Travels with V
Estonia & Lithuania
Memories of tyranny and resistance
Lithuania part 2
After the Baltic independence 1990-91 almost everything that reminded of the ockupation was removed, statues of communist leaders were torn down and sold as scrap. One Lithuanian bought a heap of statues and put them in a parklike forest in the south, near the city of Druskininkai close to the Belarus border. Here you can approach the once impressive and colossal figures, but heroism in a forest can be a bit comical.
One memorial that is quite small but has a huge symbolic value is a square stone near Vilnius cathedral. Its inscription ”Stebuklas” means ”miracle”, and it marks the exact spot where the last person was standing in 1989 in a line of two million people holding hands all the way from Tallinn in the north, through Riga in Latvia and ending in Vilnius. The massive demonstration called “The Baltic Way” was a plea for independence.
From Vilnius we drive the main road to the port of Klaipeda, but make a detour on the way to see something remarkable, not far from the city of Siaulai. It’s a low hill with crosses all over it, hundreds of thousands of crosses, big and small, some huge with exquisite woodcarvings and others just as simple as two sticks tied together with yarn.
The hill, ”Kryziu Kalnas” is a symbol for both spirituality and resistance working together for independence. The tradition started in the 1830’s during an uprising against the Russians and accelerated in the 1960’s. The Soviet authority tried to stop it and bulldozed the hill. But new crosses were raised in the nights under the cover of darkness. And it didn’t stop with the independence, people still come here in groups or pairs or solo, many buy small crosses at the entrance and plant them here or hang them on the larger crosses. Even the star of David can be seen here. It looks like nothing else, sometimes like a garbage dump, sometimes like Golgata. But it’s a touching spot for compassion and solidarity.
Walking around on the Hill f Crosses is a bit of a surreal experience, see for yourself:
Next we finish our Baltic journey in an old port city where soldiers from our our own country came to burn and destroy three hundred years ago. And we find ourselves in the middle of a city festival!