Under God's Protection
As I mentioned, in the forenoon of November 23,1982,1 visited my brother Jonas Sadunas, who was confined in the psy¬chiatric hospital of Nauja Vilnia for observation by the KGB. The KGB was tormenting my brother just because they had failed to enslave him morally and because of their desire to de¬tect and destroy the editorship of the Chronicle of the Catholic Church in Lithuania. Back in 1974, the KGB investigators who had arrested me boasted that in a month or two there would be no more Chronicle of the Catholic Church in Lithuania because all had been discovered. Twelve years have passed, and the Chroni¬cle, with the help of God, still survives. For that, praise and thank the Almighty!
In any case, the medical chief of the psychiatric examina¬tion section, KGB agent Razinskiene, ordered me out and with a chekist who came to her assistance, fabricated a trumped-up charge against me for allegedly insulting her. Expelled by Dr. Razinskiene, I left immediately. I quickly crossed the broad hospital courtyard. Approaching the side gate, I saw pass by several militia cars, one of which stopped not far from the gate, behind the bushes, as though to be concealed. Standing right at the gate was a taxi, with its door open. I was very fortunate, since taxis never stood there. Apparently, it had brought some¬one and had not had time to drive away. The driver agreed to take me to Vilnius, and at my request, he let me off at the Gates of Dawn. The Solemnities of the Mother of Mercy had just ended. I wanted to thank the Blessed Mother for her pro¬tection, and to commend my brother's needs to Her.
After thanking the Mother of Mercy of the Gates of Dawn, I spoke by phone with my brother's wife, Maryte. De¬scribing briefly the events at the hospital, told her I would not be home, and asked her to take the men confined with my brother some bread, which they lacked. I then went to the home of an acquaintance, and drafted protests to the Minister of the Department of Health and to the Attorney General of the Lithuanian Soviet Socialist Republic. I immediately mailed the protests, and the texts appeared in the Chronicle of the Catholic Church in Lithuania.
Late that night, I went home to prepare for a raid. I learned that Dr. Razinskiene had that very day informed my brother that a criminal case had been brought against me, and she regretted that I managed to get away. Right after I had left, the militia and a KGB agent arrived. My brother immediately drafted protest letters describing the fabrication. That day, many militiamen waited in the hospital courtyard for me to visit my brother again, but they were disappointed.
Early on the morning of November 24, the anniversary of the murder of Father Bronius Laurinavicius, I left home dis¬guised as an elderly lady, just in case some KGB agent was waiting in the yard. On the sidewalk in front of our door, a man was pacing back and forth, obviously waiting for someone. Bent under the "burden of age", and limping somewhat, I immedi¬ately turned to the other houses on the left instead of to the street to the right, which was the usual route downtown.
Lazdynai is a new suburb of Vilnius. I went unhurriedly. Behind some bushes, I noticed that the man, actually stooping, was following me with his gaze. He must not have recognized me, because he remained at his post.
Leaving the courtyard a few houses behind me, I stepped up my pace and not meeting anyone, I crossed Lazdynai. I took the trolley-bus downtown, and stopped into the church of the Holy Spirit (formerly the Dominican Church) to pray. During the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, I resigned myself completely to the will of God, repeating the words of the little Saint Theresa of Lisieux, "I desire nothing but what you, Oh God, wish and as you wish it!... Lead me where you will, the way you know, for you are truly Love!"
My heart was at peace. After praying, I went to the home of my best friend, Brone Kibickaite, whom I often visited, and keys to whose apartment I had. The KGB knew this and when they summoned me to warn me, they used to mail the summons to both addresses, mine and Brone's.
My friend had already gone out. Unlocking the door, I en¬tered that apartment and soon lay down to rest; the night be¬fore, I had almost no sleep, preparing for the raid. I immedi¬ately fell fast asleep, and slept for several hours. Suddenly in a dream, I saw two militiamen in uniform, and understood that they were looking for me. Immediately I heard the doorbell, a long, insistent ring.
If it had not been for that dream, I would have opened the door. Now however, I crept to the door and, climbing up on something, I looked very carefully through the transom. Outside the door, I saw the caps of two militiamen. Quietly I climbed down and went back into the room, determined not to open the door. Through a back window overlooking the yard (the apart¬ment was on the second floor), I saw a white Nova militia car parked at the entrance to the building, with a uniformed mili¬tiaman seated at the wheel. The KGB had decided to take care of me through the hands of the militia.
