On March 27, hundreds of St. Rita students were treated to a presentation from Dr. Audrius Plioplys, a doctor, historian, artist, and scientist—and the valedictorian of St. Rita’s Class of 1968.
Dr. Plioplys, recently named “Man of the Year” by the Balzekas Museum of Lithuanian Culture in Chicago, spoke of his “Hope and Spirit” program at the museum. Dr. Plioplys educated the St. Rita students on the atrocities committed by Joseph Stalin and the deportation of hundreds of thousands of Europeans and how our world today doesn’t properly appreciate the devastation and terror he fed Europeans in the 1930’s and beyond.
We as a nation know very little about Stalin as compared to that of German leader Adolf Hitler—and that is reflected in the way today’s media operates. We simply know and recognize Hitler’s evil ways more than Stalin’s.
Dr. Plioplys, however, was quick to point out to the St. Rita community that the two were friends, allies, and even that Hitler modeled many of his “death camps” and strategies from that of Joseph Stalin.
This “historical imbalance” is what drives Dr. Plioplys in his work to educate our community on what really happened to people of European descent. He stressed to the students that “history repeats itself” and for them to challenge what they know about our world’s history.
Among the shocking details portrayed by Dr. Plioplys were the stories of the cattle trains that were used to deport the victims across the Soviet Union to the slave camps. The train rides, which took over a month, featured the worst imaginable conditions as the victims were packed inside like sardines and exposed to unsanitary and unhealthy conditions—deaths on the trains were common, as bodies were simply “thrown off” the train.
The St. Rita students listened carefully as Dr. Plioplys spoke of political unrest that still exists today in Europe and China—and how small pockets of “Stalinism” thinking still exist. It was an eye-opening experience for the students, who, like ourselves, can sometimes take for granted the freedoms and blessings they enjoy as Americans. Many of them will be headed to colleges soon, but that type of freedom was virtually impossible for many during the era Dr. Plioplys highlighted.
Over 160 viewers from outside St. Rita High School tuned in for the live broadcast as several local grammar schools were invited to watch the presentation online. The online speech is available at www.ihigh.com/strita/broadcast.
The St. Rita High School family would like to thank Dr. Audrius Plioplys for educating our school on an otherwise unknown, but very dark and evil time, that existed not too long ago in our world. His words will make a lasting impact on our current Rita men.