregulars used to consider them partisans, and shoot them. The word "irregular" (stribas) became a curse-word, so repelled were people by their deeds.
All Lithuanians of good-will loved the partisans, sympathized with them and helped them as much as they could. Partisans used to come also to the Elmoninkai Experimental Station. Always polite, pleasant and cheerful, upon departure they would leave the director a receipt for the government grain, etc. which they had taken, so that he might have something to present to the irregulars. The infuriated irregulars used to guard the Elmoninkai Experimental Station for weeks, and when they lost patience and pulled out, the partisans would come back and again leave a list of what they had taken from the government granary.
At that time, there was not one Soviet turn-coat at the experimental station, not a single Party member. Soviet officials used to call the Elmoninkai Experimental Station the "bandits' station". Director Antanas Slamas had to exhibit much tact in order to placate the Soviet officials and others who would come in looking for trouble. Most often, it was possible to calm them down by entertaining them and getting them drunk. Director Slamas saved many people. May God reward him with eternal happiness!
At school, the teachers pressured me and my brother to enroll in the Pioneers and, later, the Communist Youth League. They used to keep me until midnight in the faculty room, and the Party activist Ubagevicius tried to force my brother and other pupils, with a pistol, to write petitions to the Communist Youth League. Because we did not acquiesce to force, they expelled us from school.
Summoned to school, my mother told them, "If the only ones allowed to go to school are Pioneers and Communist Youth League members, my children won't go to school. It would be better for them not to finish school, but to grow up to be decent people. They're not going to be hypocrites and compromisers!"
After two weeks, the teachers themselves invited us to return to school. Our mother's firmness had successfully defended us. Oh, how many mothers in those days did not dare to defend their children!
When I was in school, I especially liked sports. I was on school basketball, volleyball, and table tennis teams and participated in track meets. This conditioned me physically. And since we grew up on the banks of the Sventoji, we used to swim until late fall.
Every Sunday and Holy Day, the whole family used to participate in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, and listen to the sermon. To this day, I remember the sermons of our pastor, Father Vincentas Arlauskas, of sainted memory. He accurately compared the militant atheists with the hog under the oak tree, in the story by Krilov. The hog filled up on acorns which had fallen from the oak tree into the mud, and began rooting around the oak. He did not know enough to lift his snout up from the dirt to see from where the acorns fell. So it is with the atheists. They make use of all the gifts God has given them: intellect, health, the blessings of nature, but they want to get rid of the very Giver of all those gifts. However, just as the hog was unable to root up the oak, but only to bloody his snout against its roots, so it is with the poor atheists ...
May the Lord grant eternal bliss to Father Vincentas for his noble work in struggling against the plague of atheism. His sermons which I used to listen to so attentively, his conversations with my parents, helped me not to get lost in the darkness of atheistic education. I used to enjoy greatly reciting the Office of the Blessed Virgin Mary during the early morning Mass. I never missed Mass on Sundays, even when games were scheduled in other cities. For that conscientiousness, I am grateful to my saintly parents.
Every evening, we used to kneel down for prayers in common, which were led most often by Dad. During May, I used to put up something like a little altar in my room: We used to decorate the picture of the Blessed Mother with flowers, and even the neighbors used to come and pray with us.
Canon Petras Rauda—may the Lord grant him eternal happiness—consecrated our family solemnly to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. He also blessed my parents' marriage-of-Saint-Joseph. Mother, suffering from tuberculosis of the bone, was unable to have children, so she and Dad agreed to live as brother and sister. They lived this way the rest of their lives.
Dad respected my mother very much, and loved his family. His patience, industriousness, self-sacrifice and cheerfulness were for us the best unspoken sermon.
From the war years, when the Blessed Mother saved his life, he daily used to recite the fifteen decades of the rosary. This is how it happened:
During the war, we found ourselves near the front. Soviet soldiers took Dad's bicycle, which had been left by the house. He caught up with them and tried to convince them how much he needed the bicycle, asking them to return it. The soldiers angrily declared that he was a "bandit", and they wanted to shoot him on the spot, behind some bushes. Dad mentally commended himself to the Blessed Mother, asking her help, and promising in thanksgiving to recite the fifteen decades of the rosary daily in her honor. He feared not so much for himself, but for us.
At that instant, an officer appeared from somewhere, and asked the soldiers about my Dad. Then he demanded to see my father's papers and, convinced that he was not guilty of anything, released him. Dad kept his promise until his death; in thanksgiving to the Blessed Mother, he used to say the entire rosary daily.
He was very spiritual, like a priest. Even the Communists in Anyksciai use to say, "We know that Jonas Sadunas is a priest. But how come he has a wife and children?"
