Voice of America had a special visitor on June 14 - Juozas Jakavonis, code name “Tigras”. At 93 years old, Mr. Jakavonis is the last of Lithuania’s post-World War II freedom fighters, or Brothers of the Forest (miško broliai), and a devoted listener of VOA. In visiting the U.S., Mr. Jakavonis asked to visit three places: the Statue of Liberty, the White House, and Voice of America.
Mr. Jakavonis joined the freedom fighters in 1945, and became an aide to the legendary Adolfas Ramanauskas (code name “Vanagas“), one of the leaders of the resistance against Russia. A hiding-place for the fighters, which was also used to house printing facilities for underground publications, was dug near Jakavonis‘ home. In May 1946 “Tigras“ was captured with some of these printed materials; he was tortured and sent to a Siberian gulag for 13 years. He was finally able to return to Lithuania in 1959.
During his VOA visit, “Tigras“ had a brief tour, was interviewed by Yulya Savchenko, and was the guest of honor in a small reception offered by the Eurasia Division and attended by Programming Director Kelu Chau, Eurasia Division staffers, Division Director Elez Biberaj, and two members of VOA‘s former Lithuanian Service, among others.
Mr. Jakavonis has been honored with Lithuania‘s Vyties Kryzius (Vytis Cross), awarded to persons who have been marked by heroic courage and endurance in the defense of the freedom and independence of the Republic of Lithuania. He now also holds a Certificate of Appreciation from Voice of America.
Back home, Mr. Jakavonis remains active in various initiatives and educational projects. The former hiding place near his house is now a small museum.