On my most recent trip to Vilnius I set out one morning to walk the length of Gedimino prospect but got diverted and found myself walking through Lukiškių aikštė (Lukiskiu Square) which is the biggest square in Vilnius.
As I wandered across the empty square I saw what I thought was an old coat thrown over a bench. As I got a little closer I saw that it was a man slumped over and appeared to be fast asleep. I didn’t know whether he was a vagrant or someone out for a walk and had just stopped for a rest and dropped off to sleep.
Just then as I pondered whether to disturb him and check that he was OK along came a couple of the local “mobile police” who woke him up to see that he was OK. From the mans demeanor I think he may have been suffering from the effrects of considerable alcoholic intake.
The square itself has a dark history and became became a symbol of terror when hundreds of opponents to the Soviet Union were interrogated, tortured and executed during 1944–1947 in the infamous NKVD Palace, facing the square. Among the victims killed there was the chief commander of the Union of Lithuanian Freedom Fighters, Adolfas Ramanauskas “Vanabgas”. Today the palace houses Vilnius County Court and the Court of Appeal of Lithuania, as well as the Museum of Genocide Victims in the former prison cells, occupying the basement and underground levels of the palace.
The square was reconstructed according to the design of V. Mikučianis in 1949–1952. During the Soviet era, the square was renamed Lenin Square and a statue of Lenin was built in the middle of it in 1953. The statue, which used to be the largest of its kind in the Lithuanian SSR, was removed in 1991, after the restoration of independence of Lithuania. Gathered crowd celebrated the fall of the statue; its upper part was lifted using a crane, and broke off at the lower legs attached to the pedestral. The reassembled Lenin statue is now on display in Grutas Park.
If you are visiting Vilnius take some time to walk through the square, sit on one of the many benches and just take in the beauty of the surroundings……….and even in winter the square has a stark beauty.