Historical personalities of the Bank of Lithuania. Vitas Statkus

2 October 2022 marked the 100th anniversary of the establishment of the Bank of Lithuania and the first money — the litas. The establishment of the Issuing Bank of Lithuania, the issuance of litas banknotes, and the creation of the national monetary system is an event of epochal significance, as it was done for the first time in the history of the state of Lithuania. It is a great opportunity to remember the first bankers of independent Lithuania, people whose activities, patriotic feelings, and determined decisions allowed Lithuania to become a modern, economically self-sufficient state. In this article, we present a Member of the Board of the Bank of Lithuania, a man who lived a difficult life — Vitas Statkus. 

Vitas Statkus was born in 1900 in Balbieriškis (Marijampolė d.) in a large family of poor tailors. He was the youngest of seven children. In 1914, he graduated from high school, and at the beginning of WWI, the whole family moved to Moscow. He worked hard and studied at the realgymnasium

In 1918, the family returned to Lithuania. Vitas continued his education in Marijampole, but in 1919 he joined the volunteer army (like a lot of young people did at the time). He graduated from Kaunas Military School, gained the rank of a junior lieutenant, and fought against the Bolsheviks. While serving in the army, he graduated externally from Kaunas gymnasium. In 1922, he began studying at the Kaunas University Technical Faculty, but he retired from his studies in order to participate in the Klaipėda uprising. After the recovery of Klaipėda region, Statkus briefly worked there as secretary to the Governor of Klaipėda. 

In 1924, he studied at the Vienna School of World Trade. In 1927, he returned to Lithuania and started working in the Alytus branch of the Bank of Lithuania, and a year later was already working at the Land Bank in Kaunas. In 1929, Statkus was elected as a Member of the Board of the Bank of Lithuania, but was soon dismissed (since he worked in the Geležinis vilkas organisation that disagreed with the government). He was sent to Klaipėda to serve as Deputy to the Head of the department. He later became Director, even though the government did not trust him. He also worked in other areas: wrote articles, together with the politician Ernestas Galvanauskas established the Klaipėda Trade Institute, taught there, actively acted in political organisations, was also elected to the Klaipėda Seimas. 

Statkus was the Director of the Klaipėda branch of the Bank of Lithuania until 1939 when Nazi Germany occupied the Klaipėda region. He was arrested for a while but eventually released. 

Statkus engaged in the liquidation of the Klaipėda branch of the Bank of Lithuania, and negotiations with German banks on the settlement of mutual debts. He was also involved in negotiations with the Germans on a trade agreement and clearing (non-monetary settlement). In addition, he was included on the board of the Klaipeda port free zone company. 

He was later appointed as the third director of the Bank of Lithuania in Kaunas. In 1940, he was elected as Member of the Board for the second time and was dismissed in September of the same year (by the occupational government). In 1941, he was arrested and deported to the Northern Urals, and tortured in prison. In 1942, he was sentenced to death together with 14 other Lithuanian statesmen and cultural figures. However, Statkus was for some reason “pitied” and instead sentenced to 25 years in prison and to work in the camp. He did not work here long, since it was known that already by 1946 he was blind. Even though he was disabled, to the government he still seemed dangerous and was only returned to Lithuania in 1954 (while still being under surveillance). His wife (sister of a colleague banker, K. Radušis) and two daughters were able to escape from the camp as early as 1947. Statkus died in Vilnius in 1966.