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On Europe Day Lithuanians remembers the post-war resistance

Lithuanian freedom fighter Juozas Lukša, center, and compatriots joined tens of thousands of their fellow Forest Brothers in resistance to postwar Soviet rule. (Genocide and Resistance Research Centre of Lithuania)

By Angele Kedatiene

9 May is an important date across the Europe as Europe Day, anniversary of the Robert Schuman declaration, but it is also the day of the end of WWII in Europe.

What have Lithuanians done on 9 May, when Schuman read his Declaration for Europe? How did the end of WWII impact the Lithuanian history?

In the West, yet little is known about the post war resistance in Lithuania, being fought under the Iron Curtin, what is unique in terms of its lengths, organisation, ideology, support from the people, and finally its impact for the fall of the Soviet empire in 1990th.

The Lithuanian Freedom Fighters were 30,000 people who resisted the Soviet occupation for almost ten years (1944-1953) in the forests of Lithuania. Their ultimate goal was to restore independent and democratic Republic of Lithuania. The civil population actively supported the movement, with food and medical supply, a number of them, including from my family, were killed or sent to Siberia for this.  During the most brutal period (1940-1953) of Soviet and Nazi occupations, Lithuania lost more than 16 % of its population.

The resistance has been defeated in 1953, with fights still ongoing up to 1956. Number of partisan were sentenced to death or sent to Gulag, some of them killed themselves before being detained by the Soviets. Lithuania had entered the period of passive resistance.

The recent Government of the Republic of Lithuania has brought history back to the agenda, presenting it to the rest of the World though massive strategic communication campaign on the social media.

It put number of efforts to find the remains of the chief commander of partisan movement Adolfas Ramanaskas Vangas, who was caught by the Soviet forces in 1956, kept in KGB prison, tortured and executed in 1957.  Ramanauskas’ grave was found in 2018 in orphanage cemetery in Vilnius.  Adolfas Ramanauskas Vanagas has been re-buried with State funeral ceremony in October 2018, on a beautiful sunny autumn day with thousands of people attending, and rests in the Hill of State Leaders. One tweet on the day said it all: “Victory! End of bolshevisms in Lithuania”.

Furthermore, the Lithuanian Government announced 2019 as the year of General Jonas Žemaitis-Vytautas, the leader of Lithuanian freedom fighters and wartime head of state, posthumously recognised as 4th President of Lithuania, sentenced to death by Soviets in   1954.

On 12 March 2019, in the context of a landmark European Court for Human Rights ruling Drėlingas versus Lithuania, the European Court of Human Rights officially recognised that the crimes of Soviet soldiers against Lithuanian partisans for their resistance against the oppressive regime are genocide, with aim to destroy the partisan movement, also the identity of Lithuanian people, theirs choice of living in the democratic free world. 

The case concerned the applicant Stanislovas Drėlingas’ conviction for genocide for taking part in a 1956 operation to arrest two partisans, including Ramanauskas, who had resisted Soviet rule. In its judgment the European Court of Human Rights, by five votes to two, ruled that there Drelingas was guilty of genocide. Lithuania has defended its dissertation.

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