"Well," I thought, "let's see what happens." My heart was beating wildly and the doorbell kept ringing insistently. Finally, it stopped. Soon, I saw the two militiamen come down the stairs into the yard. One of them carried under his arm a brown folder which was most likely the order for my arrest.
After a brief conversation with the driver, they all drove away. I immediately left Brone's apartment. And so, thank God, this is the fifth year that the entire force of the KGB, with all their agents and assistance of the militia, has been looking for me in vain, pursuing me fruitlessly. How real the words of Psalm 117 (118) have become for me, "With Yahweh on my side, I fear nothing: what can man do to me?"
Some say that I am very shrewd. This is not so! To attain His ends, God often chooses the most unlikely people, and that's what I am. "What appears to the world to be weak, God has chosen in order to confound those who are strong," writes St. Paul. One thing I know, that those who trust in the Lord will never be disappointed, and every day after Holy Communion, I speak to Jesus paraphrasing St. Paul, "Who shall separate me from your love? No, Lord, even the fear of death shall not sep¬arate me from you, for you are my life; neither the love of this life for I am prepared to sacrifice it for you; nor the powers of heaven for you are more powerful than they; nor the things of the present, for they pass; nor those of the future, for I love none of them more than you; nor suffering, for you comfort me; nor oppression, for you fortify my heart; nor hunger, for you satisfy me; nor poverty, for you enrich me; nor danger for you comfort me; nor persecution, for you defend me; nor the sword, nor suffering, for they would be sweet to me for love of you; nor slavery, for in you, I would find freedom; nor finally freedom itself, for I wish to be the slave of your love; nor the creatures of this world, for they are nothing compared to you; nor the transiency of the world, nor the wiles of my foes, nor my own weakness, for you will turn all those misfortunes into good for me—nothing shall separate me from the love of Jesus Christr
And I ask the Blessed Mother to allow me to love the Good Lord in Her Immaculate Heart. This is the extent of my "shrewdness".
After November 23, 1982, I would visit my apartment in Lazdynai, and Brone, only stealthily. And the good Lord pro¬tected me from the eyes of the people of ill will.
No Home and No Work: The Harassment Continues
Why did they take away my cooperative apartment on July 8,1985? I quote the minutes (no. 45) of the representatives' meeting of the Vilnius Residential Housing Construction Coop¬erative No. 99, held July 8,1985:
Representatives elected: 18
Participating in the meeting: 16
Presiding over the meeting, P. Ziupsnys
Secretary of the meeting—G. Leonavicius
Whether to expel Felicita-Nijole Sadunaite, daughter of Jonas, from membership in the cooperative, for infrac¬tion of Section C, Par. 28 of the Regulations of the Coop¬erative, by systematically failing to fulfill her obligations to the cooperative.
Discussion centered around the expulsion of Felicita-Nijole Sadunaite from the cooperative for systematic in¬fraction of Articles C and E of the Regulations of the Co¬operative.
It was decided:
1. To expel citizen Felicita-Nijole Sadunaite, daughter of Jonas, born 1938, registered at Architektu 27-2, for in¬fraction of Art. 28E of the Regulations for the Cooperative by living regularly in another apartment, and of Art. C—by systematically breaking the rules of socialist com¬munal living by not participating in cooperative social projects, does not clean the stairs, libels the cooperative and Soviet law.
2. To accept as a member of the Cooperative Jonas Sadunas (contingent on submission of the appropriate doc¬uments and after consultation with the Executive Commit¬tee), assigning him to his sister's apartment.
Voting for—16 representatives. No opposing votes and no abstentions. Signed: P. Ziupsnys—Chairman of the Cooperative
Of course, no one has proven that I have another apart¬ment, since no one knows where I live. I'm a free woman and come home whenever I please. My brother's wife, Maryte, par¬ticipates in the Cooperative projects and keeps the stairs clean. Where and how I have libeled the Cooperative? These are vague, meaningless words. Likewise, with regard to Soviet law, there is no proof, but this the KGB should be concerned with, and not Ziupsnys. Here the poor man only gave himself away as a KGB agent. KGB Investigator Gudas threatened to take away my apartment back in 1970, and in 1974-75, KGB Major Vytau-tas Pilelis did so. What is an apartment worth compared to eter¬nity? How joyously I repeated with Saint Francis: "God is mine and everything is mine."
I am the happiest woman in the world because God loves me, watches over and protects me. Strange as it may seem, in December, 1986, they called my brother from the Executive Committee and told him that I had not been expelled from the cooperative and not been stricken from the registry. Only the good Lord knows what that means, and that suffices. God has his plans and they govern. There are human plans, and they do not govern.
