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Penser l’histoire religieuse au xxie siècle

 | 
Yves Krumenacker
, 
Raymond A. Mentzer

Microhistorical Approach to Church History :
Secret Life of the Sisters of St. Catherine
in Soviet Lithuania (1948–1988)

Vaida Kamuntavičienė
Traduction de Jurgita Vaičenonienė

Résumé

La recherche microhistorique s'est affirmée dans les années 1970 comme une incitation à étudier les phénomènes inhabituels ou ignorés par la société mais qui contribuent à une meilleure compréhension de cette société. Les microhistoriens se concentrent sur le récit (narrative) et l'analyse contextuelle des événements et développements, et leurs recherches (C. Ginzburg, E. Le Roy Ladurie, N. Z. Davies, etc.) sont largement lues. En 1948, toutes les institutions catholiques de vie consacrée ont été interdites en Union soviétique, mais en Lituanie (alors sous occupation soviétique), la plupart de ces institutions ont poursuivi secrètement leurs activités. Du fait de cette situation, on ne dispose de presque aucune donnée au sujet des activités monastiques en Lituanie soviétique. Les moines et nones qui œuvraient en secret se sont efforcés d'effacer toutes les traces de leurs activités dominées par une culture orale. Dans la mise à jour de la situation d'un tel groupe marginalisé, l'approche microhistorique est susceptible de donner des éléments importants. Cette recherche, qui s'appuie sur des egodocuments (chroniques, mémoires et lettres des sœurs de Sainte Catherine) ainsi que sur les informations obtenues au moyen d'entretiens qui ont permis une micro-enquête approfondie, lève le voile sur la vie secrète des sœurs de la Congrégation de la vierge et martyre Sainte Catherine et laisse analyser un phénomène qui n'existait officiellement pas dans la Lituanie soviétique des années 1948-1988.

Texte intégral

  • 1 Carlo Ginzburg, « Microhistory : Two or Three Things that I Know about It », Critical Inquiry, 20, (...)
  • 2 Sigurður Gylfi Magnússon, István M. Szijártó, What is Microhistory ? Theory and Practice, Abingdon, (...)

1Microhistorical research became popular in the 1970s as an approach to study unusual and neglected phenomena that would contribute to a better understanding of society. Microhistorians give special attention to the narrative and contextual analysis of events and developments. However, the definitions describing this phenomenon vary. For example, one of the pioneers of this approach, Carlo Ginzburg, entitled his article « Microhistory : Two or Three Things that I Know about It1  ». As the uncertainty in the title shows, we should not be looking for a direct explanation or definition of microhistory. Indeed, there are number of reflections by various authors highlighting different aspects of microhistory. Yet, as the title of a more recent theoretical monograph What is Microhistory ? Theory and Practice2 shows, the definition of microhistory is still a debatable topic. The authors of the monograph, scholars from Iceland and Hungary, present opposing approaches to microhistory. Sigurður Gylfi Magnússon claims that a microhistorical study is valuable in itself. Thus, there is no need to ascribe any additional meaning to it. István M. Szijártó, on the other hand, maintains that the value of microhistory is most evident when it helps to answer the questions of macro or grand history.

2Diverging attitudes show that microhistory gives scholars the freedom to act according to their imagination, conscience and cultural experience. The greatest value of microhistory might be seen in its humanistic approach. An individual and his/her feelings and thoughts, no matter how strange or unacceptable to us they might appear, rather than states or organizations, become the most important subject of research. This is a Christian attitude as microhistory creates a sensitive and ethical narrative about people despite their roles and status in society, no matter whether they are women, criminals, homosexuals or kings.

  • 3 For example, Emmanuel Le Roy Ladurie, Montaillou, village occitan de 1294 à 1324, Paris, Gallimard (...)

3There are three elements leading historians to a better understanding of a person who lived long ago. The first is access to special sources or, at least, a special approach to available sources. That is why microhistorians attempt to read between the lines, and to decipher the maximum amount of information about the attitudes and feelings of a person. This close reading helps historians to understand the motivation behind the person’s activities. The second constituent is understanding the methodological limitations and the fact that observers cannot be omnipotent judges. Therefore, microhistorians often leave doubts allowing their readers to draw certain conclusions for themselves. The third one is the construction of strong and sensitive narratives in an engaging style. These three factors make microhistorical stories popular not only among scholars, but also among the general public3. Although microhistory is related to many fields of historical research, it most probably is inseparable from the history of mentality and everyday life.

