On my last visit to Vilnius in September 2014 I took the opportunity to visit the little shop inside Vilnius University which sells old prints, paintings, T – shirts, CDs and a few odds and sods of books.
I was looking through a rather battered old book case and came across a book entitled Lietuva – Is Paukscio Skrydzio by A. Sutkus and after consulting one of my Lithuanian friends I am told that the title loosely translates as “A Birds Eye View of Lithuania.”
The introduction is written by Professor Česlovas Kudaba who was the head of Department of Geography and Cartography in Vilnius University and reflects the “idealised” view the Soviet Union had about its satellite states. Interestingly the introduction is produced in Lithuanian, Russian and English although I can’t imagine that there would have been many English visitors to the country in 1983.
One has only to visit the Genocide Museum in Vilnius to understand how much the Lithuanians resented the Soviet “occupation” and the dreadful consequences for those who opposed the Soviet regime including imprisonment, torture, execution and for many exile to the wastes of Siberia.
Many of the photographs feature groups of “happy people” in their surroundings or participating in social activities e.g. folk dancing, singing but with a hint of a forced smile for the camera. There are also excellent photographs of the open countryside; woodlands and the wonderful coastline featuring the obligatory “bikini clad” sun bathers.
Throughout the book there are many photographs of various churches in both Vilnius and Kaunas but what is interesting is NONE of them are referred to by name or indeed that they are churches. One photograph of Šv. Onos bažnyčia is headed “The old town of Vilnius with traces of remote past.”
Having been a regular visitor to Lithuania for nearly 8 years and made many good friends it is pleasing to see how the country has developed since proclaiming independence in 1990. It has had its economic struggles but perhaps becoming a full member of the EU and adopting the Euro as from 1.1.2015 will provide some stimulus for economic growth.
Long may Lietuvas independence continue.