Today, is the Remembrance Day for Victims of Stalinism and Nazism. This day 25 years ago, the Baltic Countries said no to Soviet rule and two million people joined hands to form a human chain stretching from Tallinn to Vilnius. It was also on this day in 1939 when Germany and Soviet Union signed a pact and divided Europe between them. This facilitated military aggression and created framework for Holocaust, deportation, mass murder and ethic cleansing.
We had never heard of this Day of Remembrance until we arrived at the Genocide Victims Museum. Situated in the middle of Vilnius, in the former KGB headquarters and prison. At the entrance, a young girl smiled and gently handed us a postcard of a picture of Povilas Seikalis (1931 – 1954). He was arrested in 1950 and sentenced by the special council to 10 years in a labour camp. Taken to the Kengyr labour camp he died on 16 May 1954, the first day of the uprising. It sent shivers down my spine.
A truly spectacular but very moving museum presents the most tragic period in Lithuanian history with exhibits and information over 3 floors. The information is displayed in the offices, prison cells, the execution cells and KGB rooms.
The first two floors were mainly the KGB offices and rooms telling the facts from half a century of rule. A room dedicated to the children with babies clothes, little birthday embroidered badges and the details of how they suffered. Mass destruction of entire families, it was heart breaking.
Downstairs the prison, torture chamber and execution cell. Jeez, this was horrendous and all I can say, I really hope this never happens again.
In our ignorance, we had absolutely no idea how much pain and suffering the Baltic states went through. We assumed that most of their pain and suffering occurred under Nazi rule and during war time but no. More lives were lost or people tortured after the world war and right up to 1991. I personally really struggled with this and it played on my mind…this brutal suffering has happened since I was born. This really hit a nerve.
Losses (about 40% of current population)
Pre 1944 – 353,200
Post 1944 – 379,423
Forced to leave and repatriate – 496,000
From 1944 to 1947 the remains of people imprisoned, tortured and shot by KGB in Vilnius prison were secretly buried at Tuskulenai Peace Park. We had intended on visiting the park but as we left the museum we just walked and talked about what this country went through, all the way back to Vin. We completely got lost in conversation trying to understand…this experience is still alive in the memories of people of our generation.