LITHUANIAN QUARTERLY JOURNAL OF ARTS AND SCIENCES
Volume 25, No.3 - Fall 1979
Editor of this issue: Jonas Zdanys
Copyright © 1979 LITUANUS Foundation, Inc.
Simas Kudirka and Larry Eichel, For Those Still At Sea: The Defection of a Lithuanian Sailor. New York: The Dial Press, 1977. Pp. 226. $7.95.
This book holds fresh information for both the general reader and the Soviet area specialist.
Kudirka's narrative shifts from the Massachusetts coast where he tried to defect to the U.S. from a Soviet fishing vessel to Soviet Lithuania and beyond the Ural mountains. The reader gains firsthand insight into the Soviet multinational empire under Russian control where numerous nationalities nominally control their respective republics. Kudirka's story offers insight into the present day role of the K.G.B. in the Soviet Baltic and Atlantic fishing fleet, on Lithuanian and Russian soil and in areas beyond the Urals.
K.G.B. practice is seen through the eyes of Simas Kudirka and fellow political prisoners, such as Vladimir Bukovsky.
Of particular interest is Kudirka's trial for treason in Soviet occupied Lithuania. Simas Kudirka verbalizes a growing dilemma for the Soviet state at his trial when he rejects the mental construct that brands him a Soviet citizen. He articulates a view that his loyalty belongs to his native Lithuania, not to an oppressive foreign rule. State prosecutor has no retort to this declaration and switches the subject to illegal notes found on his person and the price lists of tape recorders and refrigerators in the West. In this way he shows the mental poverty of the Soviet empire when it comes face to face with nationalist loyalties of its subject non-Russians. This is of particular signifacance since the non-Russian nationality groups now form almost a half of the population in the Soviet Union.
During his subsequent imprisonment in Potma, Perm and Vladimir, Simas Kudirka meets Lithuanian nationalists of all ages ranging from the partisan war era of 1944-52 to the activists of the 1970s. Beyond his own circle he associates with a cross section of imprisoned nationalists and believers, including the Jews, Armenians, Estonians, Belorussians, Latvians and Ukrainians who all reject the concept of Soviet man. His fellow prisoners, from Ukrainian nationalists such as Lev Lukjanenko to Jewish opponents of the Soviet state, show problems Moscow has with its nationalities.
While the book is laced with numerous strands of both personal and political nature, it notes that the Moscow Human Rights Committee which played a role in helping Kudirka establish contacts with the American Embassy is made up of ethnic Russians, such as biologist Sergei Kovalev and physicist Andrei Tverdokhlebov, who cross the nationality barrier to make common cause against a regime which forcibly controls all the nationalities in the empire. Distinction between what is Russian and what is Communist therefore is needed for the understanding of the growing cleavage between the regime and the masses. As a result, one begins to see Russian Communism not as a vibrant revolutionary wave of the future, but as a regime putting distance between itself and the masses. The bureaucratic regime appears to have nothing to offer Kudirka nor the other patriotic Russians or non-Russians.
A great asset of this book is the honesty and candor of the author. He does not seek to cover up his personal shortcomings.
Kudirka's story offers a case study of Soviet society or a glimpse into the gripping true life of a man struggling to define life in a society complicated by the burden of colonialism. This book also furnishes insight into American Lithuanian activities in the United States, operational procedures of the State Department, U.S. Coast Guard and numerous political figures who were involved in the behind the scenes activity to resolve the four year long Kudirka issue that touched on questions of international morality, law and politics.
Antanas J. Van Reenan
Drury High School
North Adams, Massachusetts