Jonas Kentra

Jonas Kentra

Jonas Kentra (1869 - 27 December 1942) was a Lithuanian patriot who died in a Siberian prison. He was born in Veiviržėnai, Samogitia in Czarist Russian occupied western Lithuania. He was very active in the struggle for Lithuanian independence and the preservation of Lithuanian language and culture during the Czarist Russian occupation.

Early life

He studied in the Seminary in Kaunas for four years but left after having met his future wife, Felicija Bielevičiūtė. He later studied in Liepaja to obtain his qualifications as a Notary Public, settled in Palanga, and served as notary for the region for over 40 years.

Later life

He was passionate about Lithuanian culture and language. This was difficult as official Russian policy was to suppress the Lithuanian language with a ban on Latin-script and Lithuanian publications

Using his official position, he provided approval for the performance in Palanga of a Lithuanian comedy "Amerika pirtyje" (America in the Bath) by Antanas Vilkutaitis-Keturakis. It was said that "news about the first Lithuanian play in Palanga quickly spread to other regions in Lithuania and persuaded a number of Lithuanians to take more consistent measures against censorship in Lithuania."

Jonas was also active in a network which smuggled literature written in Lithuanian into the country, knygnešiai. The Russian administration had forbidden the printing of Lithuanian books and newspapers in Latin characters. Palanga, where Jonas lived, became an important point for the smuggling of Lithuanian publications from Lithuania Minor.

During Lithuanian independence between 1918 and 1940, life was pleasant with Jonas's hard work paying off. The family was well-provided for and Lithuanian culture flourished.

On 19 September 1939, pursuant to the secret Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact between Germany and the Soviet Union, Vilnius was seized and annexed by Soviet Union. On 10 October 1939, under a Soviet ultimatum, the Lithuanian government accepted the presence of Soviet military bases in the country in exchange for restoring the city to Lithuania. The whole of Lithuania was occupied by the Soviet Union in June 1940 and a puppet Communist government was installed over the newly created Lithuanian SSR.

Arrest and fate

Like many other "intellectuals" and public servants, Jonas was arrested and deported to the Siberian prison camp at Resoty, Nizniy Ingas District, Kraynoyarsk Territory.

He died in December 1942 of starvation and exposure in the Siberian winter.


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