Dalia Kuodyte

United Kestutis district (UKD, from 1948 called Kestutis district) was organized in the autumn of 1946. Its organization was the best for partizan conditions. The resistance in South Žemaitija was influenced by Lithuanian Front (LF) and Lithuanian Freedom Army (LFA). All the commanders of Kestutis district - J.Kasperavicius, B.Bartkus, J.Zemaitis, J.Ceponis and others - were the members of LFA. They helped to organize first units which later became the base of Kestutis district. Zebenkstis unit was organized in 1944-1945. J.Zemaitis-Dainius, J.Ceponis-Budrys and P.Bartkus became the commanders of that unit. Žaibas, Lydys and P.Luksys units were also organized in 1945-1946. In 1946, Zebenkstis unit was called Sernas unit, and later — Savanoris unit. The names changed so quicly because of conspiracy, became in the autumn of 1946 MGB had prepared 6 operation groups to destroy Savanoris unit.

So UKD was organized under very complicated circumstances. Captain Juozas Kasperavicius-Angis became its commander. UKD paid special attention to the relations with partizans of Zemaičiai district and Aukštaitija. Alas, two UKD headquarters bunkers were destroyed because of MGB agent Erelis, and J.Kasperavicius, A.Biliunas-Dziugas were killed, P.Paulaitis-Aidas was arrested in 1947.

On May 20-25, 1947, J.Zemaitis became the commander of Kestutis district. His main assistant was P.Bartkus-Sazine, head of Kestutis district headquarters organization sector. Vytautas Guzas-Kardas was appointed head of operation sector, and Antanas Liesys-Tvanas - head of information sector. The KD headquarters also included Vaclovas Ivanauskas-Vytenis, Gintautas.

In the spring of 1948, Kestutis district under the leadership of J.Zemaitis-Vytautas consisted of three (Knygnesys-Birute, Lydys-Aukuras and Vaidotas) units. The others three units (Vovere, Atžalynas, Juozapavičius) belonged to Prisikeleimo district.

Jura (West Lithuania) region was organized from 3 district and J.Zemaitis was appointed its commander on May 5,1948. New KD headquarters under the leadership of Henrikas Danilevičius-Vidmantas and R.Gedvilas-Remigijus, Sidabras were organized in the middle of 1948. Partizans' newspaper "Laisvės varpas" ("Bell of Freedom") and other literature was published in one of headguarters bunkers.

The officials of headquarters changed very often and many partizans were killed because of spies and betrayers in 1949-1953.

Kestutis district headquarters were destroyed during KGB operation in Kaziske forest on June 7-9,1949. Commander of KD Algimantas, Neptunas, his deputy Biliunas, member of headquarters Albertas Norkus-Satkus were killed, head of the headquarters Robertas Gedvilas-Sidabras was arrested. In 1949, Antanas Baksys-Germantas, and later - Aleksas Miliulis were appointed the commanders of KD. Names of units also changed very often, but the territory of action remained the same. 15 Kestutis district officials were killed in 1949. In spite of danger, Vytautas called the commanders meeting in June, 1951. Prisikėlimas district commander P.Markunas-Rimantas, new Kestutis district commander K.Labanauskas-Justas, Kunotas took part in it. These officials organized headquarters work till 1953.

There were 180 partizans in Kestutis district in 1952, and there were just 23 of them in 1953. The headquarters of the district still had a good printer's in 1952. "Laisves varpas", "Ugnis", proclamations were published there. KGB had organized many operations to destroy it during 1952-1953, but no results were achieved.

Rimantas was killed on June 19,1953. In fact, district headquarters were destroyed, but single partizans acted even till 1957-1958. MGB-KGB used its dirties methods to find and destroy them, but in spite of that most partizans of Kestutis district had never broken their oath.


According to the lecture for Catholic Days

(Dresden, Germany, 01 07 1994)

Father Robertas Grigas

I am not the scientist, but the witness from the generation which was destined to the violent atheisation. "Chronicle of the Catolic Church in Lithuania" was one of the forms of spiritual resistance. First of all we must talk about the circumstances which caused the appearance of the "Chronicle". The main factors are: l)situation of Lithuanian people and Curch during Soviet occupation; 2)purposes of publishing and distribution of the "Chronicle", ways and results of it's persecution; 3)personalities of it's publishers; 4) God's participation in the people's just fight.