4Can microhistory contribute to better understanding of the life of the Sisters of St. Catherine in Lithuania under the Soviet occupation ? This methodological approach can help us to be more attentive to the analyzed sources. In the realm of microhistory, it is possible to describe the feelings and challenges of the sisters as Soviet citizens in public life and, at the same time, as secret members of the international Congregation of the Sisters of St. Catherine.

  • 4 The situation of the monasteries and convents in Lithuania in the 20th century is summarized in th (...)

5In Lithuania, the history of the Sisters of St. Catherine has not been extensively studied thus far4. Nuns were not active participants of the anti-Soviet resistance movement. Thus, Lithuanian scholars did not focus on them. It is rather difficult to discover and appreciate the daily religious activities of the sisters. Apart from the few surviving sources attributable to the self-documenting group, there are almost no written documents testifying to their activities. The available sources include the chronicle of the sisters and sparse correspondence, mostly with the members of the Congregation abroad stored in the archives of the Kaunas sisters of St. Catherine (Kauno kotryniečių archyvas, hereafter KKA). Documents retrieved from the archives of the Congregation of the Sisters of St. Catherine in Grottaferrata (Archiv des Generalats der Kongregation der Schwestern von der hl. Katharina, Grottaferrata bei Rom, Italia, hereafter AGKath) reflect the Congregation’s concern for the sisters living in Soviet Lithuania. These documents help in understanding how much and what knowledge about the sisters under the Soviet regime had reached countries outside Lithuania. Another important source is interviews and conversations with current sisters who offered oral reminiscences, some of which were referred to as legendary stories. The documents of the Soviet authorities were also taken into account. Specifically, these are reports by the representative of the Affairs of Religious Cult of the Soviet Socialistic Lithuanian Republic and the cases concerning nuns stored in the Lithuanian State Historical Archives and in the Lithuanian Special Archives (Lietuvos ypatingasis archyvas, hereafter LYA).

  • 5 Barbara Śliwińska,Dzieje Zgromadzienia Sióstr Świętej Katarzyny Dziewicy i Męczennicy 1571–1772, Ol (...)

6The Congregation of St. Catherine Virgin and Martyr was founded by Regina Prothmann in Braunsberg, in the diocese of Warmia in East Prussia (nowadays Braniewo, Poland). The first rule was confirmed in 1583 and the second in 1602. The mission of this Congregation is to serve society, nurse and teach, in addition to contemplative pray. The appeal derives from the thought of Regina Prothmann, which is « How God wishes » The Polish historian Sister Barbara Śliwińska and the German historian Relinde Meiwes investigated extensively the history of the Congregation. In the context of the Congregation’s history, they also wrote about the Lithuanian sisters of St. Catherine. Their work reveals how foreign historians perceived Lithuanian nuns5.

7The convent of the sisters of St. Catherine in Krakės, the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, was founded in 1645 and became the residence for about a dozen sisters. In 1795, when Russia occupied the country, the situation of Catholic convents became very difficult and a number of them were closed. The Noviciate was abolished in the Krakės convent in 1864. Only three sisters were still living in the convent by 1905. Fortunately, after a change in Tsarist policy, the Noviciate was reopened. In 1918, Lithuania proclaimed its independence and by 1920, the convent’s community increased to 10 members. In the following years, religious life began to flourish. In 1940, the Lithuanian province of the Sisters of St. Catherine had 112 sisters (94 fully professed sisters, 10 novices and 8 postulates) living not only in Krakės, but also in other convent branches in Kaunas, Karmėlava, Strėvininkai, Ukmergė and other regions of Lithuania. However, the Second World War and the Soviet occupation disrupted this thriving era. By the end of the war in 1945, five sisters fled abroad and joined foreign convents of the sisters of St. Catherine in Germany and Italy. Other sisters remained in Lithuania.

  • 6 The Chronicle of the Sisters of St. Catherine 1, 1640–1978, KKA, file 47, p. 160 ; A. Bogušaitė’s (...)