My mother also was very saintly. She loved God with all her heart, and offered the pain of her illness for me, so that being of a very lively temperament, I would not go astray. I thank God with all my heart for the saintly parents given me! My father, by his prayer and sacrifice, obtained the grace of God for his children. I understand very well that not a single person would have gone astray in the night of Soviet falsehood if he had parents like mine. So, to whom much is given, of him much will be required. May the good God be merciful to me!
In 1953, my brother finished middle school, and that same year, enrolled in the Agronomy Department of the Lithuanian Agricultural Academy. In 1958, he graduated from the academy, receiving a degree as a scientific agronomist.
In 1955, I completed Jonas Biliunas Middle School, in Anyksciai. The question arose where to find the shining light of happiness, not just for myself, but also for others. When I received my diploma from middle school, Dad said to me, "Nijole, remember that every person needs health, a good name, and bread to live, but more necessary than anything is faith in God. I would gladly renounce everything else and die in prison or in Siberia, but I would not deny my faith in God before even one individual, because this is God's greatest gift to a person.''
Those words still ring in my ears, all the more because they have been borne out by the whole noble example of my parents' lives. Mother and Dad used to assist at the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass and receive Holy Communion every Sunday and Holy Day throughout Stalin's reign of terror. Oh, how well they could pray—they practically immersed themselves in God. Many times, Soviet officials threatened to dismiss Dad from his position, on account of his open attendance at church. Then I'll go to work as an ordinary laborer," Dad used to say calmly. He trusted God, and God protected our family.
All people of good will loved and respected Dad; his coworkers and even some Communists were impressed with his firmness of character. He was elected for two consecutive terms as Peoples' Deputy of the Anyksciai Rayon. The Communists used to say that the villagers would not heed them, and did not trust them, but when Dad spoke, they believed him. Dad was concerned with easing the peasants' lot. He obtained permission for people to hold larger pieces of land, and keep more animals. He knew how to bear up under all attacks with good humor, in that way disarming even his enemies.
When I finished middle school, I had the opportunity to enroll in the Institute of Physical Culture to become a teacher or a trainer. But that meant renouncing religious practice and being a hypocrite in the eyes of people, since only atheists can be Soviet teachers. No, this was not my style! God is the source of every individual's happiness, and without Him, there is no real happiness in life.
The thirty-two years of my life since then have demonstrated that truth. For the fact that I understood it in my early youth, I am very grateful also to His Excellency, the Exile-Bishop Julijonas Steponavicius, saintly priests and Brone Kibick-aite.
Brone and I lived in the same house, and went to the same school. On July 26,1956, during the Feast of Saint Ann, His Excellency Bishop Julijonas Steponavicius administered the Sacrament of Confirmation. Brone asked me to be her sponsor. I agreed. Before conferring the sacrament, Bishop Steponavicius vividly explained that those being confirmed should be consciously prepared to receive the Holy Spirit. I felt that I lacked its grace very much and asked Brone to turn over half of her gifts from the Holy Spirit. She agreed.
Right after the Sacrament of Confirmation, we both felt interior upheaval, a clear understanding of the purpose of life and great happiness. Late into the night, we walked together through the Grove of Anyksciai, amazed at the wondrous working of the Holy Spirit. That was the happiest day of my life! We both found the light of happiness: To God alone belong our hearts in their entirety! Only God is the goal of every human being, and the great source of happiness.
Even Mother, unable to understand such a sudden change in me, thought that I had thought up a new game. Mother loved the way of life I was choosing, only she feared lest it be a thoughtless game on my part. She supported me with her prayers and blessing. How grateful I am for everything to Mother and Dad! On my account, they later had to experience much unpleasantness. In the Soviet newspaper Komjaunimo Tiesa (Truth, Communist Youth League Edition), an editorial writer bemoaned the fact that apparently my father took me, a bright, energetic, happy athlete, and shut me up in a convent.
First Secretary Lukosevicius of the Anyksciai Rayon Lithuanian Communist Party Committee berated my Dad more than once, and sent for me. When my father and I went to see him, he began to carry on and scold Dad.
I could stand it no longer, and admonished him, saying that as Dad's junior, he had no right to shout and scold so. "It is a shame to speak such nonsense, as though in the twentieth century, parents could shut up an energetic eighteen-year-old girl somewhere. After all, you know well that I'll get out through the smallest opening if you try to confine me... Please stop terrorizing my father!"
For some time after my return, I lived with my parents and the militant atheists calmed down. The poor things did not know that it is not within their power to take away the grace of God, and that there is no such power in the world. I helped Dad with his work. He had just had a hernia operation and could lift nothing heavy. Mother, an invalid with a deformed disk, suffered greatly but was always very patient and cheerful. On Dad's sixtieth birthday, his co-workers and the director congratulated him. Here is a citation from Order No. 141 from the director of the Elmoninkai Experimental Station, dated September 11,1959:
"To Senior Research Associate, Comrade Jonas Sadunas, son of Juozas, on the occasion of his sixtieth birthday, for his long years of conscientious work at the Experimental Station of Elmoninkai, and for his successful work, I express my thanks and wish him health and long years of fruitful labor." It was signed by Director Antanas Puodziukas.
