Juozas Lukša (10 August 1921, Prienai District – 4 September 1951, Kaunas District), also known among other pseudonyms as Daumantas and Skirmantas, was a leader of the anti-Soviet Lithuanian partisan armed resistance movement.
Memorial cross in the place where Juozas Lukša died
During the 1940–41 Soviet occupation of the Baltic states, as a member of the anti-Soviet Lithuanian Activist Front, Lukša was caught by the NKVD and imprisoned in Kaunas. He was released upon the invasion of Lithuania by Nazi Germany, and went on to study architecture at the University of Kaunas.
After the return of the Red Army in 1944, Lukša engaged in the underground movement. At first he participated as a student, helping out with clandestine matters and unarmed resistance in Kaunas. In 1946, after the arrests of many activists, he left the city and joined the armed resistance. Within a year he commanded the Birutė brigade of the Tauras military district.
At the end of 1947, along with fellow partisans Jurgis Krikščiūnas-Rimvydas and Kazimieras Pyplys-Mažytis, Lukša crossed through the Iron Curtain with the goal of attracting support for the fighters and establishing contacts with Lithuanians in exile. They carried information collected by partisans about Soviet repressions, killings and deportations, and a letter asking for support from Pope Pius XII. He arrived in Sweden and moved from there to France and West Germany, where he was trained by French intelligence agents and the CIA. While in Paris, he met doctor Nijolė Virginija Bražėnaitė, whom he married on 23 July 1950.
During his stay in the West, Lukša wrote Fighters for Freedom (Lithuanian: Partizanai už geležinės uždangos), a firsthand account of partisan activities in 1944–47. He was parachuted back to Lithuania in 1949 or 1950. That year, he was granted the honorary title of "Hero of Lithuanian Fights for Freedom" (Laisvės kovos karžygio garbės vardas), awarded with the Freedom Fight Cross with Swords (1st class). In 1951 he was granted a rank of "Major of Partisans" (Partizanų majoro laipsnis).
Lukša was intensively searched for by the Soviet counterintelligence, before being killed near Pabartupis by the MGB in the fall of 1951.
In 1997 Juozas Lukša was posthumously awarded the Order of the Cross of Vytis (first class).
In 2003, director Jonas Vaitkus released a movie based on Lukša's life entitled Utterly Alone. In 2014, co-directors Jonas Ohman and Vincas Sruoginis released a documentary entitled The Invisible Front on Lukša and his fellow "Forest Brothers".
In June 2020, the Lithuanian parliament's Committee on Education and Science submitted a proposal to designate 2021 as the "Year of Juozas Luksa-Daumantas."
Controversy exists regarding Lukša's role during the Nazi occupation of Lithuania. According to some witnesses, Lukša was a participant in the 1941 Lietukis garage massacres in Kaunas. The Lithuanian government strongly disputes the allegations.