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v v CHAPTER 24 The Lithuanian Dream O ne night, during my first month in office, I was working late when a tall man appeared at my office door. As soon as he spoke, I knew he was from another country. “Are you Mr. Sarpalius?” he asked. I said I was, and he introduced himself as Dr. Vytautas Landsbergis from Lithuania. I invited him in and offered him a seat. It was after 10:00 p.m., so I was very curious as to why he was in my office at that hour of the night. He told me that he was a music teacher at the University in Vilnius , Lithuania, and went on to say that the Sarpalius name was well known across Lithuania. Apparently, my great uncle Peter Sarpalius was a Lithuanian American music composer, and his music is popular throughout his country. Dr. Landsbergis said he loved my uncle’s music. I told him about my background and explained that I knew very little about my family history. He detailed my family’s ancestry and told me about my great-­ grandfather and his six sons. “This is my first visit to the United States,” he said. “I wanted to speak to someone at the White House, but no one would see me. So I came to the Capitol and searched the directory of congressmen. Of course, your name, being Lithuanian, stood out to me.” He smiled and adjusted his glasses. “I am the head of a new political party in Lithuania, the Sajudis Party. We need the United States to help us pressure the Soviet Union to put the Sajudis Party on the ballot. I believe the Sajudis Party would win most of the votes against the Communist Party. This would allow Lithuania to declare its independence.” He leaned forward, and his eyes were bright with hope. The Lithuanian Dream • 249 “If Lithuania can declare its independence and break away from the Soviet Union, then Estonia, Latvia, Georgia, and the Ukraine would follow too. I think other countries under Soviet rule would also follow our lead, and it would lead to the fall of Communism.” If anyone had been in my office that night in 1989 and heard this discussion, they would have thought Dr. Landsbergis was crazy. At first, I was kind of wondering that myself. But I liked him, I was fascinated by what he knew about my family, and I respected his dreams. I asked him how I could help. “The Republic of Lithuania was annexed by the Soviet Union in 1940,” he began to explain. “From June of that year to 1944, German troops occupied Lithuania. In those four years, they massacred more than a million Jews. Any person they could find that had any education or could read or write were loaded on trains and sent to Siberia to die. They are still finding mass graves to this day. “In the summer of 1944, the Soviets reoccupied Lithuania, claiming it as a Soviet republic. The Soviet government deported about 350,000 Lithuanians to labor camps in Siberia as punishment for anticommunist beliefs or resisting Soviet rule. “In 1949, the communist regime closed most of our churches, deported or imprisoned many priests, and persecuted people who possessed religious articles. In 1956, there were more deportations, followed by a great influx of Russians and Poles into Vilnius, our capital city. Consequently, Lithuania has been acknowledged by most nations as a Soviet republic.” Here he paused for a moment and leaned in toward my desk. “However, the United States has never recognized Lithuania as part of the USSR. I need you to help me get the Sajudis Party on the ballot.” I stood up from behind my desk and shook his hand. I told him that I was new to Congress (if he only knew) and that I still had a lot to learn. “I give you my word, Dr. Landsbergis. I will do whatever I can to help,” I told him. “And with God’s blessings, I pray that your dream will come true.” I had found my purpose in Congress. I could not sleep that night. All I could think about was Dr. Landsbergis , the issues in Lithuania, and everything he’d shared about my family background. Dr. Landsbergis’s timing was perfect. Both President Reagan and President Bush had established good relationships with Soviet president 250 • The Grand Duke from Boys Ranch Mikhail Gorbachev and had been pressuring him to provide more...

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Additional Information

ISBN
9781623496586
Related ISBN
9781623496579
MARC Record
OCLC
1031090706
Pages
336
Launched on MUSE
2018-04-16
Language
English
Open Access
No
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