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Booksmugglers: Martynas Sederavicius



Martynas SederaviciusMARTYNAS SEDERAVICIUS (1829-1907), Roman Catholic priest, booksmuggler, born in Plegai, county of Sakiai, on October 9, 1829. After graduating from the theological seminary at Varniai in 1858, he was ordained priest Samogitian Bishop Motiejus Valancius. In his ordination sermon the latter urged the new priests to spread
the faith not only by the spoken but also by the written word. Exactly six years later, as Sidaravlcius was already working in southern Lithuanian parishes, the Russian administration prohibited the printing of Lithuanian books in Latin characters. This set the direction of Sidaravicius' life's work: providing manuscripts for, and organizing the underground distribution network of Lithuanian religious books printed in East
Prussia (Lithuania Minor). As pastor of the border town Sudargas (1873-1899), he translated religious texts from Polish, engaged other priests in the same task, and sent these manuscripts across the border to be printed in Tilze (Tilsit). In the preparation
of the texts he was assisted mainly by Juozas Antanaitis (1885-1887) and Serafinas Kuseliauskas (1880-1889), who as a landowner was also able to help defray printing expenses. With his collaborators Sidaravicius managed to print over 30 publications in tens of thousands of copies. In the beginning, he himself transported the books to Lithuania, using his reputation as a self-denying and universally respected priest to good advantage with the border patrol. But as the quantity of Latin-character publications visibly increased within Lithuania and the border patrol received orders to tighten its surveillance, he was compelled to recruit others to do the task as volunteers or for money. As soon as the books had been brought over the border, he personally undertook their distribution to parishes throughout southern Lithuania. Traveling by night, he would leave bundles of printed material at agreed locations to be picked
up by other distributors, which included both clergy and lay people. Some of them were discovered by the Russian police and deported to Siberia. Sidaravicius himself, though
searched many times, succeeded in avoiding this fate. The underground network which he had established came to be used by activists Interested in promoting Lithuanian nationalist and anti-Russian rather than specifically religious literature. In this way,
although personally committed only to the religious education of his fellow countrymen, he helped lay the foundations of the entire national reawakening movement. He retired in 1899 and died in Sudargas on March 7, 1907.