Disregarded Weaknesses of Soviet Russia
Years after escaping from communist Lithuania in 1948, Pranas Padalis offered his personal reflections on the regime's effort to undermine Lithuanian society and institutions as a means toward total domination.
Editor's note: we are very pleased that the Padalis family has provided this speech to us to be published exclusively and for the first time in our summer issue of the magazine. You may read the introduction from Pranas Padalis's grandson John, along with the full speech in PDF format here."
May I first of all thank Mr. Chairman for his very kind introduction. He has presented me as a man who was sentenced to death for the underground activities. That is true.
That I am alive today, I owe to the fact that I was and am out of reach of the gracious Stalin agents. As to how I escaped, that is one of the secrets of the underground which I cannot yet reveal.
If you will excuse me, I would rather not talk about the activities of the underground since they are still going on. To this day, Lithuanians are fighting and dying in the forests. As each day passes, they are less and less sure of success, and still they fight on. Why?
Because liberty is more important than life; that is, death is preferable to slavery.
Because they know that [if] it may be too late for them to regain their liberty, it is still not too late for the free world to keep its freedom.
Because they want to warn and to awaken the people in the Western world to the appalling danger of Communism facing them.
The people behind the Iron Curtain see the weaknesses of the dreadful Russian colossus, and they believe that every effort of theirs will increase these weaknesses.
That was the cause of the struggle against the Nazi tyranny. That is the case of the still harder struggle against the Bolshevik tyranny.
I shall chiefly consider these weaknesses from the experience of my own country.
The Soviet vast empire exists in a state of internal conflict, permanent crisis and emergency. The government relies on ruthless repression. The persecution of the Church, the omnipotent secret police, the forced labor camps, the continuous extermination of people – is the machinery of the communist regime.
I myself have witnessed how the Communists are strangling the Catholic Church and all the Christians.
Before the last war Lithuania was a free peaceful republic on the Baltic Sea. Eighty-five percent of its population were Roman Catholics.
In the year of 1951, Lithuania commemorates the seven hundredth anniversary of embracing Christianity, and it is a tragic anniversary.
The Communist plague, monstrous and brutal, atheistic and tyrranic, swept over the land in 1940. The church, and the nation are to this day walking the road of Calvary, martyred by the red rulers of Russia.
The first set of the Soviets was the revocation of the Concordat signed by Lithuania and the Vatican. Then followed a wave of anti-religious decrees and acts:
1. All church property except churches themselves were confiscated.
2. All church schools - Catholic, Protestant, and Jewish – were closed
3. All religious instruction (formerly obligatory in Lithuanian schools) was abolished.
4. All religious organizations were prohibited.
5. Literature, even slightly religious in character, was mercilessly weeded out in all public and school libraries.
6. Churches were taxed as places of entertainment. The clergy and servants of the church must pay triple taxes.
7. Atheistic propaganda increased day by day. Communist festivals were held, anti-religious lectures were arranged for workers, public officials and school children on Sundays during the hours of Mass. Attendance was compulsory.
8. “Godless” museums were established mainly in former churches, where religion was ridiculed in the most blasphemous ways.
9. Efforts were made to do away with the great church holidays – Christmas, Easter, All Saints’ Day. Great masses of people were compelled to work on these feast days.
10. Priests and religious were persecuted without mercy. They were imprisoned, deported, and many of them were slain during malicious “priest hunts.”
I saw the spiritual director of an ecclesiastical seminary beaten and bayoneted to death while he still wore his Mass vestments.
We found the rector of our parish dead in the forest, with his face burned beyond recognition with gasoline.
The list of deported and murdered priests and religious is long, very long. In 1940, there were more than 1600 Catholic priests in Lithuania. Today, there are less than 200.
The hierarchy of the Church fared no better. In Lithuania all the bishops are gone. In 1946, Bishop Matulionis was arrested and died the following summer in a Russina prison. Bishop Borisevicius was condemned to death in 1947. His successor, Bishop Rawanauskas was arrested the same year and deported to Siberia. Bishop Paltarokas, the last of the Bishops in Lithuania, disappeared last year.
The Church in Lithuania is crucified on this, its seventh centennial. The armed Communists from Russia are [desperately] trying to tear asunder every shred of Lithuanian allegiance to God.
Eighty million Catholics in the Red empire of Soviets are passing through the same Calvary. Poles, Lithuanians, Hungarians, Slovaks, Romanians, and other nations, victims of the Bolshevism. All the other religions under the Communist yoke, including Russia herself, are suffering the same persecution.
