M E M O I R / O P I N I O N
Note: This memoir continues the narrative started in the author’s earlier accounts of 22 May 2014, of 4 July, and of 9 July. See also our report of 22 May with image and translation of the actual summons. Evaldas Balčiūnas’s articles on Holocaust collaborators who are glorified in state-funded public settings can be found (in reverse chronological order) in the DH sections Evaldas Balčiūnas and Collaborators Glorified. See also sections on Free Speech and Human Rights. Other Lithuanian citizens disturbed by police for opposing state honors for Holocaust collaborators include Saulius Beržinis, Aleksandras Bosas, and Giedrius Grabauskas. This memoir was translated by Geoff Vasil and the final version approved by the author.
My wife told me that the police who delivered the summons on the afternoon of July 8th 2014 carried a large A4 format photograph of me. The police had serious plans… If I hadn’t told my wife to accept the summons, I might have been subject to an operation to locate or even arrest me. It was possible to laugh, but I needed to find transportation. I didn’t want to take my car. There and back entailed five hours of driving. It would be exhausting, and the experience could be expected to throw me off balance during the interrogation.
I decided to take public transportation. The train was out of the question because it wouldn’t be possible to get there at 9 in the morning. I found an express bus on July 9th, leaving Šiauliai at 5:15 A.M. and arriving in Vilnius after 8. It went through the Vilnius suburb of Šeškinė where the police had summoned me, so I wouldn’t have to wander through the city to get there, and I thought I would be on time. It cost 47 litas one way and the same to get back. In a country where the minimum monthly wage is 1,000 litas, the police allow themselves to place the burden of 10 percent of that wage on the person being summoned… Why isn’t this considered a form of persecution?
I went to the bus station in the morning in my own car because local public transportation doesn’t run that early and a taxi is too expensive for me. The bus to Vilnius wasn’t big and the seats weren’t comfortable enough to fall asleep. I arrived in Vilnius as planned. I found the institution to which I had been summoned. It contrasted highly with its pompous title. It was a small, one-story Soviet style building with the paint peeling off, barred windows and neglected landscaping.
I still had some time, so I found a bench nearby and had some breakfast. I drank my morning coffee and watched people walking by. They seemed to think I was a homeless person having breakfast next to the shopping center. That soothed me and reminded me of my marginal social status. When police harass the marginalized most people here might think this is perfectly acceptable. It’s not an enviable position, but understanding it refreshed me like a spring of water in the morning.
After this morning meditation I was completely ready for the interrogation. I found the right office in which a pretty middle-aged woman sat, but I didn’t act gallantly. I immediately turned aggressive asking her:
“Are you terrorizing me?”
As could be predicted, the keeper of order was offended.
We both became emotional, and that leveled our status somewhat. The police officer was accustomed to those being interrogated to sweat and get excited and worried, and now we were both excited and worried.
I really do have a reason to be worried, because for more than five years the police have been investigating several violent crimes committed against me. Once I received a threat to blow me and my family up, and the threats continued for several days in a row. A case was opened, but it was never really investigated.
Another uninvestigated crime: one week in autumn was dedicated by someone to vandalizing my automobile at night. One night they knocked out three windows, at which point I warned the police it could be one of the neo-Nazi hooligans who were running wild in my neighborhood at the time. A reply was not slow in coming: the next night they knocked out another three windows.
That’s the reason I am sensitive to police officers loudly proclaiming personal information about me in matters involving neo-Nazis.
But these are difficult things for police investigators to understand, so I told her instead that it was in my opinion not legal to threaten a special witness with arrest for failure to appear before a police investigator. The police officer loudly denied my statement and the interrogation began with a “spiritual struggle” between the two parties in the proceedings.
It might not be nice, but if it’s honest, that’s what I want. The summons was presented the evening before, and after work I didn’t have time to hire an attorney or make any other kind of real legal consultation. And what would I have said anyway? That someone had summoned me, for what reason they would not say. The police investigator clearly had planned it this way. She decided when to present the summons and where and when the interrogation was to take place. Therefore I needed to present her with a surprise at the very onset, showing her I understand my rights. It seemed as if the information caught her unawares, or at least managed to push her out of her psychological comfort zone.
Right away I told her I would only answer what I wanted to answer to the extent I wanted, and would not say anything at all if she didn’t disclose what sort of libel was being investigated. Thus I learned a little bit. The case number is 17-1-01020-14. It was initiated following a complaint about an article called “Neonaciai Lietuvos kariuomenėje” [“Neo-Nazis in the Lithuanian Military”] still on-line.
One of the characters in the article make the accusation of libel. The complainant’s name didn’t ring any bells for me, since the article was published several years ago and I have forgotten whatever it contained. Apparently there were photos of March 11 neo-Nazi march participants who are associated with the Lithuanian military. The article caused a sensation at the time and the Minister of Defense then vehemently denied any connection between the radicals and the Lithuanian military. I will take a look at the article again and then decide. What specifically the complainant considered libelous, I never found out.