Another example of this truth can be found in the state's effort to deny me work. When I returned from exile in Siberia, the KGB would not allow me to take a job, not even as char¬woman in a store, so I obtained employment as assistant to the charwoman at the church of Paberze. The Providence of God makes all things work out for the best. In this job the KGB was unable to keep me under surveillance; I used to work when there was work to be had. Many times, I tended the fire beds, planted flowers, watered them, weeded them and, in the fall, I would gather up and burn the leaves fallen in the churchyard.
I used to help the old sacristan to keep the church in or¬der. I never hid away from the people who came to help out, or to see the pastor on business. After work, I used to take part in evening devotions, and afterwards I used to go to the sacristy to write down that I had done this or that chore. I paid income tax. Many warned me that I was not circumspect enough, since the KGB was looking for me so tirelessly.
The Vice Commissioner of the Council for Religious Af¬fairs, Jozenas, came to visit me when I arrived at the home of Father Donatas Valiukonis, pastor of Paberze. He asked whether I really worked there, and bemoaned the fact that I did not live in my own apartment. The pastor vouched that I was employed, and Jozenas left, having accomplished nothing. Going against Goliath in the Lord's name, little David will al¬ways be the winner! Trusting in God, let us do everything we must; without His permission, even a hair from our head shall not fall. God is our refuge and our strength!
My years as a fugitive are witness to that. The KGB is looking for me not only in Lithuania, but in Latvia, the Ukraine, the heart of Russia and even Moscow. They have interrogated and investigated all of my acquaintances who ever wrote me letters during my exile in Siberia.
The whole time I have been living in Vilnius, frequently and even daily visiting the families of prisoners of conscience under surveillance by the KGB, going to visit one or the other church in Vilnius, helping to prepare my brother's little daugh¬ter Marija for First Communion, and riding to work. So I wasn't exactly acting like a fugitive. God used to help me avoid en¬counters with KGB agents. Sometimes I would spot them before they saw me, and sometimes others would warn me, and I would disappear in time. There were many incidents in those years. One cannot write write about them all. Only one thing is clear: God does not abandon those trusting in Him. For every-thing, praise and thanks to the Almighty!
Unable to settle matters with me, the "comrades'' began to terrorize my brother's family. Here are a few fragments: After 8:00 PM on October 10,1985, my apartment doorbell rang. The stairwell was dark. To my inquiry, "Who is there?", someone an¬swered, "Militia! Please put on the stairway light!"
The electric switch was next to the doorbell, so that one could see who was standing at the door. They did not put on the light; the doorbell just kept on buzzing, accompanied by cries of "Militia! Militia! Militia!"
One of the neighbors went out on the landing and turned on the light. Now one could really see that a uniformed mili¬tiaman was standing at the door. They opened the door. An of¬ficial in the uniform of a militia lieutenant entered my apart¬ment, and without even greeting or showing his official creden¬tials, began shouting angrily in Russian, "Why wouldn't you let me in? What are you afraid of? Perhaps you have a lot of gold?"
"We were afraid of robbers. We have been burglarized twice already. If we don't see who is ringing the doorbell, we won't let you in next time, either! Besides, even now, we don't know who you are, since we are seeing you for the first time."
"I am an inspector from the militia," the visitor introduced himself.
"Not long ago, we were visited by another inspector from the militia, who left us his visiting card with his name and tele¬phone number," my relatives answered.
"On account of people like Sadunaite, militia inspectors have to be changed frequently." And suddenly he asked, "Is Ni¬jole Sadunaite here? When will she be here? Where does she work? Let her present her work permit. I'll come back in a week, and if Nijole Sadunaite's work permit is not here, then I'll be coming back to see you every day."
Then he demanded that they produce their papers, and taking out some sort of writing, he told them, "I don't have the right to show you this document," and he placed it on the table.
While he checked their papers, my relatives had read that the documents had been written on October 3, 1985, addressed to the Chief of the Department of Internal Affairs of the Spalio Rayon, Militia Lieutenant Colonel S.H. Blazhv. The document states: "The officers of residence Cooperative No. 99 inform you ... that Nijole Sadunaite has not been living in her cooperative apartment for five whole years, is not working anywhere. . . . She was sentenced to six years for anti-Soviet activity...."
The document was typed, a whole page. It was signed by Chairman Petras Ziupsnys of Cooperative No. 99. Poor Ziup¬snys should be treated for hardening of the arteries, for in the fall of 1982 he and two "comrades" checked everybody's pass¬ports in our building himself. Taking my passport, he ridiculed my incorrectly entered name (the passport had been issued after my exile, and they copied my name incorrectly).