The statehood of Lithuania began in the XII-XIIIth century, when the nation was baptised. Vytautas the Great, one of Lithuania's rulers, extended the state from Baltic Sea to Black Sea. But in the XVIII century the joint Lithuanian-Polish state became weak and Lithuania was annexed by Russia tzarist for 120 years.

Russia began policy of Russification and used unique form of genocide: Lithuanian press and Latin alphabet were forbidden. Then first attempts of cultural resistance arose.

In 1918 Lithuania became an independent state again and kept the independence for 20 years. It was the period of great economic and cultural progress, partly influenced by Catholic Church and it's societies, proffessional organisations, abbeys. Alas, this progress was brutally interrupted in 1939, when according to Ribbentrop — Molotov Pact three Baltic states were left to the influence sphere of the Soviet Union. In 1940 Lithuania was annexed by Soviet Union. Unseen massacres and deportations to Siberia were stopped by World War 11 and renewed in 1944. It was a struggle against ethnoculture, Church, private property. 473 135 Lithuanians were deported or imprisoned during both Soviet occupations. 210 000 people were killed by Nazi 320 000 Lithuanians emigrated West. That was real disaster for my nation. In answer to Soviet repressions armed underground movement arose all over the country. It was well organized, centralized and continued from 1944 to 1954. Nearly 50 000 partizans were killed, but Lithuania had never capitulated.

Catholic Church in Lithuania was the only one legal institution which acted as opponent to Soviet ideology. The Church was an obstacle for Russification and Sovietisation. Stalin openly terrorised the Church. Khrushchev and Breznev began the "ideological struggle" against it. They tried to disunite it and infiltrate into it KGB agents (as in the case with Orthodox Church in Russia). KGB also tried to control Kaunas seminary and recruit seminarists.

First issue of the "Chronicle of the Catholic Church in Lithuania" appeared on March 19, 1972. The paper was edited by young Jesuit priest Sigitas Tamkevicius, who began a struggle with tyranny which continued for 17 years. 17 years of illegal underground publishing — that was unseen Lithuanian phenomenon. First numbers of the "Chronicle" were manifolded by typewriter. The paper had to consolidate all the believers and to inform the world about Soviet oppression. Publishers of the "Chronicle" could depend upon foreign tourists and Moscow dissidents who had the relations with embassies and foreign journalists. But in fact the Chronicle became available to everyone just after same time, when it was recited by Western radio stations.

There also was a significant help from Lithuanian diaspora. Father Kazimieras Pugevicius translated the "Chronicle" into English and published it in separate notebooks; Father Kazimieras Kuzminskas translated it into English, German, Spanish, Italian; Father Vytautas Kazlauskas recited the "Chronicle" by Vatican radio; Fahter Dr. Konstantinas Gulbinas translated the "Chronicle" into German and published it in the paper "Acta Baltika" and later — in separate books.

On June 23,1972, first issue of the "Chronicle" was discovered by KGB. On July KGB brought an action against the publishers and began cruel persecutions. But in spite of that the "Chronicle" was still published and distributed. On November 26,1976, the Lithuanian Helsinki Group was organized. On November 13,1978, the Commuittee to Defend Believers, Rights was established. Underground seminary was open. The process of liberation inspired by the "Chronicle" was irresistible.

Publishing of the "Chronicle" would be impossible without the efforts of many believers in Lithuania and abroad. But first of all should be mentioned bishop Vincentas Sladkevičius (born in 1920, in 1988 became a cardinal), bishop Julijonas Steponavičius (born in 1911, died in 1991), Father Sigitas Tamkevicius (born in 1938, in 1991 by way of exception became a Jesuit bishop), Father Alfonsas Svarinskas (born in 1925), Father Juozas Zdebskis (born in 1929, died in 1986 under suspicious circumstances), sisters Nijole Sadunaite, Gerarda-Elena Suliauskaite, Birute Brikute and Bernadeta Maliskaite, and Petras Plumpa (born in 1941). All of them and many others were persecuted, imprisoned, but continued working for the Lord and Lithuania.

