Thursday, June 9, 2016

Short Story of the Hill of Crosses

The people of Lithuania, as well as those of the other Baltic countries, have suffered wars and multiple oppressors, most recently during the Second World War and later under Soviet occupation.  All during these times, at least as far back as the 1830's or earlier, Lithuanians have planted crosses on this hillock in the countryside near Siaulai.  It is believed that the first crosses were placed as memorials after the 1831 Uprising against Russia.  During the Soviet occupation several attempts were made to clear the hill.  It was bulldozed at least three times and each time the crosses reappeared.

Today, the hill remains under no one's jurisdiction and there is ongoing building and adding of new crosses  As one approaches the hill, there is a feeling of entering a scared place.  I felt the same visiting the beaches of Normandy.  Like the endless white crosses on those beaches, these crosses represent those who died and suffered for the freedom of their country, comrades and families. Each cross represents someones sacrifice.  Although I am not Catholic, the meaning of this Hill is a universal one.  

Everyone who visits is free to add their own cross.  I brought a broken rosary that belonged to a family member who lived through two wars in Germany and later immigrated to the States.  It was dark with age and my attempts to make in shine were in vain, although it looks quite silvery in the sun.

And here is a memorial of some of the Resistance fighters who died under Soviet occupation.

After wandering on my own up and down this hill, I met up with one of our travel companions who talked me into taking a short cut back to the parking lot which was near what looked like a school building.  It turned out to be a Franciscan hermitage.  We could walk the grounds but we couldn't get out without going back to the Hill of Crosses, which was not a shortcut at all.  I do things like that all the time.

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