8In 1948, all convents were closed in Soviet Lithuania, all property nationalized, and the religious life banned. At that time, the average age of the sisters of St. Catherine was about 33 years, which made for a very young community. Although some abandoned their vocation, about 90 sisters still regarded themselves as nuns (only half of them were active). Some returned to their relatives, whereas others had no place to go and were left to the fortunes of destiny. Two of the sisters (Petronėlė Salezija Blazgytė, Aleksandra Tercizija Bogušaitė) were deported to Siberia6.

  • 7 Interview with Regina Loreta Simonavičiūtė CSC, Kaunas, 27 09 2018.

9There were numerous obstacles the sisters had to deal with in Soviet Lithuania. The inscription « nun » in their passports made it difficult to find work. Most people were afraid of employing former nuns, thus appearing to be disloyal to the Soviet government. Some sisters would delete this entry from the passport by wetting the document to make the inscription illegible. Another problem was the appearance of the sisters. A part of their habit was a wimple worn on a shaved head. Without the wimple, the sisters’ appearance did not meet the norms of society further exacerbating their discomfort and fear of appearing in public. To hide the shaven head, they would wear scarves7. The situation improved after the death of Joseph Stalin in 1953, when the deportations to Siberia ceased and the Soviet regime became less cruel.

  • 8 The Chronicle of the Sisters of St. Catherine 1, 1640–1978, KKA, file 47, l. 165 ; Interview with (...)

10To make it easier to hide and to lead their secret life, the sisters moved to the larger cities of Lithuania such as Vilnius, Kaunas, and Panevėžys. With the help of good people, they found new places to live. Sisters did not forget each other and put great effort into saving their community if one managed to find a room, other sisters would soon join her. Gradually, they even managed to buy some apartments. For example, in Žaliakalnis, the central part of Kaunas, the sisters bought several apartments in one house and established a small community centre. The layout of the house was especially convenient and the sisters felt safe : there were several entrances, which meant that in case of an unexpected visit by security forces, they would be able to flee. In 1957, in Vilnius, the sisters built a brick house, which accommodated about 15 inhabitants. In Panevėžys, they also managed to acquire larger houses8. However, about half of the sisters remained on their own in small towns and villages, often assisting priests in the parishes.

  • 9 Interview with Laimutė Lina Vanagaitė CSC, Kaunas, 14 03 2018.

11Another problem was the search for employment and financial security. Before the Soviet occupation, the sisters worked in schools, kindergartens, hospitals and shelters as teachers or nurses, and were pioneers in the field of surdopedagogy (education of the deaf and hearing impaired) in Lithuania. However, during the Soviet period, it was practically impossible for the nuns to undertake this pedagogical work – faith in God was incompatible with the education of the Soviet citizen. The sisters were able to work in the field of education only at the beginning of the Soviet period, when the Soviet government still lacked people prepared for this type of work. Gradually, positions in the educational system were lost with only a couple of nuns retaining places in schools until retirement. For example, Sister Laimutė Lina Vanagaitė worked as a Lithuanian language teacher in a small Polish school in the Vilnius region. However, she encountered many hurdles in following her religious way of life as, for example, restricted attendance at the local Catholic Church. In order to attend Holy Mass, she would have to go secretly to bigger towns, which was possible only at weekends. Knowing this situation, the priest gave permission for Sister Lina to keep the Consecrated Ostium at home (the nun would hide it in a radio apparatus)9. Other sisters of St. Catherine who formerly worked as teachers and nurses were forced to change their professions. A single remaining area that contributed to their monastic devotion was work in hospitals. However, the sisters did not aim for high status positions in order to avoid the attention of authorities and kept their devotion to the convent secret. Some sisters found employment in factories and other establishments as ordinary workers. In the Soviet system, everyone had to work. A Soviet citizen who did not work would be looked upon with suspicion.

12In public, the sisters were Soviet citizens. However, a compromise with one’s conscience had its limits. The sisters faced great problems as they refused to join the Komsomol organization or belong to the Communist Party. Only members of Komsomol could attend Soviet universities. Only a few sisters managed to bypass this regulation and earn a higher education diploma. Most of these graduated from Panevėžys or Kaunas Schools of Medicine. In the long run, this had a negative impact on the Lithuanian community of the Sisters of St. Catherine. If until 1940 they were able to study at Vytautas Magnus University, various educational establishments for teachers, had internships in Berlin, and other educational opportunities, during the Soviet period, the opportunities for such education ceased. Only a few sisters continued intellectual pursuits, unfortunately in secret, in their spare time.

