Nijole Sadunaite, Lithuanian Nun Who Opposed Soviet Rule, Dies at 85

Nijole Sadunaite, a fearless but forgiving Roman Catholic nun and anti-Soviet Lithuanian nationalist who was inspired by Pope John Paul II and publicly hailed by President Ronald Reagan, died on March 31 in Vilnius. She was 85.

Her death was confirmed by Sister Gerarda Elena Suliauskaite, laureate of the Freedom Prize of the Republic of Lithuania, which was also given to Sister Sadunaite in 2018 for her defense of democracy and human rights. She was the first woman to receive the award.

In 1975, Sister Sadunaite (pronounced sah-DOO-nay-teh) was arrested by K.G.B. agents who had stormed an apartment where she was writing an underground newspaper, The Chronicle of the Catholic Church in Lithuania, which documented abuses against Christians in the Baltic state.

“I had typed six pages when I was caught, so I effectively got one year for every page,” she told The Atlantic in 1994.

She was incarcerated for six years, most of which she spent in prison and some of which she spent in a mental institution and in exile in a Siberian penal colony.

For most of the 1980s, Sister Sadunaite largely remained out of public view, but she was instrumental in organizing a rally in 1987 that galvanized the movement for Lithuanian independence. Hundreds of Lithuanians thundered the patriotic anthem of national independence, which had been banned by the 1940 nonaggression pact between Hitler and Stalin, a deal that, in effect, condoned the Soviet seizure of Lithuania.

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