A One Way Ticket to the Revolution takes the reader on a journey through historical moments that so few have seen outside of Lithuania.
Fortunately, some events had been filmed. Here are some highlights I present in my story:
October 7, 1988. This was the video that changed my life. In 1988, the USSR was indestructible. Lithuanian freedom seemed like an impossible reality. But then the flag of the independent Lithuania rose for the first time in five decades over the Lithuanian capital of Vilnius with a crowd of 100,000 signing the banned Lithuanian anthem. I believed the impossible could be possible.
On October 9, 1988, the Lithuanian flag, which was banned by Moscow since WWII, was raised for the first time in decades in Kaunas, Lithuania. Gorbachev believed by giving Lithuanians some concessions, such as permitteing the pre-WWII flag of independent Lithuania to be raised once again and the national anthem to be sung in public, that Lithuanians will stop asking for freedom. Gorbachev was wrong.
The legendary “Roko Maršas” (Rock March) across Lithuania in 1989. I had a spiritual moment during this very performance by the Polikaitis family group (who were from the United States, and some of them raised in the Los Angeles community with me). I was in the middle of the crowd with Siga and my new friends from Kernave. You can spot my brother in the tie-dye Hendrix shirt in the front of the stage swaying to the song. There are several other Los Angeles-Lithuanians in the crowd around him.
On August 23, 1989, two million Lithuanian, Latvian and Estonian citizens formed a human chain, holding hands 600km across the three countries in protest of the Soviet occupation. This was the biggest protest in USSR. Gorbachev was not happy because he never intended to let the Baltics go but after this event made the headlines across the globe, world leaders the pressure to give the Baltics freedom was mounting.
In January 1990, USSR President Gorbachev visits Vilnius and meets with Lithuanian Communist leaders to discuss what the hell is going on Lithuania with the anti-Soviet demonstrations and demands for independence. Gorbachev expected to talk some sense into Lithuanians, but instead he is met with protests and Lithuanians chanting, “Lithuania Will Be Free!”
On March 11, 1990, Lithuania’s newly elected Parliament reestablishes the independent Republic of Lithuania. Soviet symbols are torn down and replaced with the symbols of independent Lithuania.
January 11, 1991. The “National Salvation Committee is formed to restore Soviet rule. Soviet military seize buildings, including the Press House. Landsbergis calls Gorbachev but he is told “Gorbachev is out to lunch.”
January 12, 1991. Soviet military seize the Press House. Citizens are serving as human shields at the TV Tower and Parliament building just hours before the attack begins at the TV Tower.
January 13, 1991. The days leading up to Soviet attack at the TV Tower, citizens guarding the Parliament building, the night of the attack and the aftermath.
January 13, 1991. Unedited footage of the attack at the TV Tower. [Warning: graphic images]
This video is from January 13, 1991. The scene opens with tanks moving through the streets of Vilnius. Next, the video shows the 30,000 civilians, serving as human shields, singing songs at the Parliament building. Then the video returns to the brutal attack at the TV Tower of unarmed civilians. [warning: graphic images at the end, at the 3:17 mark]:
A tribute video to the victims of January 13, 1991. The video contains many still images of the bravery of Lithuanian citizens on the streets and inside of the Parliament building. The song accompanying the images is called “Laisve (Freedom).”
Interview with Rita Dapkus in the parliament’s ad hoc radio room where they transmitted the truth to the world during January 13, 1991 to counter Soviet propaganda. Ham radio enthusiasts throughout Lithuania were able to pick up the signals and inform citizens that Parliament had not fallen to Moscow that night, that the independent government was still intact.
On August 19, 1991, Moscow hardliners overthrow USSR President Gorbachev. As the world is watching the streets of Moscow, tanks roll toward the Lithuanian Parliament building in Vilnius, where Daiva and her co-workers are barricaded for a final stand for freedom.
August 19, 1991. As tanks rolled toward the Parliament building where I am barricaded inside with my co-workers, unarmed citizens gathered to form a human shield around the building. The barricades are fortified.
August 19, 1991. At the start of the coup, we received reports of tanks headed toward the Lithuanian parliament building, where I was barricaded with my co-workers. A journalist filmed the Soviet military outside of Vilnius awaiting orders to attack. And then the tanks surrounded the Parliament building just before midnight.
On August 22, 1991, the Lenin statue in Vilnius is torn down. I’m in the crowd somewhere in there. Originally, the crane tried to pull down the statue, but its attachment to the granite pedestal was too strong. So, a giant saw showed up and cut Lenin at the knees. When the crane pulled Lenin up, he swung over our heads. At first we thought he might fall on us, but then he just swung around with his arm outstretched, as if bidding Vilnius good-bye.
On December 26, 1991, Soviet President Gorbachev resigns and dissolves the USSR. The Soviet flag descends from the Kremlin tower.