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Juozas Tumas-Vaizgantas

The text from the „Acquaintance with Lithuania. Book of the Millennium. I“. Kaunas: “Krastotvarka”, 1999. C.68-74


uozas Tumas - VaizgantasVaizgantas (Juozas Tumas) (September 20, 1869 in Maleisiai - April 29, 1933 in Kaunas). One of the ideologists of the Catholic wing of the Lithuanian national movement. In 1905 he was one of the organizers of the Congress of Lithuanians, or the Great Seimas of Vilnius, as well as one of the founders of the Lithuanian Christian Democratic Union. Vaizgantas took part in the activities of the Lithuanian Society of Science, Lithuanian Society of Arts, and Ruta Society. His major works include a novel Pragiedruliai (Rays of Hope) and a narrative Dedes ir dedienes (Uncles and Aunts). In publicist articles, he expressed the ideas of the Catholic wing of the Lithuanian national movement, and criticized the social, cultural and political evils in the society of that time.

JUOZAS TUMAS-VAIZGANTAS, (1869-1933), Roman Catholic priest, journalist, activist, and writer, born in Maleisiai, county of Rokiskis, on Sept. 8, 1869. The youngest son of a patriarchal family, he grew up along with one brother and three sisters. From his family and the natural environment of his birthplace he drew a rich
linguistic ethnologic inheritance, a sense of creative independence, a feeling for the concrete, a mystical intimacy with God and earth, and a love for his fellow man. While a student at a Daugavpils secondary school in Russian-ruled Latvia, he read the Russian classics, which fostered his literary interest, and clandestine Lithuanian publications (forbidden by the Press Ban), which nourished his patriotism. Upon admission to the
Kaunas Theological Seminary (1888), his sanguine and impulsive temperament was bent to the demands of duty and hard, sustained work. These influences combined to produce a dynamic yet morally noble character faithful to both his priestly calling
and his civic vocation as a defender of the Lithuanian cause against Russian civil and Polish ecclesiastical authorities.
Ordained priest in 1893, he was constantly being transferred from one parish to another because of his patriotic activities; during eleven years he served in seven parishes. From 1896-1902 he edited the monthly Tevynes Sargas (Guardian of the Homeland), which was printed in East Prussia and secretly carried across the border.
When his brother was sentenced to a 5-year term in Siberia for distributing this publication, Tumas-Vaizgantas himself was advised to flee to America. Instead, he listened to his friend, Rev. Aleksandras Dambrauskas, and remained in Lithuania. In 1900 he introduced and edited a supplement to Tevynes Sargas, the quarterly cultural journal Zinycia (Reference Book), for which he was formally accused of being a "Lithuanian maniac." Whilethe diocesan ecclesiastical court exonerated him, he was forbidden to publish anything without the bishop's permission. This time the poet Maironis talked him out of abandoning the diocese of Samogitia in favor of Riga or St. Petersburg.
During the Revolt of 1905, the Great Assembly of Vilnius met to demand autonomy for Lithuania. Tumas-Vaizgantas participated as a Christian Democrat, and on returning
to his parish began putting into effect the assembly's resolutions directed
against the local Russian administration. This cost him two quick transfers in succession. In 1907, three years after the repeal of the Press Ban, he joined the editorial board of the newly founded journal Viltis (Hope), which was published three times a week in Vilnius. The task of editing the journal brought him into close contact
with Antanas Smetona, Liudas Noreika, and Juozas Kubilius, who later founded the Nationalist Union. He came to feel more at home in the latter than in the Christian Democratic movement, whose program he had helped conceive. In the meantime, the Polonized diocesan chancery of Vilnius, offended by his pro-Lithuanian activism, compelled his transfer to Kaunas.
In 1911 he visited the Unitea States to collect funds for the construction of facilities to house the headquarters of the Saul6 (Sun) Educational Society. On his return three months later he wrote his impressions, Ten gera, kur musu nera (The Grass Is Always
Greener on the Other Side, 1912), urging people not to leave their homeland in search of an easier life abroad. At the onset of World War I (1914), he went to Latvia to edit the newspaper Rygos Garsas (Sound of Riga). In 1915 he was invited to work with the Lithuanian Central Relief Committee in Petrograd. During the Lithuanian Conference convened in that city in 1917, he wholeheartedly supported the resolution demanding Lithuanian independence. Shortly thereafter he attended another Lithuanian conference in Stockholm. From Sweden he returned to Lithuania and served on the relief committee in Vilnius before moving to Kaunas in 1920. There he edited the journals Tauta (Nation), Musu senove (Our Antiquity), and Trimitas (The Bugle), and
participated in the work ol a dozen societies and organizations. From 1922-1929 he taught Lithuanian literature at the University of Kaunas; from 1920 -1932 he was rector of the church of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary (popularly known as the church of Vytautas). By his originality, good will, and undiscriminating helpfulness he earned virtually universal respect among Lithuanians. His death in Kaunas on April 29, 1933 was widely mourned.