THE VOICE OF INTERNATIONAL LITHUANIA
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Christmas of 1945 is approaching a small farm on the outskirts of the village Šilagalis in northern Lithuania. It is the 22nd of December, and the mother in the house feels very happy that her 21-year-old son Povilas has finally come home for a visit, after being away for many months.
He has come to change into dry clothes that can keep him warm waiting through the cold winter days. His mother is infinitely happy to have her son home this one day, and she does everything she can to treat him with all the good food and drink she can find on the farm. You never know how long it will be till she sees him again.
Povilas had joined a local partisan group earlier in 1945, and now spends all his time in Northern Lithuania's forests where the local "forest brothers" have established their hidden quarters. It is from these hideouts, often at night, they still conduct operations against the military facilities and forces of the Soviet Red Army and the NKVD, the Soviet secret police, which later changed its name to KGB. Soviet occupation of Lithuania has lasted more than a year now, but Povilas and other forest brothers still hope their constant harassment can induce Joseph Stalin to withdraw his troops out of Lithuania and the other two Baltic countries.
Povilas is glad to finally have a day off, and most of all, to be able to eat real Christmas food and experience a little Christmas fun with the family. A small blot on his pleasure is that his father, his little sister and little brother are not home. Both the brother and sister go to boarding school in the nearest city, Panevezys, and early that morning, his father had gone into town to bring them home for Christmas. But his mother is here, and when she and he, their arms around each other, go out to the barn to feed the animals, he bursts out joyfully into a song he has so often sung over the past months in the partisan camp: "To die young is difficult, but not for my country. For my native country Lithuania I am ready to sacrifice my young life."
The mother scolds him for singing: "You know it is not appropriate to sing now during Advent." Lithuania's Roman Catholic Church has strict rules of behavior regulating the year's various religious celebrations. But even while she reprimands him, she feels proud and glad that he gives such honourable service to help their native land.
Back in the farmhouse, they suddenly hear the dog burst out barking, and through the window, they see a group of soldiers approaching. The soldiers are still some distance away, so Povilas has time to hide in a small cellar room they have beneath the living room floor, and the mother has time to hide, as best she can, all evidence of the cellar hatch. They had used this basement room previously to hide partisans, and both believe this is a safe hiding place until the soldiers go away again.
The mother goes out into the yard to meet the soldiers from the Soviet Red Army. They ask if her son is home and if he is alone. Without waiting for an answer, they storm into the house and begin turning everything inside upside down. Then they start shooting down into the floor to see if there is a cavity under the floorboards. It takes some time before they discover the basement hatch, but as soon as they find it and fling it open, they fire machine gun bursts into the hole. It does not take long before they lift the bullet-riddled and lifeless body of Povilas out of the basement. The whole operation has taken them five hours, but they have found what they sought, and another young Lithuanian life has been lost in the desperate struggle against the Soviet oppressor.
The distance from the farm to the road is over 500 meters. The soldiers find a chain in the barn to tow the corpse of Povilas over the fields to the military vehicles that are waiting. They force the mother to come with them, and soon they are on their way to the NKVD headquarters in Panevezys. The body of Povilas is thrown out into the middle of the courtyard, while his mother is brought to a prison cell in the basement.
Early next morning on December 23rd, the mother is brutally dragged up from the wooden bench on which she had passed a sleepless night. That day, and every following day for two weeks, she is brought up for interrogation and made to pass through the courtyard where her son's mangled body still lies. Thus passes for the mother the terrible Christmas and New Year holiday season of 1945, each day dissolved in tears and wracked with sorrow. Early in January, she is released and can finally go home and tell the family what had happened.
In thousands of homes around the world families happily decorate their Christmas trees. They celebrate because the birth of Christ has overcome, once again, the world's evil. There is no clebrating for the parents of Povilas, or for those of other young partisan sons executed in northern Lithuania, whose bodies they find dumped in a forest outside the village Kaizerlingas. During the dark night hours of early January 1946, they manage to find the dead bodies of their children and carry them home to bury them secretly in their hometown cemeteries.
Christmas 1945 is over. Most of the world looks forward to many good years of peace, freedom and economic growth. The Baltic States' ten year long guerrilla war against the occupants has barely begun.
The story of Povilas is factual. It is based on a passage from the book "Lithuania's struggle for freedom"(Lithuanian Partisans' War Chronicles).
Povilas Peleckas was born on 24 January 1924 into a farming family in the village of Šilagalis in the Panevežys district north in Lithuania. He attended Šilagalis primary school. Later he helped his parents on the farm. In 1944 when the USSR invaded and occupied Lithuania for the second time (first time was in 1940), Povilas was due for conscription into the Red Army. He refused to go. When a local partisan unit was formed, led by Major Januškevičius, Povilas joined the fighters. In September 1945 many of the members of the unit were killed in battle, and another three were killed at the beginning of December. Those who remained alive determined to join a larger partisan unit. But fate was against them.
Christmas of 1945 was over most of the world celebrated with a joy and delight almost never before seen. Young and old gathered in homes, on streets and in churches. An endless series of victory ceremonies took place in almost every corner of the world. With a deep sense of joy and gratitude everyone wished comfort, warmth and relaxation to all. The Nazi era was over and the world, now more than ever, could look forward to a future of peace and prosperity. The war had finally released its grip, and the economic recession of the 1930s was forgotten. Forgotten also were our close friends and neighbours of the Western World’s—the Baltic States.
This book, “Christmas 1945: The Story of the Greatest Celebration in American History”, by the author Matthew Litt, was advertised as follows:
“Across America, people crowd churches praying with gratitude for the peace in place, and reach out to wounded veterans, children who lost fathers, and neighbors who lost sons. Americans in big cities and small, participate in displays of the intrinsic love so indicative of the American spirit.”
Dead bodies of unknown Lithuanian partisans, terribly mutilated, as they would have appeared in the courtyard of the Panevežys KGB headquarter and other places in Lithuania during Advent and Christmas of 1945.
In 1944-45 Lithuanians were forced to realize that the bloody World War II had been replaced by a new war, the longest and bloodiest guerrilla war in modern European history, lasting from 1944 to at least 1953.
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