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Valdas Anelauskas


The author of this book is a former anti-Soviet dissident who was expelled from the USSR for his human rights activities on behalf of his native Lithuania. After coming to the United States, as a high profile political exile, he initially allied himself with the American right wing. Little by little, when he observed the realities of life in America, he became a dissident again. He is a journalist by profession and now divides his time between Europe and America.

Valdas Anelauskas was born in 1960 in Lithuania which was a part of the former Soviet Union at the time. As a Lithuanian nationalist, he became actively involved in the resistance movement for Lithuania's independence in his teens. Later he joined the broader dissident movement for human rights and democratic changes in the Soviet Union. Over a period of almost ten years, Mr. Anelauskas was a well-known human rights activist and observer in the USSR. As an independent journalist writing for various underground publications, he focused mainly on human rights issues. His reports concerning human rights violations in the Soviet Union were featured numerous times by mass media around the world. In the late 1980s, Mr. Anelauskas was among founders of the International Society for Human Rights in Lithuania, and served as a chairman of this organization, and as editor of its newsletter. He also belonged to the Lithuanian Liberation League, a radical underground group fighting for Lithuania's independence from the Soviet Union. In 1988, on the day marking the 40th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Mr. Anelauskas renounced his Soviet citizenship in protest of the continuing occupation and annexation of Lithuania by the USSR. As a consequence, he and his wife were forced to leave the Soviet Union.

While in political exile, Valdas Anelauskas was duped by the U.S. government and lured into the United States of America. Upon his arrival in the USA as a high profile anti-Soviet dissident, Mr. Anelauskas initially cooperated with various right-wing organizations seeking the collapse of the Soviet Union, among them the notorious Anti-Bolshevik Bloc of Nations, the World Anti-Communist League, and others. In 1990 he even addressed the annual Conservative Political Action Conference, in Washington, D.C., as a featured speaker, alongside Newt Gingrich, Jesse Helms, Phil Gramm, and other leading American conservative spokepersons.

When Valdas Anelauskas discovered the elitist nature and goals of American conservative organizations, his association with them terminated. Recalling his earlier activities with shame and chagrin, he now regards himself as the naive victim of American propaganda, and of officials of its various agencies and institutions, who sought to achieve, not human rights, but global power, by the Soviet demise.

As in his days as an anti-Soviet dissident, Mr. Anelauskas remains, to this day, a tireless seeker of truth and a staunch defender of all human rights -- not simply the civil and political rights which he sought for his native Lithuania, but the full gamut of international human rights, including socio-economic and cultural rights as well. Now, that Lithuania is an independent country again, he concentrates mainly on human rights and social justice issues in the United States as well as in Third World countries.

As he says, "Since I have dedicated my life to fight for justice against oppression, it doesn't matter where I happen to live. If there is some kind of oppression, if I see any injustice, I will have to stand up and fight the evil"...

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The Choice is Hope

By Chris Brady

"If you assume that there's no hope, you guarantee that there will be no hope. If you assume that there is an instinct for human freedom, there are opportunities to change things, there's a chance you may contribute to making a better world. That's your choice."
--Noam Chomsky

H ere is the latest from former Soviet dissident, troubled Lithuanian nationalist and resolute human rights activist Valdas Anelauskas. Here are contained his findings in and of the New World. His revelations in the United States of America are as critical and as scathing as were his denunciations of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. His reaction to the betrayal of the immigrant's innocent hope invokes Tex-Mex musician Flaco Jimenez's lament about "the Broken Promised Land." They are not the only ones, of course. Anelauskas is also the victim of politics over principles. He is angry, distraught, afraid of hoping again -- yet driven, to use the words of Antonio Gramsci, past the pessimism of his intellect to the optimism of his will.

Anelauskas was never so gullible as to believe like earlier Eastern European immigrants that the streets here were paved with gold. He did arrive trusting, however, that America was a lot closer to its projected image than to its sordid reality. He realized too late that the American Way was more like that road paved with good intentions that leads to Hell, a route from which even detours were less than virtuous. He turns back like Dante, back to tell us all. He also appears somewhat like the Sorcerer's Apprentice, having participated in a process that ran out of control and far from his desires. The process remains incomplete; it continues and is still to be resolved. Anelauskas insists we all have a role. Only we must decide to act.