  • 10 Dievo tautos liturginės valandos (be skaitinių), Roma, Saleziečių spaustuvė, 1988.

13The sisters translated the most recent theological literature secretly received from abroad from Polish or German into Lithuanian, created typed copies and distributed them to select groups in Lithuanian society : nuns, monks, priests and those who kept the faith. Although these self-published books did not include any content criticizing the Soviet government and were concerned only with religious issues, such activities were still illegal. From time to time, the sisters would find themselves called to the attention of the security forces and had to endure house searches and interrogations. Their most valuable work of this period is the canonical Liturgy of the Hours and texts of prayers in Lithuanian prepared after the Second Vatican Council and published in Rome, in 198810.

  • 11 On a more detailed account of the Soviet person’s problems of faith and feelings of emptiness and (...)

14Under the Soviet regime, the Sisters of St. Catherine were forced to lead a double life. They tried to work amiably in society (the nuns were encouraged by the Constitution of the Congregation to perform their duties as well as possible), were repeatedly praised as devoted workers, and appeared outwardly to be diligent Soviet citizens and builders of a bright communism. Yet after closing the doors of the workplace, they hastened to plunge into prayer, to perform their convent duties, and to work for the sake of their own community and the Church. Loyalty and devotion to their faith in this difficult period were fostered by a disrespect of the Soviet atheistic society for a human being, a sense of meaninglessness, emptiness and boredom, and the social poverty, which often prevailed in Soviet society. The convent worked as a parallel compensatory mechanism for a grey unattractive reality, and a protest against the unpleasant social and cultural atmosphere created by the occupational government11. All this encouraged the sisters to keep their promises to the Lord and influenced new religious vocations.

  • 12 The Chronicle of the Sisters of St. Catherine 1, 1640–1978, KKA, file 47, p. 259–262.

15In society, the secret nuns were called « old maids », emphasizing their solitary way of life. The sisters dressed in modest orderly fashion, would be in a good mood, pleasant and sociable in public. During the process of their religious formation, the sisters were taught to be modest, simple, to have a strong will, be generous, and were urged to pursue love and sacrifice for others12. The fostering of specific virtues helped to mold strong, kind and hardworking personalities. Being sincere, the sisters easily established relationships with people. In the Soviet Union, Catholic priests were forbidden to prepare children for First Confession, First Communion and other sacraments ; the secret nuns became irreplaceable in this area of activity. They also served the clergy, took care of the churches, and organized the religious life of the parishes to include various celebrations, pilgrimages, and secret retreats, while maintaining a semi-legal mode of operation. The sisters were also engaged in making liturgical clothing. They sewed liturgical vestments worn at Mass and processions, altar covers, and the like. The Sisters of St. Catherine were famous for their herbal mixtures and treated people secretly in private. Finally, the sisters prepared and sent parcels to the political prisoners in jails and the clergy sentenced to Siberia, providing them with material assistance and moral support. A special set of symbols was used to communicate. For example, a certain number of ring-shaped bread rolls in a parcel signified the number of Masses to be offered for the intentions of the sisters.

  • 13 Interview with Agnietė Romualda Lukėnaitė CSC, Panevėžys, 06 06 2018.
  • 14 A. Streikus, D. K. Kuzmickaitė, V. Šimkūnas, op. cit., p. 27.

16Their encounters with security forces were viewed as adventures that further encouraged their dedication to meaningful work. They also illustrate the bravery of the sisters. For example, the sisters in Panevėžys rejoiced when the security guards did not understand that the chest standing near the door of the room was their property. Thus, the typewriter stored in that chest and the illegal press did not fall into the hands of the security forces. Once, summoned for interrogation, Sister Bernarda prayed the rosary silently the entire time, did not answer the questions, and irritated the investigator13. Even the Soviet authorities admitted that the complete closure of the convents and monasteries was probably a mistake and had the opposite effect. Nuns and monks spread throughout the whole of Lithuania and their activities helped to support the faith of the local people14.

