Printing House ab

This past Monday, I interviewed a quiet hero. Upon Consul General Marius Gudinas from the Consul General of Lithuania based in Chicago, I went to interview Vytautas Andziulis. His amazing story seemed almost a legend when I first heard about him.

“…ran an illegal printing press under his house! …went undetected by the KGB and Soviet Military for TEN YEARS all the way until independence!”

I had to see it for myself.

When we drove up to the museum, we quickly realized that it was more than just the little building with the official looking sign, it was actually the entire HOUSE next to the building. Vytautas had build a complex of sorts that you would get around in by using different doors and passages. It is truly one of the most fascinating places that I have ever been to. His wife answered the door and Vytautas quickly materialized by her side. He reminded me of my great uncle, very friendly and really excited to meet us.

We decided we would do the seated interview first so he took us into the part of the house that had the “legal” printing area. I have never seen so many printing presses in one place let alone all the pieces, letters, paper, etc. As we went through the interview questions, Vytautas was brought to tears several times. He apologized and said that he was always very “emotional.” This isn’t something that hasn’t happened before, I’ve had more than a few interviews in which the interviewee has cried when recalling certain memories. When you listen to what people have gone through and how much they suffered, it’s hard not to feel sad or even very angry that they even had to go through that in the first place. His heroism should not have been necessary, and it came at a great cost to him and to his family. All were willing to pay the price if it meant regaining Lithuania’s independence.

Once the interview was over, it was time for us to film the inside of the complex. We went through the legal printing area first, which had been turned into a museum. A large amount of information about the Partisan armed resistance that started during WWII was displayed. He then showed us the books that he published in his underground illegal press, 138,000 copies were printed in total. Then we went to the area of the house in which he had built the underground illegal printing area. The “innocent” portion was a hothouse. Then Vytautas pulled out this very old rusty crank which he attached to the middle of a square stone basin filled with dirt. He started turning the lever and the basin next to it, which was full of water, began to SLIDE over and a ladder sprang up! It is an ingenious construction. Once we were all down the ladder, he showed us how he could move the water basin back from under the ground and from above ground, so that everything would look totally normal. There were stairs leading into two underground rooms and he showed us how they printed the books. It was constructed it such a clever way that it was not surprising that it was not discovered by the KGB for the duration of its existence – ten years!

He then showed us another small area of the house that contains an exhibit about the Partisan armed resistance. He has basically turned his entire home into a museum. Then, as it is the custom in Lithuania, my cameraman and I were invited to have tea and cake with Vytautas and his wife which h included a lively discussion in which Vytautas tried to figure out what parts of Lithuania we or our ancestors were from. It was an informative, emotional and wonderful afternoon with a quiet, hospitable hero and his family.

Lithuania’s non-violent struggle actually took place over decades, driven by people for all walks of life, political and religious persuasions, sexes and ages, and culminating into the Singing revolution of the late 80’s and early 90’s. According to research sources about 2,000 people were deeply involved with the workings of these unarmed efforts, without them and the rest of Lithuania’s people, those who braved tanks, and bullets with the choice to eschew any form of violence the movement would not have succeeded.

In my thesis which formed the basis for this film, I wrote about non-violent methods and civilian based defense becoming integrated into Lithuania’s defense strategy after independence and why. For a small nation, all options must be on the table when discussing a defense strategy. For Lithuania, the success of the movement that brought it to independence and the reasons for that success were the underpinning for including civilian-based defense in its defense strategy.

Why? We’ll discuss as we blog about our interviews and research as the film progresses.

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