Holidays and martyred heroes don't mean much to Virginia Shibonis.

Who was Martin Luther King?"He was one of your presidents, I believe," she said.

What do you know about Human Rights Day?

"My children don't have to go to school."

But she understands to the core of her soul about the human right to freedom, dignity and self-government.

Born in Lithuania, Virginia spent five days in a Soviet prison after marching for human rights on Lithuanian Independence Day in 1988.

A few months later, she and her husband were thrown out of Russia because the KGB found the couple's persistent push for human rights an irritation it could do without.

"They gave us a visa and told us to leave. I did not want to leave at all," Virginia said.

Russian officials wanted to ship the Shibonis and their two small children to Israel along with other Jewish immigrants. But the Shibonis are not Jewish and they refused to sign papers saying they were.

So the KGB tossed them out to find their own place in the world. The couple took their two small daughters to France first.

"But we decided we could never become French. We would always be Lithuanians and foreigners to them," she said. "But in the United States, you can be whoever you want to be and still be American."

So they came to America: Virginia, her husband, Mindaugas; Milda, then 5, and Jamuna, 1. And Virginia's passion for human rights; that came, too.

Virginia took out enough time to settle her family into life in Salt Lake City before she took up her passion again and became a VISTA volunteer.

"That mean's `volunteer in support of America,' " she said.

For Virginia it means working every day at the New Hope Multi-Cultural Center. "I work with refugees and try to help everybody," she explained in her deliberate English.

She also works with the Wasatch Fish and Garden project directed by Utahns Against Hunger. The project helps refugees and low-income families buy carp for 15 cents a pound and rent a garden plot for $10 a year, she said.

"For refugees who don't speak English, a garden keeps them busy, which really helps them. Plus they can grow all kinds of vegetables from home that they might not be able to buy here."

When she has done all she can for the rights and dignity of the refugees around her, she prays - and sometimes weeps - for the people of Lithuania.

When Virginia left Lithuania, her people were repressed and miserable; but for the most part, they were safe. That is no longer true. A recent demonstration there, similar to the one Virginia participated in, left 14 people dead, 144 injured and 68 missing, she said.

Virginia's father-in-law, Jonas, moved in with the Shibonis a year ago, shortly before Lithuania declared its independence. Virginia's mother-in-law planned to come along a few months later. But then Lithuania declared independence, Gorbachev cracked down, and now the Shibonis can't get her out of the country.

Virginia learned a few days ago that her mother-in-law was not injured in the demonstration. "But I don't know about anybody else I knew," she said. "We knew lots of people active in the Lithuanian Independence League. I don't know even today if they are OK or not."

Her little country's battle for self-government in the Soviet Union won't be much different than the blacks' long battle for civil rights in America: tortuously slow and ultimately dependent on the oppressor's change of heart.

"How can they fight? They don't have guns. They don't have anything but their unity. They can talk and pray. But that's all they can do right now," she said.

Virginia never heard King's famous speech, but she, too, has a dream. She wants to see Lithuania free in her life time.

She never heard his famed refrain: "Free at last. Free at last. Thank God Almighty, free at last." But she longs for such a proclamation for her own people.

Virginia Shibonis doesn't know who Martin Luther King is. Yet, in their struggles, they are kin.