  • 15 Ibid., p. 13. About father Račiūnas see more : Vienuolis nenuorama. Kunigo Prano Račiūno MIC asmuo (...)
  • 16 Anlage 15, Bericht der Litauischer Schwestern beim Generalkapitel 1989 in Münster, Generalkapitel (...)
  • 17 Litauen Samlung, AGKath.

17By the early 1950s, the secret Sisters of St. Catherine, with the permission of their patron Marian Father Pranas Račiūnas MIC, began to accept new members15. In 1954, the first candidate Laimutė Lina Vanagaitė joined the secret Lithuanian province of St. Catherine. The greatest challenge for the formation of novices was the lack of conditions, which would allow them to devote themselves entirely to preparing for religious life. Novices were not able to live together. Both novice masters and novices had to go to work and live in appointed places, which meant that they realized monastic life only during their free time. Novice masters saw their novices only twice a month16 and sometimes less often. Some novices had so much work that they had to be released from their daily spiritual exercises17. The masters provided the literature necessary for novice formation to study independently during free time. At the rare meetings, novices discussed their readings. The preparation continued for two years as written in the rules. Novitiate would be completed by taking vows, the date of which depended on the working schedule of the novice. The vows were taken in secret, in houses where no outsider could see the ceremony. Under these conditions, 17 girls joined and stayed in the community of the Sisters of St. Catherine during the Soviet era (the number does not include those members who took vows but later left the Congregation).

  • 18 Anlage 15, Bericht der Litauischer Schwestern beim Generalkapitel 1989 in Münster, Generalkapitel (...)
  • 19 Interview with Regina Loreta Simonavičiūtė CSC, Kaunas, 2018 09 27.

18It has often been observed that the main problem for nuns in Soviet Lithuania was a lack of community life18. Living separately, alone or in small communities of two or three sisters, nuns had no chance to experience a true religious communion. Sisters were encouraged to stay together as much as possible, although sometimes it was impossible. For example, it was difficult to live with four sisters in one room when they had different working hours : some sisters had a night shift, whereas others worked during the day ; some would prepare meals while others wanted to sleep. Eventually, without proper rest, they would become irritable19. In the opinion of the sisters, it would have been much better to live in separate apartments and to have had some personal space. Community feelings were fostered on weekends, during retreats, and holidays when sisters would gather in one place. On the other hand, the sisters remember how they missed each other and had a lot to discuss during their meetings ; their conversations would be warm and pleasant. In the context of their secret life, this compromise with reality was necessary. Despite the lack of the physical unity, the spiritual communion, remembered with nostalgia by the contemporary Sisters of St. Catherine, was actively fostered. Communion was reinforced by joint retreats organized twice a year. About 30 sisters would gather in one house with closed windows to renew their spiritual life together.

  • 20 A draft of the Chronicle of the sisters of St. Catherine, KKA, files 49, p. 36v–37.

19Due to the specificities of community functioning, the Sisters of St. Catherine had a rather individualistic way of life. Each sister had her own routine and had to adapt to specific working and living conditions. Therefore, obedience problems would occasionally occur. Sister Superior would often be helpless in such situations as the residences of the sisters were determined by their workplace. The rotation of sisters, common in the first half of the 20th century, became impossible during the Soviet times. The Provincial Prioress could only make a decision on the accommodation of retired sisters, which could also be problematic in some cases. Sisters preferred staying in the residences to which they were accustomed as long as they could, old age not being the best time for radical lifestyle changes. Thus, often nothing was done in hope that the situation would somehow resolve itself over time. The Sisters of St. Catherine were especially devoted to the elderly and ailing sisters and did their best to nurse them, give them a proper burial, and tend to their graves. The Mother General of the Congregation of St. Catherine, Leonis Sobisch, remarked once that the Lithuanian sisters were more concerned with the dead than the living sisters20. This was a characteristic feature of the ageing community.

  • 21 Regina Laukaitytė, « Išeivijos vienuolijų ryšiai su Lietuva », Oikos. Lietuvių migracijos ir diasp (...)
  • 22 Erster Besuch von M. M. Leonis in Litauen 1974, AGKath.

