25th Anniversary of the Berlin Wall Fall: Tyranny Still Thrives Today

On this day 25 years ago, the Berlin Wall fell . This soon led to the physical collapse of the Soviet Union. This pivotal moment in history freed millions of people behind the Iron Curtain, including members of my family in Lithuania.

Below is footage from that fateful day:

Here’s a picture I took of a remnant of the Berlin Wall at Ronald Reagan’s Presidential Library in August 2012.

 

The fall of the Berlin Wall was symbolic in that it led to the physical collapse of the Soviet Union. It was also the tireless efforts of Reagan, Margaret Thatcher, Pope John Paul II–along with the indomitable freedom-loving people of Eastern Europe (including members of my family in Lithuania)–who brought the end of the USSR. From Solidarity in Poland to the Baltic Way in the Baltic Republics, the perseverance of those in Eastern Europe helped pivot the end of the Soviet Union.

Though the USSR collapsed, its pernicious ideas still permeate today. Putin’s Russia is Neo-Soviet, and he says the Hitler-Stalin Pact was justified. Cuba, North Korea, Venezuela, and countless other countries still practice tyranny today. And American universities whitewash Soviet crimes and even justify them. Marion Smith of Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation wrote an important op-ed in Wall Street Journal highlighting the danger of communism’s lurking presence:

To tear down that wall will require the same moral clarity that brought down the concrete and barbed-wire barrier that divided Berlin 25 years ago. The Cold War may be over, but the battle on behalf of human freedom is still being waged every day. The triumph of liberty we celebrate on this anniversary of the Berlin Wall’s destruction must not be allowed to turn to complacency in the 21st century. Victory in the struggle again totalitarian oppression is far from inevitable, but this week we remember that it can be achieved. 

It’s important to educate people about global communism’s horrors and call for equal condemnation of Soviet crimes. I urge you to support groups like Victims of Communism to further educate the country about the horrors of global communism.

Remember to never forget.

Winning: More Lithuanians Are Purchasing Guns for Self-Defense

You might be thinking, Why should I care about people in Eastern Europe buying more guns for self-defense? Let me tell you why: These people, with whom I share a similar heritage, realize that gun control will lead their country into disarray and tyranny that once befell the nation during Soviet times.

Here’s more about the trend from Lithuanian Tribune:

Audrius Čiupaila, the head of the licensing division of the Public Police Board under the Police Department, said the number of weapons bought between March and October went up by 7 percent year-on-year.

In his words, the gun arsenal owned by Lithuanian citizens increases by 3,000-4,000 various weapons every year.

People in the country currently own over 100,000 various pistols, revolvers and different shotguns. Some of them are highly spectacular guns that can be used for more than just self-defence, sports or hunting, but also for a guerrilla war.

Compared to the United States, most of Europe has strict laws against gun ownership or boasts laws that prohibit concealed carry. Lithuanian gun laws are quite restrictive as they’re regulated by the Ministry of National Defence, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Ministry of Economy, the Police Department under the Ministry of the Interior, the Customs Department under the Ministry of Finance, and the Weaponry Fund of the Republic of Lithuania, and the European Commission. (Yikes!) However, Lithuanians may privately own semi-automatic firearms and handguns with a permit.

Compared to the U.S., Lithuanians must present a reason to purchase a gun as ordained by the Holder’s Right to Acquire and Possess Weapons and Ammunition Law of 2002. Its provisions are outlined below:

1. Permanent residents of the Republic of Lithuania and legal persons registered in the Republic of Lithuania may acquire and keep weapons, ammunition for the following purposes:
1) hunting;
2) sports;
3) self-defence;
4) professional activities;
5) collection;
6) training;
7) scientific research;
8) other purposes, if they are in conformity with laws and international agreements and treaties.

2. Permanent residents of the Republic of Lithuania and legal persons registered in the Republic of Lithuania shall have the right to acquire ammunition for weapons which they are entitled to possess.

Unlike the U.S., Lithuania doesn’t permit open carry or conceal carry in public. Their age requirements are different, as well. Under ‘Requirements for Permanent Residents of the Republic of Lithuania, Legal Persons Registered in the Republic of Lithuania in Order to Acquire and Possess Arms and Ammunition of Certain Categories or Types’, these requirements must be met in order for citizens to acquire a handgun or semi-automatic firearm:

2. Long firearms with rifled barrels classified in Categories B and C, and cartridges for them may be acquired and possessed by permanent residents of the Republic of Lithuania who are at least 21 years of age, have a valid hunter’s licence and at least 3 years of hunting experience, as well as by legal persons, having a licence to hire weapons, upon having obtained a permit.

3. Long firearms with smooth-bore barrels, pneumatic weapons, archery weapons classified in Categories B and C, their ammunition may be acquired and possessed by permanent residents of the Republic of Lithuania who are at least 18 years of age, have a valid hunter’s licence, as well as by legal persons, having a licence to hire weapons, upon having obtained a permit.