The interrogation was interesting. The police investigator asked whether I was the manager of the Antifa.lt website. She asked whether I place the articles on the website. When I said antifa.lt doesn’t have content and only redirects to another webpage, and suggested she pull up the website then and there and confirm this, she said she had looked already. I didn’t have the time to give the police investigator a basic course in computer and internet literacy, so I confined myself to saying that I pay for the antifa.lt domain but am not connected in any way with the placement of content. The next question, “How many people work at the site?” hung in the air, since, in my opinion, people work in the real world, and antifa.lt is not a business and has no labor relationships with anyone. Then the interrogation became merely a recording my personal data: where and when I was born, my educational degrees, when I reside, and I refused to answer my current place of employment. When she passed the document to me to sign, I was surprised to learn that I am a Russian!
She answered with raised voice when I pointed out I had not given any such information about myself, and then she corrected the document by crossing out the entry “Russian.” I couldn’t understand if it was a mistake or some desire to designate a Russian origin for supposed “anti-Lithuanian forces.”
On another page I wrote that I had not been acquainted with my rights, with the standard threats, incidentally, still indicated for failure to appear and giving false testimony, although these did not apply to me as a special witness. But it seemed this was important to me alone.
After the interrogation ended, lasting less than a half hour, I asked who was going to pay for my trip to Vilnius. She suggested I go look for some Police Office somewhere in Vilnius. When I asked to whom I should address a complaint over her behavior, she indicated I should go to the office of her superior officer. I went and met a nice middle-aged man and told him the problems. He said I could make a complaint to him or to the prosecutor. I wanted to make a complaint to him, thinking I could make another one to the prosecutor in the future after I had made some consultations with a legal expert. And after I had reviewed the article in question again that was from several years ago.
So I made a complaint, telling of the telephonic harassment and the threats to have me arrested which in my opinion do not apply to a special witness, and that furthermore I had made use of my rights as such and had declined to give testimony back in Šiauliai. Another point was the question of expenses for travelling to Vilnius.
I didn’t spend more than forty minutes at the police undergoing interrogation and writing a complaint. So I walked around Vilnius, met a friend, and we spoke about different anarchist matters, visited the Vilna Gaon Jewish State Museum, and I bought several books about the Holocaust. I have been wanting to visit the place for a long time so I am grateful to the police for dragging me to Vilnius. Sometimes it’s nice not to have any pressing matters.
Towards evening I returned and looked at the article allegedly containing the slander. I hadn’t written it! What it says about the complainant is this:
“Member of the initiative group of the Lithuanian Union of Nationalists. Volunteer soldier since 2007. Completed the Šiauliai Didždvaris Gymnasium in 2008, lives in Vilnius, studying contemporary history, has completed third-year university coursework.”
What could he possibly find libelous in this?
There are two photographs of him, one where he’s wearing a military uniform and the other with a Diktatūra t-shirt (a Lithuanian neo-Nazi music band).
Well, he ought to be ashamed of the t-shirt, but I doubt he is. It is tragic this band is even allowed to perform in the Republic of Lithuania, with lyrics such as these from their song “Šalčininkų rajonas” [“Šalčininkai Region”]:The Holy War has arrived If you’re here you won’t escape the plague There will be no dawn tomorrow The fate of the Poles is already known… It’s time to introduce order in Vilnius To raise high the iron hand The final battle with the Russians has come Two possibilities and you will be free… You yourselves are unhappy so why don’t you kill them Don’t be soiled like pigs, Lithuanians When the foreigners have found their place We will have a clean city again… In the end thousands of Russians will die And Vilnius will be ours alone again… The Poles have all been hung, The butchered Russians lie along the fence, The Jews have been lit on fire and are burning in the oven, Only real Lithuanians survive!…
Where this person has discovered libel, I don’t know. The photographs are real. I asked friends about him and they said he isn’t the worst neo-Nazi around, but that on one of the March 11 neo-Nazi march website announcements (www.kovo11eitynes.lt) he is presented as the creator of the website. I think, therefore, he was relevant to the subject matter of that article. I won’t name him here, I have no desire to advertise all these strange characters.
The political goal and character of the case (against me?) is becoming clearer. The Lithuanian ultra-right radicals have mastered the genre of writing politically-motivated complaints to police and prosecutors. Their complaints have led to investigations of feminists singing improvised versions of the national anthem, and their complaints have led to police intrigues against A. Bosas, who recently died, G. Grabauskas and now me. The genre of political complaint was popular in totalitarian countries, in Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union, where the vigilant citizen would sign off and the state security structures would take over in rubbing out the menace. There’s no sense in being surprised that people who adore these sorts of regimes are making use of these same methods. It is their way.
What is surprising is the police in a country declaring itself to be democratic acting this way. When the ultra-right-wingers make complaints, the police seem to work so smoothly and effectively that sometimes they operate on the fringes of their authority. Does this dedication came out of thin air, or should we just admit that totalitarian aspirations are ever closer and dearer to the hearts of the police? Unfortunately this isn’t just a legal problem. As long as society fails to say what it thinks of this, the police will continue to move towards total control, and will make their own determinations over whether a crime was committed, whether or not there is sufficient evidence to level accusations against someone, and will decide for themselves who to punish…
Translator’s note: Giedrius Grabauskas and the recently deceased poet Aleksandras Bosas have been summoned to Vilnius by police investigators in a case involving the alleged “libel” of dead Lithuanian volunteer soldiers of 1941 implicated by multiple sources in Holocaust crimes. Grabauskas and Bosas have been accused of libeling the dead “heroes” in an article they wrote in the Lithuanian weekly newspaper Laisvas Laikrastis last fall. See Defending History’s Free Speech and Democracy section.