There is no doubt that the Holy Spirit of the Creator took part in the struggle against satanic system. My nation and the Church of Christ proved this. The victory belongs not to the superstate, but to the "naive" old people, children, their parents, who kept praying and trusting in Lord. The power of the least ones was irresistible.


Nijole Gaškaite

There were many talented commanders among partizans, but, Jonas Žemaitis did the best to organize partizans' movement and to turn if into military and political resistance against the occupation of Lithuania.

Jonas Žemaitis was born on March 15, 1909, in Palanga. His parents Jonas and Petronėle had three children. Soon after Jonas birth they went to Poland and lived there till 1917. When they went back, they stayed in Raseiniai district and later in Raseiniai town. Jonas Žemaitis was an enlightened person and worked as a dairyman, so his daughter Kotryna and son Jonas, studied at Raseiniai secondary school. Kotryna later become a teacher, and Jonas entered Kaunas military school. In 1929, he finished it and became a 286 commander of artillery unit. From 1936 to 1938 Jonas Žemaitis studied in artillery school in France. He learned French and German and became a captain of Lithuanian army.

Before the Soviet occupation Žemaitis married Elena Valionyte. On 1941, family of his sister Kotryna Juškiene was deported to Komi.

At the begining of World War II, he was ordered to retreat East together with Red Army. But captain Žemaitis and other officers surrendered to German army near Valkininkai. Later he was transferred to the reserve and settled in Kaunas with his wife. In December 1941, his son Jonas-Laimutis was born. Soon after that Žemaitis family went to Kiaulininkai near Šiluva.

In 1943, Jonas Žemaitis joined underground community organized by Father Kazlauskas and started to distribute underground press. Next year he contacted general S.Zaskevicius, head of Raseniai district Guzaitis and helped general Plechavičius to organize Local regiment. In March he became a commander of the 310th battalion of Local regiment.

After the quest of general Plechavičius headquarters, Jonas Žemaitis went back to Kiaulininkai and hided there till 1945.

In March, 1945, son of general S.Zaskevicius-Algirdas offered him to join LLA (Lietuvos Laisvės Armija; Lithuanian Freedom Army). On June, Žemaitis gave an oath and became a partizan. He was appointed she head of Zebenkstis ("weasel" in Lithuanian) unit headquarters under the pseudonym Darius. The same month partizans had realized first successful action: they had liberated two wounded partizans from Biliūnai hospital.

J.Kasperavičius, J.Čeponis and, J.Žemaitis tried to unite separate partizans units, prepared a reserve to, possible mobilization and wrote the articles to newspaper "Laisves Varpas" ("Bell of Freedom").

There were the elections to the Supreme Council of USSR on February 10,1946. Partizans agitated people, to boycott the elections, they. Assaulted Rimbiskes, Gincaiciai, Aleja palling-stations and destroyed ballot-papers.

MGB was spying upon Zebenkstis unit since May, 1945. On July 5,1946 anested partizan JPavilionis betrayed partizans' camp in Pyragiai forest. On July 6, the camp was surrounded by NKVD troops. The camp was well-equipped, surrounded by trenches and, machine-guns, so partizans broke out and hided in the forest in small groups. 700 NKVD soldiers were raging there for a four days, but no results were, achieved.

On July 13,1946, Žemaitis wife suddenly died. His son was only 5 years old, so Žemaitis had to find him a good guardian among his signallers. MGB was also looking for a child because of possibility to contact Žemaitis through him.

On August 2,1946, Zebenkstis unit had changed it's name and became Sernas ("wild boar" in Lithuanian) unit. Jonas Žemaitis was very conspirative, so he changed his pseudonym many times. His pseudonyms were Atomas, Mockus, Ilgūnas, Matas, Jocius, Tylius, Žaltys, Tomas, Lukas, Žilius, Skirgaila. ln 1948, Žemaitis at least became Vytautas. Sernas unit was also renamed few times. In 1946, it was called Savanoris unit, in 1947 - Knygnešys, in 1948 -Gintaras unit.

In September, 1946, Kestutis partizans' district was organized. Savanoris ("volunteer's) unit took part in it's organization, and J.Žemaitis himself paid special atention to OS (organization section).

