When noble deeds are ruined by officers ambitions

Edita Ziobiene, Children’s Rights Ombudsman of the Republic of Lithuania. Photo by Valdas Kopūstas (ELTA).


The finalle of the precedentless case where officers of the Children’s Rights Ombudsman Institution of the Republic of Lithuania were behaving against a child.


Things which happened to Sakiai Evangelican Lutheran parish priest V. Kelertas who is 7 years in charge of public institution Sakiai Children foster home are well illustrated by a sarcastic saying: if you do good, you will be attacked, mockered, even judged. The oddest in this story is the fact that the priest who had taken care of homeless children and initiatived Children foster home foundation, given the institution a building, was whirlpooled into a several years marathon of unjustified accusations. Officers of the Department of children’s rights protection who have the duty to defend the young were acting against a child and a priest.

Sakiai Children foster home founded in former rectory

V. Kelertas came to Sakiai in 1993 when Sakiai Evangelican Lutheran parish was revived (it was destroyed during the Second World War). The new priest received quite a deplorable inheritance: destroyed church which was transformed into a cinema house, later into a sports hall, and which eventually reminded ruins. In the parish there were only 6 believers. Thanks to V. Kelertas determination, enthuasiasm, and support from abroad in 7 years the church was restored, the parish got active.


The priest took care not only of the parish, pastoral activity was closely connected with the care of poor living families. In a year about 600 such families were visited by V. Kelertas and the supporters from abroad. The priest clearly saw the situation in the families, especially in those of higher social risk. No need to say that biggest heartache was felt for the children who in moments, when parents got into alcohol, were left alone, or worse, were hurt morally and/ or physically. At that time homeless children were taken to the former kindergarten „Klevelis“ building where foster home was founded in. Conditions here were in most times much better than in children’ parents’ home but quite poor in general. About 30 children of different age were using one toilet; the walls of the building were thin like paper. V. Kelertas thought how it would be possible to improve the living conditions for these children and acquired Sakiai town council with generous proposition: to create children foster home in the Sakiai Evangelical Lutheran parish former rectory and the town council can maintain the home functionality. So in 2005 the children foster home moved into a new, renovated and modern building in former rectory, and V. Kelertas became the headmaster.


Fostered children: from only a week to a complete independence

In V. Kelertas managing 30 vacancies foster home (the only one in Sakiai region), from the beginning, were roomed 25 children of different age (two of which live here up to now). Part of the young are fostered temporarily, though it often happens, that they become permanent members of this family. Here people have 17, 5 posts, if including a centre of people with mental disorders, there are 21 posts. From the beginning the foster home were structured as family one. During the whole existing period it was home for almost 230 children, and those who were accommodated temporarily came back not once.


Today, here live 33 children: two are adults, over 18, 9 are under 4 years of age, the youngest is 9 months. In the history of the foster home there was a case when they had to bring a baby to foster straight from the hospital after its birth. Once here lived a mother with a child. Children of this home after they become 18 are not left alone; there are 8 apartments for such young people. These apartments serve as a stepping stone into an independent life. Of course, one of the aims of the foster home is to develop independence. Here is like at home: it’s easier to create something on your own, when you know that you have someone to rely on and place to come back to. The employees are happy that one girl studies law, the other studies in the college. There are things to be happy about, though, of course there is something worrying too. Not only surroundings have influence on young people, genes determine many things too. It is noticed that positive atmosphere has more influence on those children who come here to live from early years, older children, who have experienced a lot cannot accept the changed surroundings at the beginning. Here no one curses, smokes, drinks. The emotional background of such children has influence on their behaviour: they are used to stay in the defence position, fight, and attack.


A created good micro climate and the credo of the headmaster- take care of these children who have lost their real parents love from all the hearts seemed to make miracles. Unfortunately, almost from the start of the foster home in rectory, the priest V. Kelertas, who received the title of the millennium person, was tangled into accusations and slander net, child kidnap and self-rule scandal.


Child defence becomes a kidnap scandal

The beginning of the scandalous “kidnap” story is December, 2010. The foster home habitant Rasvita, who came here by the decision of court in 1997, closely communicated with her little sister, living in their mother home. Rasvita raised her sister from her birth. She remembers the life in the mother’s home like a nightmare. Constant alcohol drinking, violence. The mind still holds gaunt memories: how she at night was sent to fetch cigarettes for drunken mother. If she didn’t bring the cigarettes was beaten. So, she felt for her younger sister, who often complained about violent abuse and drunkenness. In 2010, before Christmas, Rasvita got message from Egle (name changed, auth. remark), in which she asked her sister to come urgently. The older wanted to know the reason for sudden and unexpected call and rang back but after her call was rejected, Rasvita understood that something is not right and shared her worries with the headmaster. Then they both went to Rasvita’s parents’ house where they found the mess and alcohol smell as the cohabitants Skirma Ripinskaite and Gintautas I. with three more adults were drinking. The rooms were cold, there wasn’t anything to eat, the little girl Egle was crying. Then Rasvita said that she wants to take her little sister with her to the foster home. The girls’ mother at the beginning objected but later agreed to let the little girl go. So then Egle- all unwashed, hair not brushed, wearing dirty clothes- went to stay in warm, clean and peaceful environment with her sister. While bathing Egle Rasvita noticed bruise on the leg made with belt buckle. It appeared that the girl had been beaten at her home. The fact was announced to the Police and Departments of children’s rights protection and Ombudsperson Brone Valaitiene. However, the officer instead of analysing the actual situation decided that the girl must be returned to the mother’s home as soon as possible. And later she accused V. Kelertas of illegal interfering, self-ruling, moreover, accused of child kidnap. The Police department and prosecutor of Sakiai took the story into notice and started the pre-trial investigation of possible violence against a preteen as there have already been gathered enough proofs of S. Ripinskaites criminal act.


