23 February 2018
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Why do so few know about Lithuania’s Soviet resistance after WWII?

Back cover of Laima Vince’s book
“Forest Brothers: The Account Of An Anti-Soviet Freedom Fighter - Juozas Lukša.”

I have travelled in several former Warsaw Pact countries. In Hungary I met a person who participated in their 1956 uproar. In Slovakia and the Czech Republic I talked to people about their ‘Prague Spring’ of 1968. The people I talked to were rightfully proud of the uproars their countries performed against the mighty USSR, but when I asked them about the revolts that took place here in Lithuania and the other two Baltic states during the period of 1944-53, they all lacked concrete answers and knowledge. “We simply didn’t know,” they told me...

And they are not alone. I believe very few in the entire world have ever heard about the guerrilla war that took place here in the very centre of Europe after World War II, even if the number of victims in fact can be compared to the Vietnam War (1960-75).

It has been estimated that the losses of the Lithuanian partisan war’ amounted to 70,000 Soviet soldiers and 22,000 Lithuanian ‘Forest Brothers’, making this war one of the longest and bloodiest guerrilla wars in the history of the world.

For comparison, the United States lost 58,000 soldiers in Vietnam.  

The outcome of this uneven war became an extremely sad and gruesome chapter in Lithuania’s history. Some 132,000 individuals were captured and deported to the Arctic areas of Siberia, 70% of them children and women, and more than 50,000 of these fine people died under the extremely harsh conditions up north, never able to return to their homeland alive.

During the same period, another 200,000 people were thrown into prisons. Over 150,000 of them were sent to the Gulags, the USSR’s concentration camps. These mass deportations continued until the death of Josef Stalin in 1953, but many prisoners remained in the camps also during the time of Nikita Khrushchev.

In a book by Anatol Marchenko published in Germany in 1973, he tells about his experiences from Soviet prisons and concentration camps in the early 1960s. One of his stories is about three Lithuanian prisoners who tried to escape from the convoy in a forest. Two of them were quickly caught, then shot many times in the legs, then ordered to get up which they could not do, then kicked and trampled by guards, then bitten and torn up by police dogs and only then stabbed to death with bayonets. All this with witty remarks by the officer, of the kind; "Now, free Lithuania, crawl, you'll get your independence straight off!"

This is one of thousand stories you can read in many now available books about the Soviet horrors. From 1917 to 1991, politics in the USSR started and finished with the Communist Party; it was the only game in town.

What passed for elections were a contest between members of the same political party - no candidates other than communists were allowed to run. The people who ruled the country were dictators; some more brutal than others. The Communist Party owned everything - land, factories, housing, and farms. The masses went about their daily lives under the direction of the Party. They were told where to live, where to work, and where to travel. There was very little freedom of choice in anything. The ideal behind this system was that everyone lived and worked for the good of the community.

But, the power of the Soviet Union, under the domination of Russia, was built on sand not rock. Under communism, individuals learned to lie back and do nothing and the idea of everything being owned by the community instead of individuals meant that nobody felt responsible for upkeep and maintenance; or as it is expressed in a Spanish proverb: "The cow of many is well milked and badly fed."

But even if there existed both humor and good days for people during those years, the extreme sufferings the USSR meant for this part of Europe should never be forgotten, and the Lithuanian partisan war is certainly one of the most important stories to tell our posterities along with the stories about Czechoslovakia in 1968 and Hungary in 1956.

I suggest you to read the books of Laima Vince (Forest Brothers: The Account Of An Anti-Soviet Freedom Fighter -Juozas Lukša), Ruta Sepetys (Between shades of gray) and Antanas Sileika (Underground).

Have a look at their web pages:



Aage Myhre,

Category : Featured / Historical Lithuania

  • Thank you so much for stopping by my blog and lenivag such sweet comments! It is such a pleasure to meet you.My father’s family is originally from Poland (his mother’s family is from Germany). My husband’s great grandparents are also from Poland. I think it is always a great way to connect with your heritage by cooking the food your family made and ate. Sadly, my husband and I didn’t grow up eating many Polish dishes other than Pierogi and Polish sausage with sauerkraut.I’m really enjoying looking through all of your recipes and I’m your newest follower :o)

    August 05 2012
    • Linda Andracavage

      I am a lithuanian american. it makes me upset to see these people make money off the suffering of my ancestors.

      April 14 2012

      • […] Read more… Category : Featured / Front page […]

        August 08 2011


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