Thursday, 17 July 2014

In memory of Romas Kalanta


Romas Kalanta (February 22, 1953 – May 15, 1972) was a Lithuanian high school student known for his public self-immolation protesting Soviet regime in Lithuania. Kalanta's death provoked the largest post-war riots in Lithuania and inspired similar self-immolations.
Kalanta became a symbol of the Lithuanian resistance throughout the 1970s and 1980s.

At noon on May 14, 1972, Kalanta poured 3 litres of petrol on himself and set himself on fire in the square adjoining the Laisvės Alėja in front of the Kaunas Musical Theatre, where in 1940 the People's Seimas declared establishment of the Lithuanian SSR and petitioned the Soviet Union to admit Lithuania as one of the soviet socialist republics.  He died about 14 hours later in a hospital.  Before the suicide, Kalanta left his notebook with a brief note on a bench. Its content became known only after the declaration of independence in 1990 and opening up of secret KGB archives. The note read "blame only the regime for my death.

After his death rumours spread that a few of his classmates formed a patriot group, and that they held a lottery to determine which of them would have to carry out the mission. The official Soviet propaganda claimed that Kalanta was mentally ill.

In 1982, an advertisement was inserted into the Advertiser by  V. Stalba, a member of the Adelaide Lithuanian community.

Kalanta Romas: In memory of Romas Kalanta who 10 years ago, died in Kaunas Lithuania, in protest of Soviet Russia’s oppression of all human rights of his people.  Your sacrifice has not gone unnoticed and will always be remembered.

The Adelaide Lithuanian community produced a small brass plaque in Kalanta's honour, which was blessed by the priest in a ceremony that brought together many members of the community. The plaque is located in the Adelaide Lithuanian Museum. The plaque can be seen in the photograph above.

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