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Zaliukai in the post-war period and today. Interrelationship and furtherance of traditions

Modern-day zaliukai preserve the memory of the post-war fighters not only by calling themselves by the same name but also by continuing traditions of their predecessors

Today the zaliukai (like ”forest/green brothers") name usually evokes associations with professional and motivated soldiers of the Special Operations Unit. However, not all the Special Operations Unit members are zaliukai. The zaliukai stripe is only worn by the best soldiers of the Special Purpose Service who had undergone selection, complex training and long preparation.

Zaliukai is also the name for the post-war fighters who fought guerrilla war with the Russian invaders and thus defended Lithuanian independence from 1944 to 1953.

Soldiers of the Special Operations Unit of the Special Purpose Service will mark the 10th anniversary of the service establishment this year. It was not a coincidence that members of the Special Purpose Service were named zaliukai when the service was formed under the Volunteer National Defence Service (VNDS) around 1995. The name was chosen because of common features of the new formation and fighters of the historical armed anti-Soviet resistance in 1944-1953.

Although many events of the period are still mysterious and evoke many public discussions Bernardas Gailius emphasised in his book ”Partisans then and today": ”although some might find it unlikely, those people were the army, [...] and the most essential feature of the army is being an institution capable of providing armed defence for the country". Therefore soldiers of the Special Operations Unit consider the post-war fighters zaliukai, also called the forest brothers, their predecessors and roots.






Fighters of the post-war period next to the snowman they built while resting

There were more reasons to officially assign the ”zaliukai ” name to the members of the Special Purpose Operations Service around 1997 than a decade of armed resistance. It also expressed voluntary choice, determination, and slightly fuzzy status of the special forces of the time. Because of hard work and favourable circumstances zaliukai of today have already left the underground. The decade of events reveals dynamic process of the Special Operations Unit development. From a small subdivision the Special Operations Unit evolved into an independent division ready to integrate the existing means, reorganise them and aspire for the status of separate armed force.

The meaning of zaliukai name is not forgotten until today and it is steadily supported by actual deeds. A year and a half ago a monument for killed zaliukai was solemnly unveiled in a symbolic campaign held in the Training Centre of Special Operations Unit. An oak cross of three and a half metre in height and nearly two metres in breadth was solemnly sanctified and three symbolic volleys ”For God!", ”For homeland!", and "For zaliukai!" honoured the memory of the post-war zaliukai. A stone bearing lines from a folk song and an inscription ”For killed zaliukai 1944-1956" was put next to the cross. The song tells of a battle near Kalniskiai that took place in 1945 and partisans defeated the NKVD force: ”Dear sister, make a green wreath/ and bring it here but mind your eye/ Dear brother, / make a dark wooden cross / and stand it at night"





Partisan Storm Platoon array of Resurrection District of Duke Zvelgaitis Territorial Unit


Solemn opening of memorial for killed zaliukai. Symbolic campaign in Special Operations Unit Training Centre

Supported by many Lithuanians and hated by the enemy zaliukai of post-war in many cases were capable of actions much more effective than tactics of partisans. After familiarising oneself with remaining written sources on their living conditions and struggle it becomes clear that the majority of methods applied by zaliukai under the circumstances of endless fight would not disgrace even the elite modern units deployed in hostile territory.


It is likely that resistance of the post-war period had direct influence on the modern special purpose units too. The statement is easily supported: Lithuanian partisans used to extensively employ battle arrays - an indispensable part of present-day patrolling. Even more interesting is another detail - during the night-time movement partisans in array used to affix glow-worms to their clothes in order to see their mates. Is it not a prototype of modern reflectors?

Fighters of post-war excellently mastered reconnaissance techniques. Thoroughly completed reconnaissance was followed by assault. The mentioned tactics arouses another association: success of partisan ambushes depended on capability of implementing surprise attacks and acting quickly. Consequently ”fluttering” partisan units were especially frequent. They would appear as if out of nowhere in the intended location and disappear in the same manner after having completed the task. Assisted by special helicopter unit modern combat intervention platoons function in a similar way.


Staff Officer of Taurus District Vytautas Gavenas-Vampire and Juozas Alisauskas- Clyde on reconnaissance 15.08.1948


On reconnaissance

Soldier of the present Special Operations Unit is a disciplined and motivated person who is well-aware of the reasons he serves in the special forces fulfilling the committed tasks shoulder to shoulder with his brothers in arms during exercises as well as during real missions. Maybe for this reason the mission of the Lithuanian Special Operations Unit in Afghanistan in 2002-2004 was so well evaluated by the USA military authorities, and the soldiers of SOU were invited to be on duty in the NATO Response Force. After the challenging mission in the South of Afghanistan will be completed this year the soldiers of special forces will continue their duty in the NRF after a short pause the following year.

Even though living under the complicated conditions of the post-war period made zaliukai strong spirited people they too dreamt of a peaceful and secure life with their families. Partisans were people who had sense of humour, they liked composing songs and writing poems in their free time. Songs, poems, and pictures remain till today and tell us about partisans. Soldier of the modern special forces is also not a well-equipped emotionless machine but an individual with a critical attitude to his colleges and himself and with a sense of humour. Three pictures of post-war zaliukai and soldiers of the Special Operations Unit by the snowmen they built exemplify that it is true.






Drill of the Glass Platoon partisans of the Great Battle District Territorial Unit ”B" 5th Battalion


Soldiers of the Special Operations Unit during the ”Shamrock Key 2006" exercise

Present zaliukai preserved memory of their post-war predecessors not only by carrying their name. Organisation, discipline, determination and dedication of the post-war resistance fighters has always been and will be the greatest example and motivation for modern zaliukai aspiring to continue honourable traditions of their predecessors.


Pictures taken from archives of the Genocide and Resistance Research Centre of Lithuania and the Special Operations Unit.



Updated on: 2011-06-23
Sprendimas: Fresh Media