Antanas Terleckas, a 92 years old survivor of political exile, resistant, laureate of Prize for Freedom and a student of Vilnius University (VU) the Faculty of Economics and History – Philology, received a diploma of Recovering Memory.
The diploma, which honours the former student and symbolically rebuilds the grievances of totalitarian regimes for removal from studies just before graduation, was personally presented by the Rector of VU Prof Artūras Žukauskas and VU Faculty of History Professor Dr Jurgita Verbickienė, the Vilnius University press office reported.
Antanas Terleckas received the diploma on 14 February at “Tremtinių namai” in Vilnius.
Restored historical injustice
The aim of Recovering Memory, the initiative of Vilnius University, is to pay respect to individuals like A. Terleckas and to commemorate members of Vilnius University community, both staff and students, who were expelled from the university and lost the ability to continue their academic careers or studies because of the actions of the totalitarian regimes and their local collaborators.
“Our university is working to restore historical justice and pay respect to all our students who were wrongly expelled from the university and were not allowed to graduate for political reasons. That is why we launched on the historical, scientific research-based long-term project Recovering Memory, which brings back the members of our community“, Prof A. Žukauskas said.
A former VU student A. Terleckas recalled that he was prevented from completing his studies at the Faculty of History and Philology by his very bold anti-Soviet views and thoughts at the time. He did not receive a diploma because he was not allowed to defend his thesis about Lithuania in the Russian regime, as it was considered ideologically incorrect. In the personal file of A. Terleckas’s removal, the formal reason is indicated as a failure to appear for the final thesis or state exams.
“I felt respect for the history of Lithuania, for the Lithuanian nation, and wrote books that reflected hatred of the Soviet Union,” Terleckas said. However, A. Terleckas, a defender of liberty, was delighted and thankful to VU for the symbolic diploma he received. According to the Rector of Vilnius University, A. Terleckas is one of the most prominent and courageous characters of the Lithuanian revival, because he always spoke the truth.
Endured many incarcerations
Antanas Terleckas was born on 9 February in 1928, in the village of Krivasalis, Švenčionys County, to a family of poor peasants. In 1954, he graduated from the Faculty of Economics at Vilnius University, studied at the Lithuanian Academy of Sciences, the Institute of Economics, and attended part-time History classes later. Although he took 31 exams and completed the program, he was not allowed to graduate because of the topic of his final thesis
He was first arrested at the age of 17 in 1945. He was then accused of belonging to an underground organisation. In 1957, A. Terleckas was arrested again and deported for the first time to the camp of Taishet in the Irkutsk region where he spent four years. He was later arrested and detained on several occasions.
A fierce fight for freedom
The most important work of A. Terleckas was the establishment of the Lithuanian Freedom League (1978) and the signing and distribution of a “Memorandum of the 45 Baltic States’ Residents” (23 August 1979). The memorandum was addressed to world leaders and the General Secretary of the United Nations. It called for the consequences of the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact, which led to the occupation of Lithuania, to be abolished.
On 23 August in 1987, at the Adomas Mickevičius Monument, Lithuanian Freedom League led by A. Terleckas, organised the first such large-scale protest in Soviet times, denouncing the Stalin-Hitler (Molotov-Ribbentrop) Pact and its secret protocols.
For his brave work, the fighter for freedom has been awarded many times, and today is honoured with the diploma of memory from Vilnius University. Almost two hundred people were awarded these diplomas already.
A solemn ceremony, which will honour around thirty former members of the Vilnius University community by awarding the VU Recovering Memory diploma, will take place this year on 20 April.