Valdas the young idealist is now older, and wiser. But he still keeps the central core of his faith intact. His faith like others is written. Only his is not a faith in the power of ghosts over the material realm, or of ritual and dogma. His is a belief in the excellence and integrity of certain standards of social and individual actions in the real world. These standards are codified in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. It is to the Articles of the Declaration that he dedicates this work, but more substantially to the people who should benefit from them all, all over the world.

I first met Valdas Anelauskas at the end of 1995. I was in the office of The Student Insurgent, the radical student paper at the University of Oregon. I had been the editor-in-chief the year before. The new collective was recovering from a split caused by a bitter clash between ex-lovers. They were mostly young anarchists, late teens and early twenties, obsessed with saving trees and confronting the local police. I was working on a cover graphic when an older man (i.e., in his thirties) entered the room. The interacting collective paid him no attention. I looked up from the computer and noticed him waiting to be acknowledged. He asked if he had come to the right place, to the office of The Student Insurgent. I assured him that he had. He introduced himself and said he wanted a particular essay of his printed in the paper. He liked a lot of what he read in recent issues. He wanted The Insurgent to publish his first English language article.

He was a slim man slightly taller than average, fair, blue eyed. I noticed his accent. At first I took him to be Polish or Russian. When he gave me his name, the "-auskas" made him Lithuanian. He told me he had been a Soviet dissident. Solzhenitsyn, Sakharov, Sharansky sprang to mind. Then Yeltsin forcing "democracy" on the Russian Parliament with tanks, troops and shell fire. Idealism, hypocrisy and realpolitik mixed in immediately. I was on my guard -- not anywhere near red alert -- but I wondered why this stranger would want to publish in our little radical rag. He gave me a copy of his article, and invited me to come over to his apartment after I read it. We would discuss the contents of his essay, and what led up to its generation. I took his number, and put his article aside for later.

That night as I read it I was struck by the tragedy in Anelauskas' essay: classical hubris and high principles, powerful external forces and the awful helplessness of the hero. But the catharsis was quite unsatisfactory. The Fates and Furies turned on the reader, too, and our species, and the entire planet. I telephoned him and we set up an appointment.

I interviewed Valdas Anelauskas over tea at his apartment. In the next room his wife and young daughter chatted quietly. Mr. Anelauskas told me he was a journalist by profession. He showed me his clippings file, a large collection of articles published in different alphabets. He told me a little of his struggle in the Lithuanian independence movement. He had collaborated with many well-known dissidents in the Soviet Union before its collapse.

When the KGB kicked him out of the USSR, he joined other anti-Soviet exiles working for Radio Liberty as a free-lancer. He linked up with Armando Valladares, the Cuban exile head of the U.S. Human Rights delegation to the United Nations during the Reagan/Bush period. He spoke at conferences of right-wing funded "human rights" organizations, attended conventions of anti-communists, and played the poster boy for capitalist revanchists.

"Sure. They used us. But we used them, too!" he assured me. After all, Lithuania is now an independent republic. But the situation in Lithuania is not wonderful, he ruefully admitted. And now that the Communists have surrendered (Señor Valladares take note) the right-wing crusaders have no more use for the services of nationalist human rights activists like Valdas Anelauskas. Now that he and his family live in a walk-up apartment way out on the wet west coast of North America, and far from the land he helped liberate from Soviet domination, and far from what he hoped would happen after, and far from his friends and relatives, I asked him if he had regrets about his activist past. No, he replied after a pause, just fears about the future.

I had resolved to publish his article before, but after this interview, I became committed. In my days with The Student Insurgent collective the paper was always looking for good "alternative" material; this was exceptional. Whether or not I agreed with Anelauskas' politics, which I then found difficult to grasp, his essay made history. You will see why when you read his book.

I set to work editing the piece forthwith. It didn't take much. He is a professional writer. Apart from the usual Eastern European habit of dropping definite and indefinite articles, his vocabulary and spelling was good, and his presentation logical and evocative. "Expectations and Reality" by Valdas Anelauskas went into our New Year's issue. That issue garnered awards for the paper. That short essay was the seed for this book. Seeds are packages of hope. This book, too, is a seed.


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