In this interview, Darius Juodis, historian at the Military Academy General Jonas Žemaitis of Lithuania, speaks about the figure of the commander of the Lithuanian anti-Soviet partisan resistance.
In particular, the historian focuses on the impact that Žemaitis has today. What value can resistance have today and what attention is paid to it.
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The Lithuanian resistance
Why was Jonas Žemaitis elected as chairman of the board of the Lithuanian Freedom Fighters Movement in 1949? What was his personality? How should we remember that historical period and what significance does anti-Soviet resistance have in the context of the Russian war unleashed in February 2022 against Ukraine?
Juodis graduated at Vytautas Magnus University in Kaunas. “…I was interested in historical studies. I was passionate about those topics. One of the most interesting periods, and which I am still continuing to study today. it is precisely the second part of the 20th century”.
During the Soviet occupation of Lithuania, which lasted until 1990, resistance could not be spoken about in public. But paradoxically, Soviet propaganda books were published that spoke about it, albeit in a negative way.
“…Obviously, everything was presented in a biased and negative way, but the fact remained that its existence could be known. Some diaspora authors studied the partisan resistance and the situation regarding freedom of expression, but they were truly incomplete sources. However, it was precisely from those sources that we learned how the partisan movements had united and what the unifying element was”.
The role of the commander
Žemaitis was also the person who did his utmost to ensure that the various Lithuanian partisan groups formed a real army, united in the fight against the occupiers. And he succeeded.
“…Jonas was the precursor and unifier… Until the summer of 1948 there had been other attempts, but they had not been successful, because the promoters were executed or arrested. Or because the result was not achieved for various reasons. Žemaitis succeeded in the result. He was the right person. He had a leader’s personality.”
The importance of history
Knowing history, knowing where we come from, is important to face today’s challenges.
The historian is convinced of this: “…We must study history, observe every side, corner, shadows, lights, every element. We need to care about the story and not let someone else tell it to us. We must know it… We must not forget it. Whatever it is”.
Ukraine also had its anti-Soviet resistance. “…In history it is easy to draw parallels, but it is also equally difficult. The resistance in Ukraine has given its results. It gave the people that special spirit that we are seeing now”.
“Jonas Žemaitis, commander of fighting Lithuania”, is a project created by the Baltika-Baltijos Istorijos Association and LithuanianStories to remember the figure of the commander of the partisan resistance with the pivotal contribute by Kotryna Buono, great granddaugher of Žemaitis. The initiative is partially financed by the Ministry of Defense of the Republic of Lithuania.
The work consists of a series of video interviews with people from civil society in today’s Lithuania: historians, representatives of institutions, ordinary citizens, people who are interested in and hand down the memory of the partisan resistance against the Soviet occupation.
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