He also made fun of a little picture of Christ which I had placed in the cover of the passport. All that I recall well, but he, the poor man, "forgot". After checking the passports and telling me that everything was in order, he left. So it was three years and not five since Ziupsnys had seen me. He wrote that I was unemployed when he had my certificate of employment. Such is the Soviet "truth". May God forgive him the he, since this is the atmosphere in which he was reared.
After checking their passports, the militia inspector in¬quired why I had not obtained employment in Vilnius. They explained to him that since I returned from exile in Siberia, I was refused employment, even as a cleaning woman in a store. And so, I had obtained work as an extra worker at the church in Paberze, and that I earned about 27 rubles a month, after taxes. On the spot they produced my income tax receipts for several years. They explained that my certificate of employ¬ment had been submitted to Ziupsnys on June 24,1985, during a representatives' meeting of the Cooperative, and that Ziupsnys himself had read the text of that certificate of employment to everyone out loud. All thirteen representatives at the meeting heard it.
"I need a new certificate of employment for Nijole Sadunaite," the militiaman insisted.
"Our former inspector had Nijole Sadunaite's certificate of employment, and it should be in your files," they explained to the inspector.
"But I need a new certificate of employment for Nijole Sadunaite," my visitor insisted.
To the question how many times a year new certificates of employment can be obtained, there was no reply. After a brief silence, the inspector asked under what paragraph I had been sentenced.
"We don't know, because the Mordovia camp administra¬tion never returned Nijole's copy of the decision to her, even though she requested it several times in writing. When after her return to Vilnius from exile she wrote a petition on June 11, 1981, to the Chief Judge of the Supreme Court of the LSSR, re¬questing a copy of the decision. Associate Judge M. Ignotas of the Supreme Court of the LSSR responded to her petition, saying that in cases of this nature, copies of the decision are not issued a second time."
Finally, the inspector, after saying that they would be meeting more than once, left without saying goodbye. The con¬versation had lasted about an hour. After he left, my brother's nine-year-old daughter, Marija, ran up to him, saying "Daddy, that militiaman yelling outside the door, 'Militia! Militia! Militia! scared me so much!"
Marija threw her arms around me and asked, "What would they do to you if they caught you? I love you very much and pray for you every evening!"
"Be calm Marija! The prayer of innocent children is pow¬erful, and so only the best will happen to me," I replied. The fear disappeared from her wide, dark eyes, and she smiled.
The poor inspector terrorized and threatened my brother and his wife several more times, but he also decided to frighten Marija. On November 1, 1985, my brother was admitted to the hospital. The diagnosis was tuberculosis of kidneys and eyes. In November of that year, when my brother's wife was working until 9:00 PM, and her daughter Marija was home alone, the militiaman would come and bang loudly on the door, shouting to her to let him in. After the first scare, the girl's mother came home from work to find that her daughter had locked herself in the bathroom, terrified. Marija had told her that the militia¬men had come, shouting loudly and banging on the door, so she had hidden in in the bathroom so that if they put the light on in her room, they would not see her.
Another time, her mother found her sitting under a desk. Next to her stood a table lamp, and Marija was doing her homework. Although her eyes were full of terror, she smiled at her mother and said, "Mommy, I have become tougher! I'm not afraid of that militiaman. Let him bang on our door and shout outsider
The third time, there was a woman with Marija, who helped to remodel the apartment. When the militiaman began banging on the door and shouting, the woman opened the door and let him in. The militiaman assailed the woman, "Don't you know that anti-Soviet people live here? Why are you painting the walls of their apartment?"
The woman calmly replied that to her, all apartment walls are the same. After that, the militiaman inquired where my brother was, saying that he had to go for interrogation.
My brother was transferred from the Vilnius City II Hos¬pital on November 27,1985 to the clinic of the Tuberculosis Re¬search Institute, where he was treated until January 8, 1986. From January 9,1986, he lay in the Republic Tuberculosis Sani¬tarium of Kulautuva, from which he was discharged on June 20, 1986. The definitive diagnosis was tuberculosis of the kidneys and left eye. This was a result of constant colds while he was undergoing compulsory labor in construction. Let all those suf¬ferings be dedicated to the greater glory of God and good of souls!
