30 November 2014 marks 75th anniversary since the Winter War that arose between Finland and the Soviet Union and lasted for 105 days. Official messages of Lithuania related with the Winter War were then affected by distorted statements of the Soviets. Due to mutual assistance agreement Lithuania ceased being impartial to the Winter War before it even started. The Red Army had already dislocated its army in Lithuania. Irrespective of that, a great part of Lithuanian citizens correctly assessed the situation and showed great fellow-feeling to Finland fighting for its freedom.
When the Red Army attacked Finland, processes that resulted in the elimination of the Soviet Union from the organization commenced in the Nations Union. Sweden, Denmark, Norway and the Baltic countries abstained from voting on the issue of elimination, whereas the other 31 members voted “in favour” of it. Abstention of Lithuania was not a surprise for Finland. Finnish diplomats who worked in the Nations Union understood the cautiousness of Lithuania. On the other hand, the Finnish ambassador Mr. Rudolf Holsti stated that Russians had eaten Estonia for breakfast, Latvia and Lithuania for dinner, and looked for the dessert in Finland.
Disregarding their government and the subservient press, citizens of Lithuania treated the armed attack as an aggression, and resistance of Finns - as a fight for independence of their state. The majority of Lithuanians rendered assistance to Finland by sending money, support letters and offering themselves as volunteers for the Finnish army. Names of at least three Lithuanian volunteers – Mykolas Mikalūnas, Georgas Erikas Žukas and Alanas Abraitis have persisted in documents.
The number of applicants was much bigger. Those who sent letters were usually responded with gratitude and request to contact later. Such answers were determined by the established international situation and the fact that, irrespective of everything, the war lasted for only three months. In turn, charity collected in a number of Lithuanian parishes and letters of Lithuanians reached the addressee.
The book by Ignas Šeinius “The Red Flood” issued in the Finnish language in 1942 tells how Stalin occupied Lithuania. The book describes how Lithuanians tried to find information on the course of the Winter War in the press, also that in Vilnius and in the whole Lithuania people were very pleased after they had found out about Finnish success in exterminating one after another two divisions of the Soviet Army.
After Finnish victories, Lithuanians congratulated one another so as if they have experienced a particular victory against bolshevism themselves.
The book also writes that Lithuanians were sad they had no opportunity to help Finland more and directly. Irrespective of the fact that Lithuanians prayed for Finns in churches, they also told sarcastic stories about Bolsheviks. This is one of the examples.
– Have you heard that Stalin prepares a new five-year plan?
– Really? What are its goals?
– To break the Finns.
Lithuanians understood that Bolsheviks are not pleased being entangled into the war with Finland, as this also determined the weakening of the pressure directed against the Baltic countries. Cases of Russian soldiers deserting from the army increased in Lithuania, even though this was punishable by shooting. The Red Army soldiers considered other countries better than their own.
“The Soviet Army units in Lithuania had to be replaced with the new ones. A part of them came home, whereas others, absolutely unwillingly, got into the Finnish front”, Šeinius wrote in his book.
It is told that one Soviet colonel, before departure to the Finnish front, told his friends:
“To fight this way is a disgrace in the eyes of the whole world. If we wanted to fight there, we had to properly prepare for that. Now, this is as if sending people to a slaughter house”.
The war continued and Finland did not give up. “How long will they be able to stand there” – they wondered then and simultaneously stated that Soviets have a lot of men whom they may sacrifice”.
“Every Lithuanian, every Pole and every man in general, irrespective of his nationality, everyone to whom a human being and freedom is a valuable, observe resistance of the Finns holding their breaths and believe that the Finns will withstand this fight.
Embassy of Finland Vilnius