The massacre of 24-25 June 1941 in the forest near Rainiai (Telšiai district) was one of the most tragic events in Lithuania during the Soviet occupation. On that night, Soviet soldiers, assisted by local collaborators, brutally and mercilessly murdered 76 (73 in the woods near Rainiai and 3 in the woods near Džiuginėnai) political prisoners of the Telšiai Prison, whose only "crime" was the desire for freedom and love of their homeland. The murdered were young enlightened people of the region, gymnasts, teachers, civil servants, policemen, farmers, workers, a lawyer. Most of the martyrs of Rainiai are buried in a common grave in the Old Cemetery in Telšiai.
The cruel death of the Rainiai martyrs shocked not only Samogitia, but also the whole of Lithuania. The Rainiai forest was cleaned up, fenced, and a commemorative plaque erected. In 1942, the booklet "The Martyrs of Samogitia" was published, which was widely distributed all over Lithuania, and during the Soviet era, secretly passed from hand to hand. In 2022, the book "The Martyrs of Samogitia. The Tragedy of Rainiai Miskel on 24-25 June 1941 was reprinted for the fourth time.
Despite the fact that World War II was going on and Lithuania was occupied by Nazi Germany, in 1942, a competition was held in Telšiai to commemorate the memory of the Rainiai Martyrs. 19 authors took part in the competition. The winner was Jonas Virakas, a young architect, who proposed to build a stone chapel in memory of the Samogitian Martyrs, reminiscent of the wooden chapels and small chapels of Samogitians. Donations were collected and in 1943, the chapel was begun at the top of the Telšiai cemetery hill. Unfortunately, at the beginning of October 1944, Telšiai and Samogitia were again occupied by the Red Army, the Soviet government was established, and repression and falsification of history began.
But the memory of the people remained alive, which the Soviets were unable to erase - to destroy - during the fifty years of occupation of Lithuania. They tried very hard: They cut down the Rainiai forest so that there would be no witness to their terrible deeds; they destroyed the chapel designed by Jonas Virakas, which had been started to commemorate the Martyrs; they planted the Tomb of the Martyrs in the old cemetery in Telšiai with tall tuyas, so that it would not be visible from the nearby street; they did not allow the construction of a monument or the carving of surnames on the Tomb; and they did not allow the construction of any monument or the inscription of names on the Tomb - it is only the small shrine that has been built that has quietly preserved the sacred memory of the martyrs.
In 1988, changed emerged in Lithuania, on 11 March 1990 Lithuania regained its independence, and on 31 August 1993 the invaders left. The nation regained its freedom: the Rainiai forest, which had been cut down by the Soviets, was later replaced by a dark spruce grove, and nearby, on a small hill, the magnificent Chapel of the Passion, which was built in 1991 on the initiative of the Samogitian Cultural Society with the help of funds donated by the people of Lithuania and which protects the memory of the Samogitian martyrs and other victims of the Red Terror in Lithuania, was built. On the other side of the road, oak trees stretch up to the sky in memory of each Samogitian martyr.
The Rainiai Chapel of Suffering commemorates the martyrs of Rainiai, as well as all the victims of the Soviet terror. The chapel is predominantly white. Even the stained-glass windows created by the stained-glass artist Algirdas Dovydėnas are white: on a white background, red drops of blood and the instruments of Jesus' passion - nails, pliers, a crown of thorns - are so close to the martyrs of the Rainiai. The frescoes by artist Antanas Kmieliauskas depict the sufferers of Rainiai, the Siberian exiles, and the partisans, all intertwined with the suffering of Christ and His Mother. In the centre of the chapel is a white marble cross, carved by sculptor R. Midvikis. The tower of the chapel contains four brass figures of the Martyrs of Rainiai, created by the same artist, as if they were on a cross, with their arms outstretched and tied with rope...
In 1994, the architect A. Žebrauskas, the painter A. Kmieliauskas, the stained-glass artist A. Dovydėnas, and the sculptor R. Midvikis were awarded the National Art and Culture Prize of the Republic of Lithuania for the creation of the Rainiai Memorial.