For their part, my brother and his wife have commended themselves completely to the will of God. Although my brother is presently employed at the Vilnius Inter-Rayon Plant Quaran¬tine Station as a technician with a monthly salary of 105 rubles, he must still endure harassment on my account. Chairman Ziup¬snys of Cooperative No. 99 would not desist, assiduously carry¬ing out orders from his KGB "comrades". For example, on September 29, 1986, during a meeting of representatives, Ziup¬snys attacked my brother for not bringing me.
"Nijole is not a child, so that I should have to bring her. Besides, you evicted her from the Cooperative fourteen months ago."
Ziupsnys then said, "Nijole Sadunaite must reclaim from the state bank any payments she has made for her cooperative apartment."
My brother requested that Articles 30 and 75 of the February 28,1983 Decree of the LSSR Council of Ministers be read. Ziupsnys read Article 30: "The balance of the assessment is to be returned to a member resigning from the Cooperative when the new member accepted by the Cooperative pays his as¬sessment." They then handed my brother a statement saying that 6,148 rubles and 86 kopeks had been deposited in the state bank.
Ziupsnys said, "We will give her a month's time. If during that time Nijole Sadunaite does not reclaim from the state bank the sum she has paid in, her money shall be transferred to an escrow account. If, within three years she does not reclaim her money, the deposit of 5,04050 rubles will revert to the state."
Moreover, he angrily demanded, "Where are you hiding Nijole Sadunaite? Where is she living? I haven't seen her for five years! The residents of the Cooperative haven't either!"
My brother asked, "If no one has seen Nijole for five years, then why did you state at the board meeting of July 8, 1985 that she was libeling the Cooperative and Soviet law? Who heard Nijole libeling the Cooperative?"
"Nijole Sadunaite transmitted libelous material over Vati¬can Radio," Ziupsnys insisted.
"Did you hear that material?"
To my brother's question, Ziupsnys replied, "Everyone heard how that Vatican Radio libeled our Cooperative."
"And where's the proof that Nijole gave them that infor¬mation?"
To this question, the secretary of the meeting, G. Leonavi-cius replied, "If we have libeled Nijole Sadunaite, then sue!"
"You have expelled Nijole from membership in the Coop¬erative unjustly, because she has no other apartment," my brother explained. "Can you produce the address where Nijole is living permanently? Without her address, you were not sup¬posed to expel her from the Cooperative."
To this, Ziupsnys replied, "Nijole is travelling all over the Soviet Union. That's why she is not living with you."
"But there's no stated time limit for a member of the Co¬operative not to inhabit an apartment!" my brother retorted.
Ziupsnys was silent. It would be interesting to know whether it was from the KGB that Ziupsnys learned that I was travelling all over the Soviet Union, since he stated that for five years, neither he nor any other members of the Cooperative had seen me. Witnesses like poor Ziupsnys testifying in Soviet courts against prisoners of conscience say what the KGB wants them to say. Such is everyday Soviet reality!
From letters, of which I receive fewer and fewer, barely one or two a year, I have learned that most of my acquaintances who have suffered in the Gulag for the Truth have been ar¬rested again. The good God knows that the condemnation weighing on the world today can be removed only by sacrifice, and he chooses those whom His Love designated before the ages. The suffering prisoners of conscience are the salt of the earth.
The Cause of Truth
The whole time, as much as circumstances allowed, I tried to contribute to the important and sacred work of assisting the wounded, persecuted Church of Lithuania, vilified in every way by the Soviets. That sacred task is being carried out by the Chronicle of the Catholic Church in Lithuania, reporting to ev¬eryone the injuries being inflicted on the Church, and urging all to remain faithful to Truth and Love. So I reproduced as much as I was able the Chronicle of the Catholic Church in Lithuania and other underground religious literature.
Twelve years ago, during my interrogation, I promised KGB Major Vytautas Pilelis that if God let me come back from the Gulag, I would again reproduce the Chronicle. With the help of God, I have been carrying out that promise. I rejoice and thank Almighty God that the issues of the Chronicle have become more and more substantial, and are approaching the 100 in number. A few years ago, a very noble individual extended to me the wish that I would be able to print issue 100. The wishes of holy people are fulfilled because their will coincides with the will of God, which consists in everyone's true happi¬ness.
In the course of my work, I had occasion to meet people who were clearly in the spotlight of the KGB, under constant surveillance. There have been many exciting moments in those years, and throughout it all, my ignorance was made up for by our Good Father's hand. Everything always turned out well. Here are a few fragments from my life as a fugitive:
One time I visited some acquaintances whom I had visited more than once to drop off underground literature, and whom I knew were being particularly watched by the KGB. Listening devices had been installed in their apartment and telephone, their home was often being searched, the KGB was interrogat¬ing them and threatening to take care of them; their neighbors, KGB informers, kept an eye on everyone entering and leaving their apartment—in a word, the whole system of terror.
