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1984


As I was driving to the homestead of the anti-Soviet resistance fighter and writer, Juozas Lukša, to attend his 100-year anniversary memorial, while passing through Lukša's native village of Juodbūdis, I passed this relic from the Soviet collective farm era. That ominous Orwellian year, 1984, was incorporated into the masonry in red bricks. I was struck by the symbolism of those numbers - 1984. I pulled over to the side of the gravel road. In the year 1984, Lithuania was still occupied by the Soviet Union, and no one could imagine that in only a few years a grassroots independence movement would lead Lithuania into freedom and independence. For half a century, Juozas Lukša was slandered by Soviet propaganda, and the memory of this remarkable, brave, courageous, and spiritual man was corrupted. Within this context, the thought that a 100-year-anniversary hosted by the Lithuanian Ministry of Defense boggles the mind. But those red Orwellian numbers, 1984, glared at me, a mocking reminder of how fragile our freedom truly is. As I sat in my car, lost in thought, I recalled a few paragraphs from the opening chapter of Lukša's memoir, "Forest Brothers." I remembered translating Lukša's words from Lithuanian into English and experiencing the eerie feeling of resignation and ice cold fear that the people who remained behind in Soviet occupied Lithuania in 1944 must have felt, not knowing what fate awaited them: Siberian deportation, fighting in the resistance, death, serving the Red Army on the front, or collaboration. On the occasion of 100 years since Juozas Lukša was born in the farming village of Juodbūdis on August 4, 1921, I'd like to share Lukša's words here in memory of him and in honor of his sacrifice for Lithuania:


"It returned slowly, creeping across the land, marking its trail with fires and ruins, leaving people with a sinking sense of horror. A month ago the first of our farms to the east were reduced to piles of ash. A battle between two giants was waged in the fields of our three million farmers. It was a battle that had brought with it an equal amount of devastation from the East and from the West. As this war was waged in our furrows, we could do nothing but stand by and watch. At this moment, for three millions Lithuanians, only two alternatives remained: to stay on our land and to continue with determination and whatever means we had at our disposal the fight we had begun four years ago, or to retreat from the trenches with the hope of reaching asylum in the democracies of the West.

There had been enough time to choose, but it had been a hard choice. Because most people hesitated, they became victims of circumstance. Afterwards, they could do no more than accept their fate.

Our family decided to stay even when the front stabilized on the banks of the Nemunas River. It was not easy. We had no objective information to go on or advice to follow. The underground press that had operated so prolifically during the Nazi occupation had stopped publishing a while ago. The links with the centers of resistance had broken down. Many of our friends were overcome with the panic to escape."

(Juozas Lukša, Translated by Laima Vincė, page 38, Forest Brothers, Central European University Press, 2009)

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