Discussing the Partisan Attack

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Pirma keletas žodžių lietuviškai – išeivijos lietuvis rašytojas Antanas Šileika publikavo savo bloge įdomų atsiliepimą „Partisan Attack“, kuriame paminėjus mano vardą jo blogas pastukseno mano tinklaraščiui, o šis paragino mane paskaityti… Taigi, paskaičiau. Užsimaniau parašyti komentarą, bet komentaras išėjo daug ilgesnis už straipsnį. Nusprendžiau jį publikuoti čia, savo tinklaraštyje, o Antano komentare pateikti tik užuominą.

Beje, Antano Šileikos knyga „Underground“, apie kurią jau trumpai rašiau, yra puikiai papasakota dramatiška istorija apie antisovietinį Lietuvos pogrindį. Fikcija, bet panaudota labai daug autentiškos medžiagos. Rekomenduoju anglaskaičiams. Autorius už visiškai nereikšmingą pagalbą šią knygą rašant ją man padovanojo, tad šiek tiek pažįstamam galėčiau ir paskolinti. Jo knyga „Bronzinė moteris“, išleista lietuvių kalba, – irgi puikus skaitinys.

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Dear Antanas, a nice play of meanings in the title of your blog entry „Partisan Attack“. The view that the resistance fighters against the soviet rule in postwar Lithuania are not „heroes simple and plain“ (as one could summarize the current debate) is largely a partisan view in the political discourse about the recent past in Lithuania. I think this view gained more publicity recently, with the articles of Jurgis Jurgelis, the historical study about the fight of partisans against the collaborators by Mindaugas Pocius entitled The Other Side of the Moon and the multiple current court trials against the former Čeka (to use the term from your recent book) officers for „genocide“, that often means just fighting against armed partisans – shameful political trials. The editor of the book about partisan terror victims might have his own political agenda (though I doubt it actually), but the main thrust, as I think about it, is to spread more awareness about the people who suffered at the hands of partisans, which was a significant part of the postwar tragedy of Lithuania, along with the Soviet terror, deportations, etc.

For a long time I was pretty detached from this issue, though I knew always that my grandfather was killed by „the bandits“ in 1946 (once they killed him after capturing at a neighbour house, they went into the house and shot the grandmother and their daughter, 15 years of age, so their death was by no means unintended). However, an attempt in 2008 to pass a draft law which would criminalize the expression of negative opinions about the partisans by some members of Seimas (which would have made it highly dangerous to use the word „bandits“, the only one that people surrounding my mother during the soviet years used to refer to the resistance fighters) raised in me a feeling of hurt, so I delved into the study of the historical period for myself, tried to figure out who were those people who killed my grandparents and my aunt.

As a result I had to grapple with the issues of moral and legal evaluation of the actions of partisans against the civilians. I do not pretend I can be an objective voice on this issue. In legal terms, however, it is quite clear that the killing of civilians without a fair court trial, even if they are on the enemy side is a war crime, whoever is the killer. Lithuania has been forcefully reminded about this by the European Court of Human Rights in 2010 decision in Kononov v. Latvia case. Things are admittedly more complicated on the moral front, but I do not think that the arguments like those of Anušauskas hold up on that front either, who basically says that since soviets were so bad, and partisans fought them and the local collaborators, we dare not mention pregnant women killed by the partisans, and everyone, who dares, has a „mentality of stribas“ [member of pro-soviet militia, known for its cruelty in Lithuania].

Personally I think people should not be intimidated from telling their stories – which means a lot of soviet atrocity stories and quite some stories of partisan atrocities too. The more stories we tell and the more stories we hear, the more we listen to each other, the more we will learn to accept the terrible recent past with all its ambiguities, and more people will get compassion that all those who suffered need. Which also means, that less people will feel alienated by the politics of Lithuanian elite. Actually I have both stories to tell – my other grandfather was used by the soviets as a slave force in the digging of some channel in the North of USSR in 1946 and barely survived, and then was listed for deportation in 1948 (he managed to hide, and only my grandmother and father were deported to Krasnojarsk region, where they spent 9 years). They survived. I don’t remember my grandparents, but they saw me born before their death. And they could raise my father. And I do not feel that kind of pain for them, partly also because they are the recognized victims of the soviet „genocide“ that the dominant discourse is so eager to establish. And when I go through the hundreds of pages of the case that the Čeka gathered about my grandfather before they decided to deport the family (those included ambiguous reports of him during the German occupation taking Jewish women and Soviet prisoners of war to work in his farm, and then turning them back to Germans), I cannot but feel they got more justice than the other grandparent family killed at night by the partisans (as Anušauskas would say, „condemned to death as traitors by a court martial“).

In a discussion about the recent article of J. Jurgelis and the response by A. Anušauskas on the Facebook page of the well known philosopher and politician Leonidas Donskis an interesting conversation took place. Anušauskas in his article accused J. Jurgelis of having a „mentality of stribas“, to which Ugnė Matulevičienė replied, that

if things that Jurgelis stands for – in particular that humane attitude and conscience should be above any ideology – means having „mentality of stribas“, then I stand by it and take that label on myself as well. These are moral choices, and I do not see any possibility for a compromise here. Moreover, this position in my eyes does not devalue the postwar resistance as such; I feel a deepest respect for those who took no compromise with conscience at that time… The problem starts when idols are created and worshiped saying that it is honorable to kill for the motherland! And we should not succumb to this attitude, it should have no place. And these are exactly the Taliban-like idols that the current conjuncture is often trying to establish…

And Leonidas Donskis responded:

… I join your position and identify with it completely. If I need to choose between the one killed (not an armed man in war, but a defenseless civilian) and his killer, who is proclaimed a hero since this is needed to the current state and its politics, I join the side of the killed. If this position is one of stribas, then it follows, that I am a person with a mentality of stribas. I have no other choice.

I think this is a good company to be in.

P.S. By the way, if you want to comment on this blog entry in English as it relates to Sileika’s original post, please do so in the original place „Partisan Attack“.

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