When I went to see them, I would hardly speak; every¬thing I wanted to tell them I would write down so that the "ears" of the KGB would not hear. We used to converse only in writing. The KGB knows that this is the only real way to remain unmonitored by the KGB. Everyone should remember that! It is better to be careful so as not to help the KGB. It is obvious that one should immediately erase what one writes. If one wets that paper and rubs it, the writing fades, and if a drainpipe is avail¬able, you flush it.
Going to see those acquaintances, I would try to disguise myself, only I always left looking just as I had when I went in. But on this occasion, as I prepared to leave, I spontaneously put on a wig I had brought in with me, which used to change my appearance greatly, and donned a scarf, whereas I had come in wearing a beret. It was late evening and there was no one about. We took the elevator down. The corridor was in semi-darkness. After I had left the elevator, I still had to go down a flight of stairs to the exit. At the foot of the stairs, at the door, I saw standing two men who looked like criminals, one of them was sharpening a long knife on the steps while both of them ob¬served me.
I could not run away. Without even pausing, I calmly went right toward them without paying any attention to them, as though I did not see them. I came to the door. Now they were behind me, off to one side. As luck would have it, the door would not open. In my heart was a calm that in moments like that, only the good God can grant. The thought occurred to me, "Let them stab me! I have completed my work, thank God!"
After a slight delay, I got the door open and without turning toward them, went out. Only after leaving did I realize that those men had probably been waiting for me to come out wearing a beret, as I had been wearing as I came into the apartment. The KGB often hires murderers to injure or kill those they are persecuting, but God's ways are not man's ways!
Another time, I was going to see some other acquaintances with underground literature. They were under KGB surveil¬lance, but less than those mentioned above. When I arrived in the city where my friends lived, the thought suddenly occurred to me that I would need transportation to visit other people. Transportation was waiting for me, and when I arrived, I went someplace else instead. Later, I found out that precisely at that time, the militia had been looking for me at my original destina¬tion, they had questioned my friends, demanding to know what they knew about me. God helped me by inspiring me to go elsewhere. I am grateful to Him from the bottom of my heart.
More than once, with the help of God, I have been able to slip out from under the noses of the KGB. One time, as I was going to see some friends being persecuted by the KGB, their neighbors—KGB informers—saw me in the hallway, suspected me and immediately summoned the militia. They arrived in the yard by car, but I was able to disguise myself and evade them. On another occasion, the thought occurred to me to leave my apartment immediately. Barely had I gone out when the militia arrived to check the papers of the residents, something they had not done for decades.
Still another time, as I was going to some other people where I used to spend the night, I saw two militiamen standing on a side street. I often used to meet or see militiamen standing or lounging around, but this time, I clearly understood that they were waiting for me. Instead of going to the apartment, I stood aside unobtrusively and watched them. After a moment, it be¬came obvious that they were waiting for me. They questioned the tenants about me, but by that time, I was far away. I thank everyone for their prayers. My poor brothers—the KGB and militia—how much trouble they have with me! Let us pray that in looking for me, they will find and come to love the Good Heavenly Father of us all.
Meanwhile, my brother's trial was approaching, and I went to Moscow to find my brother an attorney. Unfortunately, ev¬eryone here was also terrified of the KGB, I could not find an attorney. I remembered that in Moscow is the grave of a Ger¬man Catholic ophthalmologist, Friedrich Josef Haas, who for fifty-one years served the most unfortunate, giving them the undivided love of his warm heart. Sergei Zheludkov, a Russian clergyman of fine memory, wrote to me in Siberia about him. I went to the former German cemetery to pray at the grave of FJ. Haas. In spite of the fact that he had gone to his eternal rest in 1853, there were flowers blooming on his grave. Love does not die! Passersby would frequently stop to pray at his grave. It was to this giant of love that I commended by brother's case:
"While living on earth, you gave yourself entirely to pris¬oners, patients and the exploited. Now in the glory of the Lord, you are able to do more. Be my brother's champion and de¬fender!"
I knew that he would not abandon him. Oh how often in seeking help we forget those who are able and wish to help us most—those living in heaven. I was not disappointed. Sometime later, speaking by telephone with my brother's wife, I learned that the trial was to take place on May 24,1987, that is the feast of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Help of Christians. FJ. Haas ob¬tained for my brother the best Defender of all, the Blessed Mother! I rejoiced and was grateful!
