I’ve been in Vilnius, Lithuania for the past several days attending the CEESA Secondary Principals’ and Athletic Directors’ Conference. Due to the few flights leaving Belgrade, we had a couple of extra days in the city. This is my second visit to Vilnius and I got to know the city and culture better. Below are my thoughts.
Lithuania is where the Baltic States meet the Slavic world. The Poles and Lithuanians have a long history together and undoubtedly had a profound influence on each other. The languages however, are much different. Lithuanian is an ancient language which is related to Sanskrit of all things. It is one of the most difficult languages to learn.
Vilnius does have a beautiful, historic old city. We stayed in the heart of it and walked around the tiny streets, admiring the ornate architecture and quaint plazas. The Lithuanians are much more reserved than the Serbs. They are just as tall however, and they are a good looking, thin, race of people like the Serbs, although with blue eyes. Basketball is very popular here, dating back to before World War II. I wonder how it got started?
The highlight of my trip beside the gorgeous walks around the city and a round of golf, was the trip to the Genocide Museum. The museum is housed in the former headquarters of both the Gestapo and KGB and documents their activities in Lithuania. The Soviets were very cruel to the Lithanians, deporting entire families to Siberia. I can’t imagine the impact of the war and two invading armies (Red Army and Nazis) on Lithuanian society. The Russians and eventually Lithuanian communist party members controlled society through informants and spies. It must have been horrible to live with that. The most impacting for me was the basement cells and interrogation rooms. The amount of suffering, fear, and sadness that passed down there! Tragic! I don’t understand why the Russians would want to basically occupy and enslave the Lithuanians. I also can’t believe that only 20 years ago, it was Lithuania S.S.R. and not an independent nation. It has come a long way and they are making stronger relations with their fellow Baltic countries and other north eastern European nations.