|Abstract: ||Straipsnyje, remiantis pirmąsyk plačiai nagrinėjama archyvine medžiaga, apžvelgiamas paskutinis Lietuvių švietimo draugijos „Rytas“ laikotarpis (1939–1940): nurodomas naujų narių skaičius, pateikiami duomenys apie steigiamas skaityklas, organizuojamus naujus skyrius, aptariama kita draugijos veikla. Detalizuojami akivaizdūs lenkų valdžios bandymai riboti „Ryto“ veiklą jau nuo 1936 m., tai tęsėsi iki 1938 m.: 1938 m. sausio 29 d. „Ryto“ veikla buvo sustabdyta, o 1938 m. vasario 28 d. Vilniaus vaivada „Ryto“ draugiją uždarė. „Ryto“ draugijos veikėjų pastangomis (tam buvo palanki ir politinė situacija) 1939 m. gegužės 20 d. Vilniaus vaivadija draugiją atkūrė, o birželio 6 d. (nors ir su didelėmis skolomis) perduotas draugijai priklausęs turtas. Draugija „Rytas“ (nepaisant naujų trukdžių, intensyviai veikusi nuo 1939 m.), kaip ir kitos katalikiškos organizacijos, sovietinės valdžios buvo uždaryta 1940 m.|
At the beginning of the 20th century “Žiburys”,“Saulė” and “Rytas” societies, which had been set up in Suvalkija, Aukštaitija and Vilnius regions of Lithuania, performed imposing educational tasks and considerably contributed to raising Lithuanians’ religious and national awareness. Naturally, these organizations became important centres unifying the Lithuanian Catholic intellectual movement. The Lithuanian “Rytas” society of education was registered in Petrapilis on November 29, 1912. Its aim was to educate the Lithuanian population of the Vilnius County according to the lines of the teachings of the Roman Catholic Church. On January 31, 1913, the constituent assembly of the society took place on the premises of the parsonage of the All Saints church in Vilnius. Thus, the “Rytas” has celebrated its centenary on January 31, 2013. The jubilee prompts the necessity to correct the recurrent mistakes which have been dominant in the press and publications of some researchers on the activities of this organization. In particular, it concerns the suspension of the “Rytas” activities and the closure of this organization in 1938, ignoring its endeavours to intensify its activity in 1939 and continue it until 1940 when the society was closed down by the soviet occupants. Therefore, the article offers a more extensive picture of the “Rytas” chronology highlighting the facts concerning the “Rytas” activities during the period of 1939–1940, which have been often overlooked by other researchers.
Some time before the Vilnius town storastija suspended the functioning of the “Rytas” society on January 29, 1938, and the Vilnius voivod closed it down a month later on February 28, 1938, some symptoms of the targeted destruction of this Lithuanian centre were quite evident, as since its very inception the “Rytas” society became an object of discord, which subsequently turned into an object of hatred. For instance, while still 95 Lithuanian libraries set up by the “Rytas” were functioning at the beginning of 1936, 82 of them were closed down by the Polish authorities in the course of 8 months. Out of a large number of schools only as many as two were left (only one school remained in 1937).
In the evening of November 25, 1936, a search was made in the “Rytas” office, its cash book and other documents were taken away (they were returned only in 1939 by new authorities).
The persistent efforts of the management board members of the “Rytas” produced some positive results, which were also conditioned by the political shifts of that time. On May 20, 1939 the ban on the activities of the “Rytas” society was lifted and on June 6 its property was given back. Unfortunately though, it entailed big debts.
The “Rytas” immediately undertook to restore its functions: it appealed to the Balstoge voivod asking it to revoke the ban of the activities of the “Rytas” at the boarder land. It intensified the admission of new members, the creation of the “Rytas” centres in the countryside, the founding of reading-rooms and book-shops, though these steps were often hindered by various obstacles.
The “Rytas” forms of actions were endorsed: meetings, regional conferences, youth rallies, the days of the week (weeks devoted to cultural events and the fight against vices) and solemn days. The centre undertook the work of writing the plans and the scenario. A significant form of its activities in districts and centres consisted of organizing courses of instruction for the leaders of centres and heads of libraries. At the end of 1939 the “Rytas” society gained exceptional strength. On February 21, 1940, the minister of Internal Affairs endorsed the statute of the “Rytas” society and sanctioned its activities. On February 22, 1940 the “Rytas” society was inscribed No 9357 on the list of the Register of societies.
The “Rytas” society which had accomplished many good deeds fostering the awareness of Lithuanian identity in the Vilnija region and promoting cultural life, like all other Catholic organizations, was closed down by the soviet occupational authorities in the summer of 1940.