Man patinka Lietuva

I like Lithuania – a visitor's point of view


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Artist gone missing?

One of the nice things about visiting a city regularly is that you can catch up on old friend and acquaintances  – if you can find them.

I’ve already posted about the Piccolo Canopi (Little Hooves) restaurant disappearing and the Taste of Lithuania cafe bistro.

This time it wasn’t an eating place I was looking for but an artist’s studio on the corner of šv Kazimierz g. where I met Cica, the artist, playing a vinyl record by Dave Stewart and Candy Dufler over and over again, particularly the haunting track “Lily was here”.

But no sign of Cica and certainly no Lily. The studio was now a fashion design studio. I went inside and asked but the staff didn’t know where he’d gone. I eventually found him on Facebook when I got home so hope he is well?

It’s perhaps no surprise he has gone as the area is undergoing a process of gentrification.

I’d already noticed the refurbished buildings next to the derelict church on Savičiaus g.

Then as I turned the corner and walked up Bokšto g. towards the old artillery bastion (basteja) I saw new walls rising above the old ones.

Then the banner advertising the new development. Very upmarket indeed. (And to think I once contemplated buying an apartment in Vilnius)

So just a reminder of how the studio used to look. Part of the quirkiness in Vilnius that seems to be fast disappearing.


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Art on the streets of Vilnius

I’ve posted before about graffiti which is a form of vandalism in my opinion. Admittedly occasionally there is something which suggests some artistic skill. p1000795

There are also promotional pieces such as these at the Arts House on Šiltadaržio g. p1000809 p1000808

On Literatu g. there is a whole range of art of course.

This open-air gallery has been there for a number of years and each time I visit it has added new pieces.

There’s always something to see on the streets of Vilnius.

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A splash of colour in the relentless rain

As a Lancastrian I’m used to the rain, the murkiness and the ever-present dampness that served the cotton industry so well. I’m just not used to it in Lithuania!

Give me cold, snow and ice any day but not the relentless rain my colleague and I endured on our last visit.

Amongst it all however I noticed that the brightly coloured seats were still present on Gedimino (now bright red and without sponsorship) and also at the VCUP (Vilniaus Centrinė Universalinė Parduotuvė) shopping centre, where they had been relocated from the terrace.

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Nice to see the Happy seats are still there. They brightened up my day!

Graffiti still an eyesore in Vilnius

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Since my last visit 2 years ago the graffiti in Vilnius seems to have got worse. Side streets off Pilies street in the old town are particular target areas.p1000848 p1000806 p1000799 p1000758 p1000757 p1000756 p1000755 p1000754

One or two look like they have some artistic merit but the majority are just tags. And some are dated 2015 which suggests they’ve been there at least a year.

Surely someone sees people doing it. Does no-one care? It certainly hasn’t improved since last time I posted about it.


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The WoodWide Web

Mike the Psych's Blog

dscf1550rWhat do you think when you hear of (famous) people talking to trees – and I’m not talking about characters in Tolkien’s Middle Earth taking to Ents, a race of  beings who closely resemble trees?

According to Tony Kirkham, the head of the Arboretum at Kew Gardens trees are very much like us; they are intelligent social beings which talk to each other.

He supports the idea proposed by a German Forester Peter Wohlleben that trees communicate with each other underground through a “woodwide web“.

In a natural environment the adults protect and nurture the young ones. And when a tree is stressed the canopies are touching, there’s a lot of networking going on underground with root systems and fungal systems and they share resources.”

He believes there is intelligence among trees and care between communities. He saw a knot of albino redwoods which obviously didn’t process chlorophyll but…

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The 9th Fort at Kaunas – a place of evil

At the end of the 19th century the city of Kaunas was fortified and by 1890 was encircled by eight forts and nine gun batteries. Construction of the Ninth Fort (its numerical designation becoming its name) began in 1902 and was completed on the eve of World War I. From 1924 on, the Ninth Fort was used as the Kaunas City prison.

Later, during the years of Soviet occupation, 1940–1941, the Ninth Fort was used by the NKVD to house political prisoners pending transfer to the Gulags.

During the Nazi occupation, the Ninth Fort was used as a place of mass murder. At least 10,000 Jews, most from Kaunas and largely taken from the Kovno Ghetto, were transported to the Ninth Fort and killed by Nazis with the collaboration of some Lithuanians in what became known as the Kaunas massacre.

On October 29 1941, by the order of SS-Standartenführer Karl Jäger and SS-Rottenführer Helmut Rauca, the Sonderkommando under the leadership of SS-Obersturmführer Joachim Hamann, and 8 to 10 men from Einsatzkommando 3, murdered 2,007 Jewish men, 2,920 women, and 4,273 children in a single day at the Ninth Fort, Kaunas, Lithuania.