Less than a month later, another order arrived from the Soviet "inside", not without pressure from the KGB. It was Order No. 170 of the Agricultural Scientific Research Institute of Lithuania, October 8, 1959: "It has been decided to terminate Jonas Sadunas, son of Juozas, Senior Research Associate at the Elmoninkai Experimental Station, on October 15,1959, as having attained retirement." It was signed by Petras Vasinauskas, Director of the Lithuanian Agricultural Scientific Research Institute of Pasvalis.
To Dad, this was an unpleasant blow. He liked his work, and the people with whom he had worked for so many years; but he did not feel sorry for himself, or complain. He knew how to bear up under all life's blows, silently and patiently. It only made his noble soul shine more brightly.
When they forced Dad into retirement, I was living and working in Vilnius. I could find no room for my parents to rent. I found an apartment in Riese, seven kilometers outside of Vilnius. In order that they might register me there, I obtained work in the hospital of Kalina. Then Mother and Dad came to live with me. Once again we were living together. Dad happily served at the altar during the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass every Sunday and on weekdays. For this, he once more attracted the ire of the authorities.
The bureaucrats berated him and threatened to take away his pension, saying that it was embarrassing for a former scientific associate to serve in church. To this, Dad replied that they could keep their pension, and that there was no greater honor for a man than to be able to serve with the priest at the altar. "I'm not worthy of it...."
Seeing that he did not become frightened, they left him with his pension and never threatened him again.
All his life, Dad begged God for the grace to be allowed to die a painful death, like the Good Thief on the Cross, just so that immediately after death, he could be with the Lord. God heard his prayer. On April 28,1963, on his way to church, he was run over by a truck. His skull was fractured, his knee was shattered and his liver was crushed. For a whole day, he suffered very patiently, praying and making Acts of Contrition in the Vilnius I Hospital. At 11:00 AM on April 29, he fell asleep in the Lord.
His face radiated peace and joy. His friends said that even while alive, he had never been as beautiful as he looked laid out in the casket. He died at the age of sixty-three. Blessed are those who die in the Lord. May they rest in the joy of the Lord forever. On May 1, 1963, we interred him in the Cemetery of Riese.
That same year, Dad had been arranging to bring Grandmother, my mother's mother, home from Siberia. The Soviet occupation forces had exiled my mother's parents to Altay, Siberia. Their great-grandparents had been serfs and like most Lithuanians, very industrious. During the years of Lithuanian independence, my mother's father obtained a loan from the bank, and with some other farmers, bought on auction a piece of farmland from the estate of a Polish nobleman who had gone bankrupt. Grandfather and his children built themselves a home, working like ants from morning until night. They were very religious and upright. People who used to work for my grandparents during the busy season told me that they were like real parents to everyone. Everyone ate the same food at a common table, worked together, and the wages were very generous. "We used to get more in a day than they do in the communal farm in a month," one woman told me with tears in her eyes. "They were better to me than my father...." That woman is still living in Svedasai.
They respected and loved my grandparents not only in Lithuania, but also in Siberia. The Siberians considered Grandfather Juozapas to be a clergyman: We used to pray together, he would explain various questions, and people used to come to him for advice. My grandfather died and was buried in Altay. On his grave, they erected a cross of birchwood. May he rest in the joy of the Lord, for he forgave from his heart everyone who had wronged him.
Relatives brought Grandmother Karolina back to Lithuania in 1963. For some time, she lived with us. At that time, we were living at Varsuvos 13-1 in Vilnius (next to the Cemetery of Rasiai). We were renting an apartment consisting of a half-basement, an unheated and damp room, and a kitchen in which we lived. Mother loved and respected Grandmother very much. In 1964, along with all of Mother's illnesses, she contracted rheumatoid arthritis after being exposed to cold. She was very ill. She often perspired greatly. The joints of her hands and feet became deformed. She spent five and a half years in bed.
The apartment was very poor, and in spite of the fact that Mother was a Group I Invalid, and had priority, we waited for a cooperative apartment more than five years. On one occasion, some visitors from abroad came to visit Mother and were so shocked that we were living in such a hole that for a long time, they did not dare enter the kitchen. "Back home, even the blacks have better apartments," they said.1
1Second-class citizenship of blacks in the US. is a recurring theme of Soviet propaganda.