20Relations with the Congregation of the Sisters of St. Catherine established in Grottaferrata near Rome were renewed in the 1950s after the death of Stalin21. In 1974, Mother General Leonis Sobisch had the courage to visit Soviet Lithuania as a tourist and secretly meet with the local sisters22. The visit of Mother General, along with her moral and material support was of paramount importance for the Lithuanian sisters. It encouraged them to maintain the monastic way of life. In the course of time, the secret contacts (under the guise of tourist trips) with foreign sisters intensified : the sisters received more visits from Mother General as well as from sisters who had fled Lithuania in 1945. Moreover, the nuns would go abroad themselves (to Poland and Germany) to visit other convents. Visits to foreign countries were especially complicated. Lithuania did not have an open border with Poland. Thus to reach the west, the sisters would first have to go east : they would then take a plane from Moscow or a train through Belarus to Brest, which was the closest crossing point to the Polish People’s Republic. It was very difficult to get permissions to leave the Soviet Union. Sisters were forced to lie, saying that they were going to visit relatives and hide the fact that they had visited foreign Sisters of St. Catherine.

  • 23 Raimonds Briedis, « Censorship and Aesopic Language : An Analysis of Censorship Documents (1940–19 (...)

21Lithuanian sisters and the Congregation kept in touch by exchanging letters. Knowing that letters were checked, Lithuanian sisters used the so called « Aesopian language » when writing to Italian, German and other sisters. Such letters were read between the lines, by grasping the unsaid. The author of such letters creates a text for the two target audiences – the reader and the censor. The letter becomes a metaphorical text, requiring from the reader knowledge of context and an ability to decode the author’s « cryptogram23 ».

  • 24 Letters of sisters Dolorosa, Benjamina, Inocenta, 1959–1960, AGKath.
  • 25 Letter to sister Teresė, 26 10 1985, Album of sister Teresė Kielaitė, KKA.

22For example, congratulations to « Uncle Leon » meant greetings to Mother General Leonis Sobisch. If a novice had taken her vows, the Lithuanian sisters wrote that a new baby who was given a certain name was born. The profession of vows was described as a wedding party : « I would like to share with the big joy that my Edmunda had gotten married on the 10th of August, the same with Remigia. It is joyful, that she had chosen a very good friend for life, he will never betray her and he will never leave her alone ». The mentioned best friend of the life (husband) was Jesus Christ24. With the help of Aesopian language, sisters were even able to relate in detail the election of the Provincial Mother of Lithuania and indicate the number of votes received by describing this event as a sport competition25. Life in Soviet captivity encouraged the nuns to be inventive and find their own ways of survival and communication.

23When questioned about life under the Soviets, the contemporary sisters remember it as a difficult yet interesting and meaningful period. Of course, the lack of freedom of speech and action restricted their lives and forced them to live under abnormal conditions. Nevertheless, they are proud that they were able to resist the attacks of the Soviet government and create a unique secret way of life. The feelings of fear and loss dominated during the 1940s and early 1950s. After Stalin’s death in 1953, the sisters felt more courage than fear. They knew the boundaries of behavior well and tried not to cross them. They did not criticize the Soviet government in public. In the ecclesiastical sphere, they remained strong, had each other’s support, and were helped by the priests and sisters from abroad. All these factors lent them strength and inspired them for active work.

24The failures they endured were seen as a result of the Soviet occupation. Psychologically, the sisters had fewer responsibilities, which eased their lives and encouraged a sincere enjoyment of even the smallest clashes with the Soviet reality that had a successful ending. During this period, they celebrated a moral victory over the rest of society that was harmed by the Soviet ideology. They were better, more spiritual, and did not have harmful habits such as alcoholism, a norm during Soviet holidays and often an everyday routine. The Soviet ideology and propaganda were unable to affect the sensitivity, sincerity, sense of humor, and dignity of these « old maids ». They often seemed as if from another world, were not understood, despised or, on the contrary, respected by society.

25To conclude, maintaining that micro-history as an in-depth investigation of a focused subject might also contribute to the understanding of global history, the current analysis allows us to draw some conclusions about society in the Soviet Union and reveals the inability of Soviet ideology to give citizens a sense of meaning and security, to ensure their social well-being, and economic stability. The complicated Soviet reality encouraged the Sisters of St. Catherine to follow their vows. The nuns were able to make good use of the weaknesses of the system and to realize their vocation in an atheistic Soviet society.