I thanked Haas for his answer to my request, and went through the park toward the Orthodox church where I was supposed to meet my friends. A man approached me along the path. As he drew near, he slowed down, stopped and with some surprise, looked at me from head to foot. I was going brunette, without any disguise. Hardly had I passed him when he turned and began to follow me.
I picked up my pace, and so did he. "Surely he hasn't rec¬ognized me? If only I could have time to warn my friends not to wait for me, and not to have any unpleasantness," I thought, hurrying toward the church. Thank God, the church was full of people with services in progress. I mingled with the crowd and donned a scarf and sweater which I had with me. I was also able to warn my friends. And I myself stood to one side near the side door where there were some low benches with some el¬derly ladies sitting on them.
The church was full of worshipers. After a while, I noticed two young men looking over everyone in the church with great interest. It was obvious that they were looking for someone. I commended myself to the will of God. "Fiat! I am ready!"
Before me was an icon of Our Lady of Vladimir. The thought occurred to me, "If they don't arrest me today, it means that the Blessed Mother wants me to write my recollections."
The two men slowly approached, and their eyes fixed in¬tently on every face. In that moment, a little old lady sitting be¬hind me stood up to leave, and I sat down in her place on a low bench next to some other old ladies. I lowered my head and pulled the scarf over my forehead; playing the role of a little old lady has saved me more than once. In any case, the young men probably did not even pay any attention to the little old ladies sitting next to the wall, because in an Orthodox church, only the very elderly and the sick sit. There are not many benches and the places are taken before the services.
I did not notice when the services ended and the people began to disperse. I helped the little old lady sitting next to me rise, and accompanying her, I left with a crowd of people by the side door. Once inside the churchyard, I went directly along the wall of the church, bent over, conversing with a little old lady. I brought her to and seated her in a bus.
We took a route different from the one by which I had come and I did not see my "tail", the detective. Upon reaching home, I immediately sat down to begin writing my recollections, and when I met my friends who had been in church at the time, they told me that it was the first time that they had seen the KGB scrutinizing people so blatantly, and they had feared greatly that I would be recognized.
Heroes of the Resistance: Petras Paulaitis
Sometime later, the good God allowed me to meet Vladas Lapienis, at that time hiding from the KGB. In spite of his 79 years, Vladas was full of energy and Christian optimism. He worked hard without sparing himself. Vladas Lapienis, like our other prisoners of conscience, is suffering gladly for God and country, and that is a special sign of God's election. May the Almighty strengthen the prisoners of conscience on their diffi¬cult but honorable road of suffering in the Gulag!
I had the good fortune of seeing and having a good talk with our nation's heroic martyr, Petras Paulaitis,1 who because of his love and loyalty to God and country, has spent thirty-five years in the Soviet Gulag. Just think, thirty-five years of inhu¬man suffering, degradation and dehumanization! But none of this enslaved his spirit; with good reason Scripture says, The
1Petras Paulaitis (6/29/1904-2/19/1986), had been a member of the Lithuanian Underground operating against the Nazis. (At one point he was captured by the Gestapo, but escaped in a dramatic run for his life.) He continued his resistance activities when the Communists "liberated" Lithuania and, as Nijole puts it, "forgot" to leave. His suf¬ferings in the Gulag over thirty-five years were so intense as to tempt him to suicide, which he resisted because of his faith in God.
truth shall make you free!"
Petras Paulaitis remained serene as a child, and his ac¬commodation and love for everyone, even his enemies, moved one to tears. It was not without reason that even the chekists called him a standard of moral uprightness. Petras Paulaitis was a miracle of God's grace.
As his thirty-five years of suffering in the Gulag ended, one high-ranking chekist asked whether he didn't regret these thirty-five years stricken from his life. To this, Mr. Petras (so the prisoners called him) replied, "I am sorry only that being the son of a small nation, Lithuania, I did not know how to defend its freedom from the much more numerous Soviet occupation forces."
In the Gulag, prisoners of good will from every nation and shade of opinion deeply respected his moral greatness and hu¬man warmth. He knew how to share his last bit of bread with prisoners who had been starved in punishment cells, how to lis¬ten to, console and encourage each one of them. Prisoners of conscience of other nationalities envied us Lithuanians the fact that Petras was of our countrymen.