Once we received a visit from my cousin who, seeing our miserable living conditions, offered to take Grandmother to live with her. Her family (of five) and her mother and father, had an entire frame house of government issue. We had been informed that we would not get a cooperative apartment that year, so we parted with Grandmother, thinking that she would be better off with her other daughter and granddaughter. There she would have a private, warm room. After some time, Grandmother fell ill. My cousin and aunt nursed her lovingly but her exhausted body could no longer resist the illness and Grandmother fell asleep in the Lord. May she have eternal rest.
Mother could not attend the funeral, since she herself was seriously ill, confined to bed.
After much effort running between offices, on December 23,1969, we obtained a cooperative apartment at Architektu 27-2 in Lazdynai. Almost all the loan for the cooperative apartment had been provided by my brother who, since 1968, had been working as a senior agronomist in various places. He lived alone, frugally, loved Mother very much and did what he could to get an apartment.
While working at the Experimental Station of Voke as Senior Agronomist, he caught cold and the doctor forbade him to work in the fields. So in 1971, he obtained employment at the Lithuanian Ministry of Agriculture in Vilnius as Senior Agronomist-Economist. They assigned him a room in the apartment with us and Mother. This is how we got a three-room apartment.
All this time, I was an ordinary factory worker and took care of Mother. Mother was not able to enjoy the new apartment for long. Six months later, on June 16,1970, she fell asleep in the Lord, only fifty-four years of age. She prayed for and received from the Lord an easy death. All her life, from the age of twenty-three, she had been seriously ill, but she went to the Lord without pain. According to Doctor L. Sinvak of happy memory, who treated her, she died of tubercular meningitis. Mother knew how to suffer and to love. For everything and at all times, she was thankful to God.
Brone Kibickaite, who prayed with me and my brother at Mother's bed as she was on the way to her eternity, and helped prepare her for the wake, wanted very much to at least glimpse where Mother was now. That night when we all went to bed, Brone heard beautiful music, and singing such as she had never heard. She sat up in bed, and the music and singing ceased. As soon as she lay down, the music resumed. This happened three times. Brone told me, Tour mother is in heaven. I was not able to see her but I did hear how beautifully they sing there. . . ."
We interred her in Riese.
After working in the computer center of the University of Vilnius, I finished nursing school and worked in the Children's Home in Vilnius, where they kept foundlings and orphans up to the age of three. Poor little children, how much they need the love of a good mother! Moreover, I got to take care of Canon Petras Rauda, Mother's former chaplain, who was very ill at the time. Because he would not submit to falsehood, he suffered for thirteen years in the Soviet Gulag. He returned swollen from starvation, virtually toothless and almost blind. He did not even wish to recall the hell he went through, but his spirit was unbroken, and he not only remained faithful to the truth himself, but he taught others to trust in God alone and to work boldly for the good of God and country.
He forgave everyone, loved everyone and prayed for everyone. Very patient, he was aware that he was suffering from cancer of the stomach, and that he would never recover, but was always calm and cheerful. He prayed humbly: "Even if I die in the most distant corner of the world, Lord, just let me be with You for all eternity!"
And when his former pupils, now physicians, shed tears at seeing him so emaciated, he smiled and said, "You must rejoice, and not weep. When you let your children go for vacation with their grandparents in the village, you are glad that they get a rest. I'm getting ready to go to the good Father of us all. So you must not weep, but rejoice!"
He had the ability of cheering others and comforting them, right up until death. Even though he suffered much, he refused any sedatives, bearing all the pain. He prayed especially for the priests in Lithuania, whom he loved very much, and every day he prayed for Russia. He was grateful to everyone for the slightest service. I used to wonder how someone suffering so much could take notice of others and, right up until death, be concerned for their welfare. Only people of great spirit are able to live and die in this way.
Canon Petras Rauda fell asleep in the Lord on March 7, 1974. May he rest forever in the joy of the Lord.
My brother's wife Maryte also suffered much. They exiled her as a thirteen-year-old in 1948, together with her parents and her sister, three years older. What for? Their family lived in the District of Marijampole, three kilometers from the town of Kalvarija, on the banks of Lake Oreja. One day, it was raining very hard and three partisans passing by stopped in their barn to get out of the rain. Someone saw and reported it. Immediately, irregulars showed up, killed the partisans and took their whole family away. They beat the father severely, tortured him, kept him in prison and later sent him separately to concentration camp. Exhausted by his sufferings, he died. May he rest in God!
Maryte, only thirteen years old, in the Siberian taiga not far from Irkutsk, had to carry two pails of sap each trip to the collection point. Everyone suffered from hunger and from cold. The mother's legs became paralyzed. Later, Maryte, through great trials, completed nursing school in Irkutsk, and returning to Lithuania in 1958, completed a correspondence course at the Medical Institute of Kaunas. She now works in the polyclinic as an eye doctor. Since Maryte herself saw great hardship from childhood, she is now capable of sympathizing with all who suffer, and helps them as much as she can. The sick love and appreciate her greatly. May God help her do even more good for people.