26The Sisters of St. Catherine were outsiders in Soviet society and formed their own underground, illegal society in which they felt comfortable and had the strength to organize a secret spiritual resistance to the mainstream of the Soviet reality. Their proud independent posture was the main weapon that they used to resist the totalitarian Soviet system. The Soviet system was not able to fight with such bearing. The irresistible inner independent spirit of Lithuanians was one of the reasons for the collapse of the Soviet system. The Sisters of St. Catherine, their actions and way of life serve as examples of such resistance.

Notes

1 Carlo Ginzburg, « Microhistory : Two or Three Things that I Know about It », Critical Inquiry, 20, 1993, p. 10–35.

2 Sigurður Gylfi Magnússon, István M. Szijártó, What is Microhistory ? Theory and Practice, Abingdon, Routledge, 2013. Magnússon continues this idea in other works as : Sigurður Gylfi Magnússon, « Far-reaching Micohistory : the Use of Microhistorical Perspective in Globalized World », Rethinking History, 21, 2017, p. 312–341

3 For example, Emmanuel Le Roy Ladurie, Montaillou, village occitan de 1294 à 1324, Paris, Gallimard, 1975 ; Carlo Ginzburg, Il formaggio e i vermi. Il cosmo di un mugnaio del '500, Turin, Einaudi, 1976 ; Natalie Zemon Davis, The Return of Martin Guerre, Cambridge, Harvard University Press, 1983, etc.

4 The situation of the monasteries and convents in Lithuania in the 20th century is summarized in the monography of Regina Laukaitytė, see : Regina Laukaityté, Lietuvos vienuolijos  : xx a. istorijos bruožai, Vilnius, Lietuvos istorijos institutas, 1997. The situation of the Church in Soviet Lithuania is investigated in the following works : Irena Mikłaszewicz, Polityka sowiecka wobec Kościoła katolickiego na Litwie 1944–1965 , Warszawa, Instytut studiów politycznych PAN, Oficyna wydawnicza Rytm, 2001 ; Arūnas Streikus, Sovietų valdžios antibažnytinė politika Lietuvoje (1944–1990), Vilnius, Lietuvos gyventojų genocido ir rezistencijos tyrimo centras, 2002 ; Arūnas Streikus, Daiva Kristina Kuzmickaitė, Vidmantas Šimkūnas, Iš sovietinės patirties į laisvės erdvę : vienuolijos Lietuvoje xx a. antroje pusėje, Vilnius, Lietuvių katalikų mokslo akademija, Lietuvos gyventojų genocido ir rezistencijos tyrimo centras, 2015.

5 Barbara Śliwińska,Dzieje Zgromadzienia Sióstr Świętej Katarzyny Dziewicy i Męczennicy 1571–1772, Olsztyn, Wyższe seminarium duchowne metropolii warmińskiej « Hosianum », 1996 ; Barbara Śliwińska,Dzieje Zgromadzienia Sióstr Świętej Katarzyny Dziewicy i Męczennicy, t. 1 : 1571–1772, Olsztyn, Ośrodek badań naukowych im. Wojciecha Kętrzyńskiego, 1998 (second edition) ; Barbara Śliwińska,Geschichte der Kongregation der Schwester der heiligen Jungfrau und Martyrin Katharina 1571–1772, Münster, Selbstverlag des Historischen Vereins für Ermland, 1999 (translation into German) ; Relinde Meiwes,Von Ostpreußen in die Welt. Die Geschichte der ermlӓndischen Katharinenschwestern (1772–1914) , Paderborn, Ferdinand Schöning, 2011 ; Relinde Meiwes,Klosterleben in bewegten Zeiten. Die Geschichte der ermlӓndischen Katharinenschwestern (1914–1962), Paderborn, Ferdinand Schöning, 2016. Two articles are devoted to the history of Lithuanian province : Barbara Śliwińska, « Zgromadzienie sióstr świętej Katarzyny Dziewicy Męczennicy na Litwie (1645–1995) », Studia Warmińskie, 1996, XXXIII, p. 273–293 ; Barbara Śliwińska, « Siostry katarzynki na Litwie wobec totalitaryzmu komunistycznego », Żeńskie zgromadzienia zakonne w Europie Środkowo-Wschodniej wobec totalitaryzmu komunistyczniego, red. Agata Mirek, Warszawa, Wydawnictwo DiG, 2012, p. 58–63.