The ultimate goal of Soviet Communism is the complete de-Christianization, the liquidation of the Church as a spiritual force. No religion but Communism, which, make no mistake about it, is a religion itself - godless, materialistic, diabolical. The religious nature is seen in the fact that it looks upon itself as the only solution, the final means for human redemption on earth.
In the struggle between Soviet Communism and the Church, lies the major weakness of the Russian power. The Mmore people are persecuted, the more they are devoted to their faith, the more they hate the regime and the more they fight it.
This conflict is deep and goes on continually. It is increasing because Communism failed completely failed to create the promised material paradise. In reality, Communism in Russia became a religion of monstrous misery and slavery.
I saw the results of the proletarian paradise when poverty-stricken, dirty, ragged bolsheviks invaded my country. You should see with what hungry eyes they looked at everything in Lithuania; how they stormed the shops and stores taking with them even the most trivial, useless things - just to have something of their own.
They knew nothing about forks, about handkerchiefs. They had no understanding of ordinary comforts in the houses they took over. Their women scrubbed the hardwood floors with lye because they thought the varnish on them was hardened dirt!
When the wives of the high Russian officials saw the Lithuanian ladies in formal dresses at the opera, they themselves appeared the next evening in night gowns - they took them for evening dresses.
I could tell you of so many other instances of poverty and an utter lack of civilization. That did not astonish me any more when I found that in the Soviet Union annually one shoe has been produced per person. And this is typical for all other consumer goods.
As for the housing the following story will best illustrate the situation: A teacher asked five of his pupils who said their families lived in the same one room apartment, where they all had pictures of Stalin on their walls. Four said they did, while the fifth said No. Why not? “Please, comrade teacher, my family lives in the middle of the room and has no walls.”
So much for the material paradise. Now, what of “Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness”? No such thing exists in Soviet Russia.
The Soviet citizen is a political slave. You have all heard of the peculiar electoral system of Russia. The peculiarity lies not only in the fact that there is only one party and only one list of candidates, with the exact number to be elected, but that 99.9 per cent of the electorate always votes.
And so there is a story: - One district commissar telephones another “Comrade, what shall I do? The guerillas have stolen the results of tomorrow’s elections”.
It is a fact that the results of the so-called elections in Lithuania in 1940 were published by the Soviet news agency in Tass in London press 24 hours before the polls were closed.
Soviet Russia is a huge prison. “Nothing is more striking to an American on his first arrival here than the vigor of the police” - wrote the U.S. Minister to Ozarest Russia, Neill Brown, in 1853.
Russia of today is still a police state. The infamous NKVD or MVD numbers one and a half million men, organized as military formations with their own artillery, tanks and air force. The agencies of the secret police have complete supervision over every phase of the life of the people. Arrests and executions of people are going on continually.
The Soviet citizens live under permanent fear of a knock at their door at night because arrests are usually made in the wee hours of darkness. This terror is illustrated by a grim Russian joke:
A janitor runs through a burning apartment building in the dead of night, knocks at each door and calls loudly - “Don’t be afraid, comrades, it is only the house on fire”.
Each man is obliged to spy on the other, and even members of families betray one another. The model for all Soviet children is 13 year old Pavlik Morosou, who in 1939 betrayed his whole family to the secret place. His statue has a place of honor in a Leningrad square. The only statue of this kind in the world!
We must also not forget the forced labor camps where perhaps 18 million people are suffering and dying. Those concentration camps exist throughout the whole of the Soviet territory, and are solely and absolutely under the control of the secret police.
The whole of Siberia is one vast NKVD state, patrolled by armed guards and bloodhounds. Enormous regions in Northern Siberia have camps along every mile. In them live only guards and the guarded.
Columns of prisoners are driven to Siberia from all parts of the country, and there is wave after wave of mass deportations from occupied countries.
I saw one mass deportation. It was on June 14, 1941 in Vrenius, capital of Lithuania. I was wanted by the NKVD for my underground activities, and spent days and nights in forests or in different places in the city.
That night I happened to sleep at the house of a friend who was a factory worker - less suspected in the eyes of the NKVD.
At 2:00 o’clock in the morning, I was awakened by the desperate outcry of a woman. I jumped out of bed. It was almost daylight. I cautiously approached the window. There I saw a truck and two NKVD men with bayonets on the street.
From the first floor of the house, a young woman was let out by two soldiers and one civilian. She was carrying her three-year-old daughter. They got into the truck. The little child and her mother were desperately crying.
The truck started to move, and I saw the puzzled little girl looking at her weeping mother.
Little did we know that was the start of mass deportation in Lithuania. In one week the NKVD ceased 42,000 LIthuanians: children and mothers, sick and old, workers and peasants - took them to Siberia, sent them to death.
