VE Day was the start of a Cold War battle for Lithuania

A military parade during celebrations in the Soviet Union in 1983 of the anniversary of the October Revolution, via Wikipedia

Even though VE Day marked the Allied victory over Nazi Germany at the end of World War Two in 1945, the Lithuanian resistance wasn’t celebrating.

For Lithuanians, the end of World War Two meant the start of a new war with the Soviet Union. At the beginning of World War Two the Soviet Union had occupied Lithuania as part of its pact with the Nazis, who had carved up Eastern Europe between them.

At that stage the Lithuanians had suffered greatly, as the Soviets arrested or deported thousands of citizens to remote Siberia.

But when the Nazis invaded the Soviet Union in 1941, the Soviet’s retreated from the Baltic States to concentrate on defending its own territory.

By the time the Nazis had been defeated four years later the Lithuanian resistance had been fighting the Nazis, but then their attention turned back to the Soviet Union as Eastern Europe was carved up between East and West.

Jonas Kadzionis was just 17 at the time and three years later his parents had been deported to Siberia by the Soviets. So Jonas joined the local resistance to try and fight Moscow from the underground.

Jonas, who is now 87, says that they hid out and lived in the forests of Lithuania. They even had their own uniform borrowed from the Lithuanian army. Jonas recalls how his brother was killed fighting Soviet troops in 1945 and how his family buried him in secret.

The Soviets began to enforce mandatory conscription into the Red Army and went on to deport more than 40,000 Lithuanians.

Jonas now lives in a small village near Vilnius, the Lithuanian capital. He remembers how in one incident the Soviets found him and a group of resistance fighters in the forest. He says that they surrounded them and then opened fire in an attempt to kill them all. Jonas tried to escape and then went to shoot himself so that the Soviets couldn’t take him alive. But as he put the gun to his head he noticed his commander crawling along the forest floor nearby and he felt renewed hope to escape. Three of Jonas’ comrades died in the incident, but Jonas and the rest survived.

Jonas says that the Lithuanians thought that the United States would liberate all of Europe once World War Two ended. But in a deal that carved Europe up between East and West, Churchill and Truman had to negotiate with Stalin over spheres of power and influence in the region.

There were around 20,000 Lithuanian resistance fighters after the war, but as the years went by their numbers dwindled as people became accustomed to Communist rule. Jonas was finally arrested in 1953 and was sentenced to complete a 25 year sentence of forced labour in the Soviet Union, the Yahoo News reports.

Today Lithuania enjoys independence and Jonas says it is a miracle. But he says he is worried about the renewed military assertion of Russia in the Ukraine and Baltic States. In response Lithuania has reintroduced compulsory conscription and increased its defence budget.

Ian Harvey

Ian Harvey is one of the authors writing for WAR HISTORY ONLINE