Sixty-two years ago, on the night of Friday, November 29, 1957, the executioner waited for his victim… Vanagas.
On November 10, 1957, while waiting in the condemned cell, one of the last Lithuanian resistance fighters Adolfas Ramanauskas – also known as Vanagas (“The Hawk“) asked the prison superintendent for the first time to send a request to his wife’s sister. The request was to send him a parcel of food and “to also tell me if my wife Mazeikaitė Birutė is healthy, where she is and what she is doing – or give me her letters to read.”
On November 12, he received the last parcel of food from the relatives – but no letters. It had been a deliberate request – this is how Vanagas was able to send the message that he was still alive. It is possible that as a result of such a “message to freedom”, Ramanauskas was once again brutally beaten (as determined by experts after examining his exhumed skull – they found signs of healing injuries) – such was the “last supper” organised for him.
One week later, in 1957, Justas Paleckis dismissed a request for pardon written by A. Ramanauskas’ lawyer (it disappeared from the case file, and its contents remain a mystery to this day). The execution was scheduled for November 29. Vasily Podoroga, the executioner, was preparing for his work. Born in Ukraine, he had already carried out two death sentences since 1941: to Algirdas Jakučius on September 7, 1957, and Albinas Ivanauskas on September 27 of the same year.
The events of the night of November 29, 1957, can be gleaned from the Certificate written in Russian by Cpt. K. Petrauskas, chief of the KGB Interior Prison: “Convicted to the Supreme Punishment, Adolfas Ramanauskas, son of Liudvikas, departed according to the sentence on November 29 1957.” The suit, once removed from the body, was destroyed. That very same night, two executions – for robbery and murder – were carried out in Lukiškės prison: that of Antanas Grigaliūnas and Antanas Launikonis. The link between this and A. Ramanauskas would only be revealed after 60 years.
Vanagas resisted to his last breath. The injury to his skull was recorded to be on the left side of the lower jaw; the impact of the gunshot had affected the first and second cervical vertebrae. Forensic experts investigating the mechanism of injury to the skull’s lower jaw determined it to be gunshot wound from a bullet 9 mm in diameter. Experts speculate that the executioner shot him in the face while standing in front – the shot went through the jaw from the left. A single shot may not have been enough to be instantly fatal. Forensic medical expert’ concluded: “… he should have died in a matter of minutes.” We would have no idea if he had time to think about anything and what last thoughts could have run through his head.