Not all the killings in Lithuania took place at the Ninth Fort. The German unit assigned to kill Vilnius jews was Einsatzkommando 9 of Einsatzgruppe B assisted by Lithuanian police battalions. On 23 July 1941 a Lithuanian auxiliary known as the Ypatingas Burys (special burial)unit marched columns of Jews from Vilnius to the nearby Ponary Forest, where an escape tunnel was recently discovered..

Jews were taken there in groups of between 12 and 20 to the edge of pits, where they had to hand over valuables and clothes before they were shot. Some 72,000 Jews from Vilnius and elsewhere were murdered at Ponary (as were about 8,000 Poles and Lithuanians).

However the Ninth Fort was a special place. It wasn’t a concentration camp; jews were taken there solely to be killed. It was a place of mass murder. Jews from as far away as France, Austria and Germany were taken there to be executed.

In 1943, the Germans operated special Jewish squads to dig mass graves and burn the remaining corpses.

In 1944 sixty or so prisoners managed to escape as you can read here in this terrible account of life in the prison.

That year, as the Soviets moved in, the Germans liquidated the ghetto and what had by then come to be known as the “Fort of Death”. The prisoners were dispersed to other camps.

After World War II, the Soviets again used the Ninth Fort as a prison for several years. From 1948 to 1958, farm organizations were managed from the Ninth Fort.

In 1958, a museum was established in the Ninth Fort. In 1959, an exhibition was prepared in four cells, telling of the Nazi war crimes carried out in Lithuania. In 1960, the discovery, cataloguing, and forensic investigation of local mass murder sites began in an effort to gain knowledge regarding the scope of these crimes.

S1031624S1031614I visited it in 2008 as part of my cultural and language studies at university in Kaunas. It was awe-inspiring and chilling. Never to be forgotten. The cells with sleeping platforms two-deep and the crude heating system. The special punishment cell. Lots of reminders about the depths to which human beings can sink.S1031634 S1031628S1031633 S1031631 S1031626

The memorial to the victims of Nazism at the Ninth Fort in Kaunas, Lithuania, was designed by sculptor A. Ambraziunas. Erected in 1984, the monument is 105 feet (32 m) high. It is an amazing sight – like an alien landscape – and with only the naked eye you don’t realise that there are anguished faces carved in the stone.S1031611 S1031612 - Version 2 S1031613

The mass burial place of the victims of the massacres carried out in the fort is a grass field, marked by a simple memorial written in several languages which reads, “This is the place where Nazis and their assistants killed more than 30,000 Jews from Lithuania and other European countries.

In 2003, commemorating the 60th anniversary of the genocide of Jews in Lithuania, seven bronze bas-reliefs, created by the famous artist Arbit Blato in 1978 for the victims of the Holocaust were revealed in the courtyard at the Ninth Fort. They were donated by Arbit Blato’s widow Regina Resnik – Blat  “Arbit Blatas, who so often painted his closest friends, the great artists of this century, has consecrated his work as a sculptor to anonymous masses: the victims of the Holocaust, those millions who found no tombs for their tortured bodies, but who will live forever in his panels of bronze.S1031617 S1031618 S1031619 S1031620 S1031621 S1031622 S1031623

There were concerns in 2010 that there were fewer people attending the annual commemoration ceremony and no-one from the government or academics who were receiving grants to research the holocaust although the Mayor of Vilnius and foreign diplomats attended.

On April 11, 2011, the memorial to the victims of Nazism was vandalized — the memorial tombstones were knocked down, and white swastikas were spray-painted on the memorial. On the adjacent sidewalk, the words “Juden raus” (German: Jews Out) were inscribed.

I can’t help feeling that Lithuania has yet to come to terms with what happened to the Lithuanian jews (Litvaks) and their part in the massacres.

At one time Vilnius was regarded as the Jerusalem of the North. Before WWII there were 100,000 jews in Vilnius,45%, of the population. Now there are very few jews living there.

There were Lithuanians who helped jews escape. Some of these, described as “righteous among the nations“, are honoured at the Ninth Fort. S1031630

Amongst those recognised was the japanese consul Chiune Sugihara, sometimes described as Lithuania’s Schindler.S1031627

He helped jewish families escape soviet occupation by distributing visas to travel to Japan and then on to further destinations.


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I was in Vilnius and I heard Lily was here

2 Shades of Grey

Walking through the back streets of Vilnius, the capital city of Lithuania, on my last visit I heard the strains of “Here Comes the Rain Again“. It sounded like the Eurythmics but not quite them.

DSC00256On my way back I heard it again and realised it was coming from an artist’s studio. I went in and met Cica, the artist, playing a vinyl record by Dave Stewart and Candy Dufler over and over again, particularly the haunting track “Lily was here”.

As we chatted about his art, his visits toLondon, his disillusionment with the way things were being run in Lithuania, and his aspirations for a better Lithuania for his children he just kept re-playing this track. It got into my head. I knew I knew the tune but where from?

DSC00262He called me Big Mike, offered me a coffee and his philosophy on life and…

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