When prisoners transferred from one concentration camp to another met, the first question used to be, "How was Mr. Pe¬tras?", and then they asked about their own countrymen. Young prisoners like the Ukrainian Zorvan Popadiuk, out of respect for Petras, learned Lithuanian in the concentration camp. From exile, Zorvan used to write letters to me in beautiful Lithuanian. That young man with his beautiful spirit, after nine years of suffering in the Gulag—in spite of the fact that while in prison he contracted tuberculosis and they removed part of his lungs while he was in exile—was given another fifteen years of incarceration by the "generous" hands of the KGB, just because he remained loyal to the truth.2
2Zorvan Popadiuk is presently confined in Ural Concentration Camp No. 36, together with the highly respected Father Alfonsas Svarinskas (618263, Permskaya obi., Chsovskoy Rayon, Kuchino, uchr.VS-389-36). Serving sentence at the same location is third-termer Ukrainian prisoner of conscience Vasil Vasilevich Ovsenko. Zorvan's mother, unable to stand another enforced separation with her only son, died.After his thirty-five years in the Gulag, during the fall of 1982, Paulaitis was brought to the KGB dungeons in Vilnius. Here the KGB warned him not to try to write his memoirs, be¬cause he would disappear immediately without a trace.
"I know your little tricks, and how a year ago you killed Father Bronius Laurinavicius, tortured a whole list of priests and noble-hearted Lithuanians; you can shoot me on the spot."
The KGB began yelling at him to keep quiet; they would not let Petras finish speaking. Immediately they changed the subject and began asking where he wanted to live, whom he wanted to visit. Afraid to release him in the concentration camp uniform, they had him change into a suit at a nearby store. Here they outfitted him from head to toe using the money which Petras had earned while in the Gulag. Petras smiled, The chekists suggested that I buy an imported suit, as though it were a better quality than the Soviet version."
After visiting a few relatives and friends, Petras settled in Kretinga. Each Sunday and Holy Day, he very devoutly assisted at the Sacrifice of the Mass, and received Holy Communion. Always and everywhere he was very modest and simple, and even though waves of pain now different from those in the Gulag kept pounding him, he knew how to preserve clarity and peace of soul. The KGB was able to poison the last days of his life, but they were never able to trample his human greatness and nobility.
His love and forgiveness even of those who falsely accused him, is best shown by the following incident. A young man who had for some time been with Petras in the Mordovia concentra¬tion camp came to visit Petras in Kretinga. Petras Paulaitis cared for him like a son, fed him, nurtured him, and watched over him. It was a joyful meeting, but after some time, a long, dirty, calumnious article about Petras' past, written in KGB style appeared, and under the article, the signature of his former pro¬tege in Mordovia.
How did Petras react to this? "If I met him, I would em¬brace him and beg, Don't take that road of lying, because it will kill you.'.. ." Petras was concerned only with the future of the unfortunate young man enslaved by the KGB.
When he wished to listen to Radio Free Europe or Vati¬can Radio broadcasts, and because of jamming on 2,672 cycles, he was unable to hear anything, with a bright peacefulness he would say, "We have only one thing left—we must try to be better!" Petras was accustomed to overcome any evil by good. Under torture and belittled, he knew how to forgive and to love.
The flame of Petras' life was extinguished February 19, 1986, like a flame on the altar, silently offering himself for oth¬ers until death. He told me that he was praying that God would allow him to die like a bee, on the wing—working—so that he would not be a burden to anyone. God heard his prayer and called him to eternal joy where there would no longer be any death or moaning or pain. His large farmers' hands, which had done so much good for people, and with which even in the hell of the Gulag he had raised flowers, grew stiff on his breast in eternal rest. They clasped to his heart a rosary and a tri-color sash of independent Lithuania.
Only the poor KGB did not calm down. Their agents per¬secuted him even in death. They warned the priests not to inter him with religious services; they told the residents of Kretinga and the surrounding area not to attend the funeral; and they re¬fused to allow students out of school on the day of the funeral. In spite of all the machinations of the powers of darkness, crowds of people accompanied the flower-decked casket of the deceased to the church in Kretinga. They gathered from every corner of Lithuania to pay their respects and to pray to this na¬tional hero and martyr.
Two months after the funeral, I visited the grave of Petras Paulaitis. It was a beautiful sunny day, the birds were singing, but a very strong wind was blowing. On Petras' grave grew a green sprig of rue, and varicolored blossoms, and among them stood a little basket of flowers from the handle of which a yel¬low, green and red ribbon was extended on to the grave. The tricolor of Independent Lithuania covered Petras' remains. It was surprising that the spiteful hand of the chekist had not torn it away.
I lighted some candles and recollected myself for prayer. In spite of the strong blasts of wind, the candles burned down to the end. Those lit on other graves immediately went out. It was difficult to take my leave.