In January 1971, a small group of young girls decided to organize a collective of disabled people living in Lithuania. Then, in the Soviet times, their idea appeared revolutinary, for a socialistic state was officially considered perfect. In a perfect state, a public movement of problemic social groups like the disabled was not very acceptable. However, the girls got together, gave their group a title, Kibirkštis - Spark and published their first hand-written publication called Gyvenimo frontas (Front of Life). Eventually, the group accepted more members from all over Lithuania and was then re-titled to Draugystė – Friendship, so the title of publication changed to Draugo žodis – Friendly Word.
The main aim of the group was to start friendship with lonely people in order to help them – and each other too – by moral support. It was in almost underground conditions that several volunteers typed the Friendly Word with a couple of typewriters and distributed it over Lithuania hand-to-hand. The group also organized chess matches held by correspondence.
Each year, Draugystė would arrange two or three meetings in various parts of Lithuania. They were the only means for the members to meet over the year. The meetings invited scientists and therapists, held safe traffic competitions, exhibitions of needleworks, lotteries and parties.
The group attempted to legalize their activities and get some maintenance from the government, but their attempts gave no results. Even in 1983, the Ministry of Social Welfare refused to establish an association for the disabled. The ministers claimed that the Social welfare boarding-schools that they founded before gave the disabled people all the necessary conditions to engage in various activities depending on their capabilities.
In 1984, the disabled people of Latvia followed the example of Estonia, where the first competitions of disabled sports were organized in 1981, and arranged their first sports and athletics meeting for people with disabilities. The disabled of Lithuania were also invited. The event included the following sports competitions:
Pneumatic rifle shoot
Throwing ball to basket
In order to participate in the international competitions, Draugystė had to organize their own team and set the criteria for selecting participants. Their decision was to delegate the winners of highest prizes inside the club (disregarding their physical condition) and members who drove their own means of transport.
Therefore, from that summer on, the meetings of the club also included various sports competitions, such as chess and draughts. The members accepted them with great enthusiasm: without them, their meetings were quite monotonous.
As a result, Draugystė began to give more and more attention to sports as the means of employment and a source of health stimulation:
“…disabled sports was a topic for many discussions in our club, giving birth to many new ideas,” Friendly Word wrote in 1985. The meetings decided who should go in for sports and what type of sports should be practiced. For instance, some people offered to “stop the dumbbell lifting and pulley-weight for women, for these are not proper sports for females and are not aesthetic enough to watch”.
A need for for regular training was considered necessary, as it helped the sportsmen to show better results at international events. Soon, the summer meetings were given the name of Wellness Weekends, where the first team competitions began. Also, the sportsmen sent an application to the Sports Committee that appointed a coach to train them.
The second Sports and athletics meeting in 1985 in Latvia hosted a female and a male volleyball team from Lithuania. Meanwhile, inside Lithuania, the disabled sportsmen were still waiting for a permission from the Sports Committee to start their competitions officially.
Finally, the active members of the club succeeded in legalizing Draugystė. On December 18, 1985, the Žalgiris hall in Vilnius hosted an official opening of the disabled sports club. On December 26, the Presidium of Republican Council, in accordance with the Sports Committee of the Socialist Republic of Lithuania and Ministry of Social Welfare of the Socialist Republic of Lithuania, approved the founding of disabled sports and health stimulation club, including its regulations and the title Draugystė.
Finally, the authorities appointed Vlada Gribėnienė the president of the club and Lina Rakauskaitė the vice-president.