The deportees were crowded into cattle cars, without windows or benches. Husbands were separated from wives, children from parents.
For three days they were not given a piece of bread, not a drop of water. They began dying underway. I saw the dead bodies of old people and newborn infants thrown out on the railroad tracks.
Those tragic days will forever remain as days of horror to us who survived. Even today, the desperate crying of children and mothers brings back the dying moans of the deportees in our ears.
My eyes have seen people kissing their native earth for the last time. They were on the march of death to the slave labor camps of Siberia, where they joined millions of slaves from other nationalities and from Russia herself.
A high NKVD official in Lithuania explained this deportation in this way: - “imagine an immense boiler in which all refuse is dumped. That refuse consists of the enemies of Communism. The boiler is the NKVD. Communism is the welding of nations”.
Yes, it is true that Communist Russia is a huge empire with vast territory, an immense population, hundreds of divisions, thousands of tanks, planes and perhaps some atom bombs.
But it is true, also, that Russia is a country of monstrous misery, slavery, terror and subjugation. The Soviet people are a mass of anxieties, frustrations and discontent. Among the 200 million Soviet people and the 80 million of the Satellites, are millions and millions of terrorized, imprisoned, enslaved, impoverished people.
And here lies the major source of Russia’s internal weakness. The Communist Politburo trembles before Russia’s people. This fact is demonstrated by the permanent purges, trials, deportations, the huge machinery of secret police, and the complete isolation of the people by the iron curtain.
This fact is also revealed by bitter Communist experiences in the last war. Stalin does not forget that in less than four months of fighting over two million Russian soldiers surrender to the Nazis. He does not forget either that Russian Kolkhozniks, collectivized peasants, greeted the invading Germans with bread and salt, as liberators from the Communist yoke.
And only after the Russians learned that the Nazis were waging a war of merciless extermination against the Russian people, starving or killing prisoners and civilians alike, did they put aside their hatred for Stalin to fight the enemy who wished to destroy them as people and as a nation. Hitlerite stupidity and barbarism saved the despotic regime of Stalin.
The Soviet people are flesh and blood, just as we. They want what we want, to live free and decently. They don’t want to continue in their oppression, poverty and misery.
Enslaved people do not fight well for their ruthless masters. The first real chance they get, they fight against slavery no matter of what kind it is.
But they must get a real chance, must have help, must have encouragement to fight against very heavy odds.
Lithuanian partisans addressed a desperate call for help to the Holy Father in 1948. The authors of this appeal were discovered by the NKVD, but they blew themselves up in a bunker, in which this address was written. Part of it reads as follows:
“We are writing in underground, by the light of a flickering lamp, awaiting the NKVD at every moment. The Eastern hordes of the present day do not fear diplomatic words and beautiful speeches. We often ask: Where are the nations of the cultured world, where are the hundreds of millions of Christians of the earth? Are there no lovers of truth remaining on earth? No longer great men? Are they not aware of the destruction of their Christian brothers and sisters? Do they believe that those hordes, having exterminated us, will cease to destroy”. .
To these tragic questions I have no firm answer. But I am certain that you, members of the First Friday Club, are these “Christian Men”, “Lovers of truth” to whom my brothers of the underground appealed. And I am certain also that there are many such “Lovers of truth”, men of fighting spirit throughout America and throughout the free world.
If I am right, then the same fate will befall the Soviet Red empire that befel the Statue of Stalin in my own capitol city.
In 1940, to celebrate the anniversary of the Bolshevik revolution and to impress the people of occupied Lithuania, the Communist party ordered the erection of an immense statue of their Red god in the principal square, near the historic cathedral.
The Lithuanian artists charged with the work made a huge skeleton of laths and straw which they covered with a poor quality of plaster. Wind, rain and snow, (and pigeons too), soon turned the colossus into a dirty grey scarecrow which made people laugh and produced a crop of anecdotes most unfavorable to the Russians.
Finally, in March, 1941, the Communist party ordered the statue pulled down. The workmen went about the job with evident pleasure. They simply got a rope around the colossus’ neck and hauled it down. The statue broke into pieces as it touched the ground, to the great joy of the watching crowd, among which I happened to be.
Returning home, I wrote an editorial for the underground press beginning:
“Stalin is overthrown! The people rejoice because the bogey has met an ignominious end.”
God grant that this be a true omen of what the future has in store!
About the author
Pranas Padalis was born on December 7, 1912 in Raseiniai, Lithuania. After the Soviets invaded Lithuania in 1940, Padalis was eventually able to escape west and spend the rest of his life speaking and writing against the rising spirit of communism in postwar Europe.