KGB agent J.Markulis through A.Zaskevicius offered to demobilize partizans. Žemaitis answered that demobilization is a big shame. Partizans' commanders cared about partizans' honor very much. They accented that partizans had to keep Lithuania's faith and hopes, so they had to be brave and honest.

In 1947, MGB had organized operation group for persecutions of Savanoris unit. The commander of this group (12 soldiers) was G.Perekriostov. MGB planned to anest and recruit all the supporters and signallers of Savanoris unit they knew. MGB also planned to find Žemaitis son and contact Žemaitis though him. They tried to make partizans to legalize themselves. If partizans did not agree, cruel military operations were planned.

19 partizans of Savanoris unit were already killed, but new ones took their place. There were famous teachers, students, policemen in this unit. In 1947, persecutions became especially cruel. Savanoris unit signallers were anested, Juškiene among them, who gave MGB OS schemes and instructions.

On April 9,1947, Kestutis district commander Kasperavičius was killed, so in May, Žemaitis became a commander of this district. He paid much attention to newspaper "Laisvės Varpas". The paper was printed in 800 copies and it's circulation grew bigger all the time.

In 1948, new Prisikėlimas ("resurrection") district was organized. Three district of Žemaitija (Kestutis, Žemaičiai and Prisikėlimas) were united and Jura ("sea") partizans region was organized. On May 1, 1948, Žemaitis became a commander of this region.

1948 was a year of special persecutions. In Tauras, Kestutis, Vytis and Žemaičiai districts 483 partizans were killed in 8 months, 82 commanders were arrested among them. 1502 partizans and there supporters were arrested. J.Žemaitis went on organizing supreme underground direction.

On July 10-12,1948, J.Žemaitis announced that Vieningos Laisves Kovos Sąjūdžio Organizacija (United Freedom Fight Movement Organization) is established. Žemaitis himself became partizans' supreme commander-in-Chief under the pseudonym Vytautas. Command-post was in Duktas forest 10 km from Radviliskis. In February, 1949, the organization was renamed and called Lietuvos laisvės kovos Sąjūdis (LLKS; Lithuania freedom fight Movement).

The centralization of Lithuanian partizans was finished. On February 16, 1949, J.Žemaitis became partizans general and was appointed the chief of LLKS Council Prezidium. J.Žemaitis also was the commander of partizans' armed forces (in September, 1949, A.Ramanauskas was appointed to post, and in May 10,1950, Žemaitis became the commander again).

LLKS Council Declaration said that after the restoration of Lithuania's independence Chief of LLKS Council Presidium should become an acting President of Lithuania till first Seimas meeting that meant that J.Žemaitis had to be the 5th President of Lithuania.

On December 4,1951, became of cold, tiredness and stress, J.Žemaitis suddenly got paralyzed. That were the days of desperation Žemaitis even tried to shoot himself. He spent that winter and the next year in the wet bunker in Šimkaičiai forest near Jurbarkas. At begining of 1953, MGB had anested few partizans' signallers who told that Žemaitis lived in the bunker which belonged to the commander of Mindaugas unit Juozas Palubeckas under the pseudonym Simas. On April, partizan Pranas Narbutas-Rolandas was anested and recruited. He helped MGB to anest Simas.

Juozas Palubeckas was fortured for a six days, but MGB made him to betray Žemaitis' bunker not by torture, but by perfidy. MGB troops surrounded the bunker on May 30. They had thrown in a special grenade with poisons gas. Jonas Žemaitis, Simas sister Elena Palubeckyte and nurse Marija Ziliute were quested and taken to Vilnius.

MGB tried to recruit Zemaitis for a long time. Žemaitis even was taken to Moscow, where Beriya himself held an investigation. But Žemaitis had refused and all MGB plans had failed.

The trial of J.Žemaitis, J.Palubeckas, E.Palubeckyte and Žiliute took place in June, 1954. J.Žemaitis and J.Palubeckas were put to death. Žemaitis had refused to appeal for a reprieve, he just asked, to meet his son. Instead of that MGB had shown him son's picture with pioneer's tie and badge.

Jonas Žemaitis was shot on November 26, 1954, in Butyrki prison in Moscow. On December 2, Juozas Palubeckas was shot too.