His self-immolation in 1972 became a focus of public protest against Soviet rule in Lithuania. In 1968 Kalanta (1953-1972) had been deeply moved by the report of Jan Pallach’s self-immolation in Prague in protest against the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia. (Kalanta’s older brother was in the Soviet force.) He startled his teachers when he declared his interest in becoming a priest, but no one expected him to take his own life.
Soviet officials tried to deny any motivation of political protest in his action, but they forced his family to hold his funeral at a different time, and they subsequently changed the landscape of the park where he had died. Although Catholic doctrine opposes suicide, Kalanta became a national hero for his example of self-sacrifice.