Lithuania has a glorious history, intertwined at times with that of Poland, and reaching far back into medieval times. The modern state has two independence days, both of which are understood to be “restorations” of a former condition, and both of which we have recently celebrated.
The first commemorates a proclamation of February 16, 1918, that reasserted Lithuanian independence at a moment when the stars were aligned in just the right way—Germany was about to be defeated in World War I and the Russian Revolution was in high gear—for them to make it stick, though doing so also required a fair amount of bloodshed on Lithuanian soil. Jane and I celebrated this year with faculty colleagues from Šiauliai University at a musical program featuring professional singers who performed in both operatic and folk traditions; the event was held in the Chaim Frenkel country house, one of Šiauliai’s grand old homes.
Then there is the holiday celebrated on March 11, which commemorates the re-establishment in 1990 of an independent Lithuania just as the U.S.S.R. was participating in its own demise. Yesterday we joined a thousand or so other celebrants who gathered at the beginning of the parade route, which happened to be just outside our apartment house. See photo #1, above. We marched from there to the civic square near the cathedral, where celebrants prepared to raise a flag (photo #2) and hear speeches accompanied by military music and a fly-over by F-15s from the nearby NATO base. Jane enjoyed a bowl of military porridge dispensed by officers (photo #3) at a mess tent. My suspicion is that, all things considered, the citizens of Šiauliai are glad to have a NATO base in the neighborhood.