Departments of children’s rights protection vindicated the violenting mother

Having started the pre-trial investigation of possible violence against the pre-teen, it was allowed to listen to the telephone conversations of S. Ripinskaite. Officers were confounded having heard some of the conversations.


B. Valaitiene was instructing S. Ripinskaite of what to say and what not to say to the officers, advised to cry in court. She even used the national television channel to broadcast a biased show about V. Kelertas and the police officers. B. Valaitiene speaking with S. Ripinskaite made no secret of the fact that this television favours her works, explained how to receive journalists, how to talk to them, ordered at least on that day for her cohabitant not to have a sip, openly stated that she has to “show that Kelertas his place.” (That LTV show was really kind of biased, as if something was regulated in advance, someone perhaps even bribed.)

Last year Vilkaviskis district court examined the complaint made by Children’s Rights Ombudsman of the Republic of Lithuania Edita Ziobiene, in which she required to start a pre- trial investigation on V. Kelertas’ possibly criminal act. However, the court rejected the complaint. Before that Vilkaviskis head prosecutor K. Jasaitis came to the same decision- rejected analogical complaint lodged by E.Ziobiene as the police officers had investigated the case.


At the time when Sakiai police officers investigated the material on violence towards the little girl, the police commissariat was examined by various controllers groups however no irregularities were found. The headmaster’s of Sakiai Children foster home V. Kelertas’ work was also checked up though nothing irregular or faulty was found either. With that at first Children’s Rights Ombudsman of the Republic of Lithuania Edita Ziobiene couldn’t agree but later she had to accept the situation.


Former ombudsperson Departments of children’s rights protection counteracted V. Kelertas

In Soviet times the lead secretary of the Communist Party B. Valaitiene who after became the controller of the Departments of children’s rights protection showed her antipathy towards V. Kelertas. It could be assumed that she wasn’t in favour of religion institution servants. How else one can explain her tendentious act impeding the foundation of the foster home, the fact that in two years’ time (2005- 2007) 18 children were moved to other foster homes. Sakiai Children foster homes’ head V. Kelertas could not bear any more when he got the order to move to Alytus foster home for mentally disabled children 3 healthy children, one of which here lived from the babyhood, learned to walk and talk. V. Kelertas refused to execute the order and take them away claiming that children are not items, things in the inventory book. “If I have to behave against my heart, I see no point in working at all”, - the priest explained his decision. B. Valaitiene’s reaction was categorical: “I will never forgive you for this!” V. Kelertas and his managing Children foster home were persecuted four years. There were 3 anonymous complaints on the priest, in which he was accused of imaginary things, for instance, in one complaint it was suspected that the priest sold 3 girls to a brothel abroad whereas there was a visit to analogical parish Children foster home abroad. Also the priest was accused of paedophiliac abuse in the foster home, claiming that there was the list of employees’ signatures witnessing the fact (actually, there such list didn’t exist!)


Interrogation followed interrogation, investigation followed investigation, and visitors came after visitors- such was the marathon of 4 years. This negatively affected the young habitants of the foster home. Even physiological help was needed.


Despite the constant pressure upon the priest, he was faithful to his aim- children have to be raised with love and care, respecting their interests. All these perpetual conflicts had effect on V. Kelertas’ health. After that biased show on LTV, he suffered a micro heart attack. “If you helped a child, you convicted a crime?!” – He could not realise the employees’ acts of the Departments of children’s rights protection.


The rightness triumph

In March, the 16th this year Sakiai district court announced the verdict to S. Ripinskaite for the used violence against her preteen daughter. It was officially stated that V. Kelertas acted right when he took the girl from the unsafe environment, from the drinking family, and that the police officers fulfilled their duty to defend a child despite the outside pressure. S. Ripinskaite received a sentence of imprisoning of 6 months with a suspension of 1 year. She was obliged to employ herself or register in the employment office, also without the permission of the controlling service not to leave the place of residence for longer than 7 days if it is not connected with job assignments. This verdict appeared conducive to S. Ripinskaite. Little Egle is happy that there is no longer boozing in the house, though the mother is still exasperated at her older daughter Rasvita.


The former officer of Sakiai Departments of children’s rights protection B. Valaitiene dodged the amenability. She retired when she was 65 years of age and no longer works.


V. Kelertas after such outcome is not too happy. The priest thinks it is disappointing that such things could happen at all.



Author Laima Grigaityte


The issue of 10 05 2012, SAVAITE