6 The Chronicle of the Sisters of St. Catherine 1, 1640–1978, KKA, file 47, p. 160 ; A. Bogušaitė’s file, LYA, K1-58-P15818 ; Šopytė B., Kaip Dievas nori, KKA, p. 140.

7 Interview with Regina Loreta Simonavičiūtė CSC, Kaunas, 27 09 2018.

8 The Chronicle of the Sisters of St. Catherine 1, 1640–1978, KKA, file 47, l. 165 ; Interview with Laimutė Lina Vanagaitė CSC, Kaunas, 14 03 2018 ; Interview with Agnietė Romualda Lukėnaitė CSC, Panevėžys, 06 06 2018.

9 Interview with Laimutė Lina Vanagaitė CSC, Kaunas, 14 03 2018.

10 Dievo tautos liturginės valandos (be skaitinių), Roma, Saleziečių spaustuvė, 1988.

11 On a more detailed account of the Soviet person’s problems of faith and feelings of emptiness and meaninglessness of life see : Tomas Vaiseta, Nuobodulio visuomenė. Kasdienybė ir ideologija vėlyvuoju sovietmečiu (1964–1984), Vilnius, Naujasis židinys – Aidai, 2014 ; Nerija Putinaitė, Nugenėta pušis. Ateizmas kaip asmeninis apsisprendimas tarybų Lietuvoje, Vilnius, Naujasis židinys – Aidai, 2015.

12 The Chronicle of the Sisters of St. Catherine 1, 1640–1978, KKA, file 47, p. 259–262.

13 Interview with Agnietė Romualda Lukėnaitė CSC, Panevėžys, 06 06 2018.

14 A. Streikus, D. K. Kuzmickaitė, V. Šimkūnas, op. cit., p. 27.

15 Ibid., p. 13. About father Račiūnas see more : Vienuolis nenuorama. Kunigo Prano Račiūno MIC asmuo ir veikla dokumentų ir atsiminimų šviesoje, ed. kun. Vaclovas Aliulis MIC, Kaunas, Marijonų talkininkų leidykla, 2015.

16 Anlage 15, Bericht der Litauischer Schwestern beim Generalkapitel 1989 in Münster, Generalkapitel 1989, AGKath.

17 Litauen Samlung, AGKath.

18 Anlage 15, Bericht der Litauischer Schwestern beim Generalkapitel 1989 in Münster, Generalkapitel 1989, AGKath ; Aušrelė Pažėraitė, « Lietuvos vienuolijos totalitarinio režimo sąlygomis », Lietuvių katalikų mokslo akademijos Suvažiavimo darbai, Vilnius, Lietuvių Katalikų Mokslų Akademija, 2003, XVIII/II, p. 766–767.

19 Interview with Regina Loreta Simonavičiūtė CSC, Kaunas, 2018 09 27.

20 A draft of the Chronicle of the sisters of St. Catherine, KKA, files 49, p. 36v–37.

21 Regina Laukaitytė, « Išeivijos vienuolijų ryšiai su Lietuva », Oikos. Lietuvių migracijos ir diasporos studijos, 1 (17), 2014, p. 69.

22 Erster Besuch von M. M. Leonis in Litauen 1974, AGKath.

23 Raimonds Briedis, « Censorship and Aesopic Language : An Analysis of Censorship Documents (1940–1980) », Baltic Memory. Processes of Modernisation in Lithuanian, Latvian and Estonian Literature of the Soviet Period, edited by Elena Baliutytė, Donata Mitaitė, Vilnius, Institute of Lithuanian Literature and Folklore, 2011, p. 16–17.

24 Letters of sisters Dolorosa, Benjamina, Inocenta, 1959–1960, AGKath.

25 Letter to sister Teresė, 26 10 1985, Album of sister Teresė Kielaitė, KKA.

Auteur

Vytautas Magnus University (Lituanie)

Jurgita Vaičenonienė (Traducteur)

© LARHRA, 2020

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