Day 25 - Vilnius (LI)

All Saints Church is a Baroque-style church and it was built between 1620 and 1630. In the second half of the 17th century, the church was linked with a monastery and formed a single complex.

Vilnius Town Hall was first mentioned in 1432 and it was last rebuilt by architect Laurynas Gucevičius at the end of the 18th century in the neoclassical style. At some point, the building served as the city’s theatre and staged Vilnius’ first-ever opera. It now hosts various events, exhibitions and charity fairs. and you can go into this magnificent building which stands majestically over Town Hall Square.

The Gates of Dawn (nothing to do with Pink Floyd's  debut album whose title was taken from a chapter in Syd Barrett's favorite children's book, The Wind in the Willows!). Now the Gates of Dawn are a church, however, a few centuries ago, the name referred to part of Vilnius’ defensive wall. The city had defensive wall had ten gates, but the Gates of Dawn are the only ones to have survived to the present day.

 

The miraculous painting of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of Mercy in the Gates of Dawn is one of the most famous Renaissance paintings in Lithuania. It’s also called the Madonna of the Gates of Dawn or the Madonna of Vilnius. It was painted specifically for this chapel in the 17th century and the painting is regarded as magical by Catholics, Russian Orthodox and Greek Orthodox.

The Cathedral is located in Cathedral Square, the main square of the old town which is situated at the crossing of the city's principal streets. Regular fairs, concerts, military parades, religious and official public events are held here and it is a central gathering point in the city.

Three Crosses is a prominent monument on the Hill of Three Crosses in Kalnai Park. According to a legend seven Franciscan friars were beheaded on top of this hill.

Gediminas' Tower is the remaining part of the Upper Castle in Vilnius, Lithuania. The first wooden fortifications were built by Gediminas, Grand Duke of Lithuania. The first brick castle was completed in 1409 by Grand Duke Vytautas. The three-floor tower was rebuilt in 1933 by Polish architect Jan Borowski.

Inside you can learn about the history of Vilnius there are also spectacular panoramic views of the city.

The Palace of the Grand Dukes of Lithuania was originally constructed in the 15th century for the rulers of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania and the future Kings of Poland. For four centuries the palace was the political, administrative and cultural centre of the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth. 

The Choral Synagogue of Vilnius, built in 1903, is the only synagogue in Vilnius that is still in use. The other synagogues were destroyed partly during World War II, when Lithuania was occupied by Nazi Germany, and partly by the Soviet authorities after the war. The Choral Synagogue of Vilnius was built in 1903.

At Cathedral Square we saw a burnt-out Russian tank and the words 'Together until Victory!' (unedited from poster)

'A year ago, Russian tanks rolled over the streets of Kyiv. Russia attacked independent Ukraine and launched a brutal war, attacking civilian infrastructure and killing civilians.

Just three decades ago, these occupying tanks left Lithuania. However, the memory of the struggle for freedom is still alive in our hearts and encourage us to put all our efforts in supporting Ukraine.

Today, Ukraine is not giving up and continues to defend the freedom of all of Europe. Destroyed and captured Russian weaponry shows that unity, fighting spirit and self-sacrificie for the freedom of one's state and nation can defeat a well-armed enemy.

The T-72B tank was destroyed by the Ukrainian Armed Forces in the Kyiv region. It is estimated that on the eve of the invasion, Russian soldiers had more than 2,250 units of various modifications of T-72B tanks. Ukrainian soldiers managed to destroy and capture at least 450 of these tanks.

This tank was destroyed  on March 31, 2022 during the battle on the outskirts of the village of Dmytrivka (Buchansky District, Kyiv region).

The detonation of the cumulative ammunition stack disabled the tank and resulted in heavy fire. All onboard equpment was destroyed by high temperature. The entire aft part of the tank body, in particular the turret, has significant traces of burning. Mounts for eight grenade launchers of the smoke curtain deployment system 3D17 'Tucha' are installed on the tower - these grenade launchers are missing. Antenna-sesnsor and sighting devices are mutilated due to high temperatures.

If we want fewer Russian tanks to roam Ukrainian soil and more of them to become war trophies, we must continue to support Ukraine relentlessly. Let's help Ukraine defend its freedom.

Together until victory!'

Solidarity with Ukraine on all the buses!

History - part 2

During World War II, Lithuania was occupied by the Soviet Union (1940–1941), Germany (1941–1944), and the Soviet Union again in 1944. Finally on 11 March 1990 Lithuania was the first Baltic state to declare independence and the first Soviet Republic to remove "Soviet" from its name. President Gorbachev had started loosening political repression in the Soviet empire (Perekoistra) and the Lithuanian people had seen this as a sign that they could break free. This was not without risk or consequences and their struggle for freedom took enormous courage and strength.

Indeed, Gorbachev wanted reform but only moderate. He was willing to let go of the Soviet satellite states (like Poland, East Germany, Hungary, Czechoslovakia, Romania, Bulgaria), but he did not intend to give up control of the republics of the Soviet Union itself – Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, Ukraine, Belarus, Moldova, Armenia, Azerbaijan, as well as all the ‘stans’ - Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Kyrgyzstan,

 

Finally, just as in Estonia and Latvia, the USSR attempted to retake control of Lithuania. On 11th  January 1991 unarmed people of Lithuania encircled the TV tower in Vilnius and were brutally attacked by Soviet assault troops with tanks - 14 civilians were killed and over 140 were injured. This day has become known as Bloody Sunday although the violence went on for 3 days. Large crowds (20,000 during the night, more than 50,000 in the morning) of independence supporters gathered around the Supreme Council building and contructed anti-tank barricades and set up defences. Members of the crowd prayed, sang and shouted pro-independence slogans and incredibly Soviet military forces started retreating instead of attacking. 

It was President Boris Yeltsin, who immediately flew to Tallinn, met with Estonian and Latvian leaders (the Lithuanians could not make it there), and then issued a joint statement recognising the sovereignty of all three Baltic countries. It was Yeltsin who disbanded the USSR and declared the state of Russia. Yeltsin and Gorbachev started as allies but Yeltsin was more liberal and wanted more reforms and at a faster rate.

The Baltic Way - emotional protest against illegal Soviet occupation, now included in the UNESCO Memory of the World Register

On 23 August, 1989 two million people from Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania joined their hands in protest against illegal Soviet occupation. Roughly two million people formed a massive human chain that spanned 600 kilometres through the capitals of all three nations. It linked and united people from the Baltic states in their drive for freedom, encouraging also the collapse of the whole Soviet Union. This unique event now is included in the UNESCO Memory of the World Register.

Goodbye Vilnius!

At the Lithuanian/Polish border - thought we were in Moscow!