4. Weapons classified in Categories B and C, and their ammunition may be acquired and possessed by permanent residents of the Republic of Lithuania who are at least 16 years of age – members of shooting sports organisations, as well as by legal persons, upon having obtained a permit.

5. Short firearms classified in Categories B and C for self-defence, cartridges for them may be acquired and possessed by permanent residents of the Republic of Lithuania who are at least 23 years of age, upon having passed an examination and obtained a permit.

6. Long firearms with smooth-bore barrels classified in Categories B and C, cartridges for them for self-defence may be acquired and possessed by permanent residents of the Republic of Lithuania who are at least 18 years of age, upon having passed an examination and obtained a permit.

7. Weapons classified in Categories B and C, their cartridges for the purpose of professional activities may be acquired and possessed by natural persons and legal persons registered in the Republic of Lithuania, upon having obtained a permit. The said weapons may be carried by permanent residents of the Republic of Lithuania who are at least 21 years of age – employees of legal persons registered in the Republic of Lithuania, upon having passed an examination and obtained a permit. Automatic firearms, ammunition for them may, upon having obtained a permit, be acquired and possessed by the Bank of Lithuania; the said weapons may, in the course of official duties, be carried by employees of the Bank of Lithuania – permanent residents of the Republic of Lithuania who are at least 21 years of age, upon having passed an examination and obtained a permit.

Though gun laws in my ancestral homeland are quite restrictive compared to American gun laws, particularly that of my adopted home state Virginia, it’s encouraging to see more Lithuanians keep and bear arms. The Soviet tried to put a muzzle on Lithuanians with gun control before. Let’s hope Lithuanians and others in Eastern Europe take matters into their own hands to prevent tyranny from rearing its ugly head again in the region.

 

#HandsOffUkraine Rally in Washington, D.C.

Yesterday my parents and I ventured to DuPont Circle in Washington, D.C., to join other Americans from Eastern Europe – including Estonians, Latvians, Lithuanians, Georgians, Poles, Ukrainians, Russians – to protest Russia’s illegal invasion into Ukraine’s Crimean peninsula.

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The protest was organized by Joint Baltic Americans National Committee (JBANC). Lithuanian Ambassador Žygimantas Pavilionis and Ukrainian Ambassador Oleksandr Motsyk gave brief remarks at the event.

I’m pictured with some diplomats from the Lithuanian Embassy. [ Lithuania is my ancestral homeland, for those of you wondering.]

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With my new friends Rolandas Kacinskas (L) and Lithuanian Ambassador to the U.S. Zygimantas Pavilionis (R) at the #StopRussianOccupation rally in support of Ukraine. The ambassador’s sign reads, “Obama Beware! One day Putin might come “rescue” Russians in Brighton Beach, NY!”

Amb. Motsyk of Ukraine gave brief remarks at the protest.

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Amb. Pavilionis of Lithuania addressed the protest.

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Lithuanian Ambassador to the U.S. and Mexico Žygimantas Pavilionis

Pictured below is the Lithuanian National Flag alongside the Lithuanian State Flag with Vytis.

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A sign cautioning against Russian “liberation” of Crimea/Ukraine is shown below.

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LTU World covered the protest, as with Daily Caller.

I’ll have a column in Townhall.com later this week about the situation in Eastern Europe. As Americans, we should encourage means other than war to punish Russia for its behavior.

Stay tuned…

Lithuanian Independence Day: Learning to Cherish Freedom Through the Eyes of Others

February 16 marks 95 years since Lithuania gained her independence.

You might be asking yourselves, “what is Lithuania? Is it a made-up country?” Despite boasting an exotic name, Lithuania is a real country with a rich history.

From February 16, 1918, until August 23, 1939, Lithuania enjoyed freedom and prosperity until the Soviet Union grabbed hold of it through the so-called German-Soviet Non-Aggression Pact (Molotov-Robbentrop Act). From 1939 until March 11, 1990 (reunification), Lithuania was subjected to endless bloodshed, tyranny, and death under Lenin, Stalin, and other brutal dictators. Religious and/or ethnic persecution of Jews, Catholics, Christians, Lithuanians, Russians, Poles, and those who didn’t agree with Soviet communism was witnessed. The horror exhibited under Soviet occupation is inexcusable and should be rightly condemned. (I would know – my family personally suffered.) Nevertheless, it’s important to remember that many Lithuanians craved freedom and were determined to depose the Soviet Union.

Regarded as the land of “beer, babes, and basketball” to tourists, Lietuva (Lithuanian for “rainy country”) is an untapped treasure in Eastern Europe. Castles, sandy beaches, forests prime for mushroom hunting, and amber jewelry are yet to be discovered by most.

Vilnius, capital of Lithuania

Lithuanian amber

Svyturys, Lithuanian beer

If you’re looking for a unique place to visit this year, make Lithuania your top 2013 destination. Just don’t plan to bring a mail-order bride back with you.

Hill of Witches  – Juodkrantė

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Hill of Crosses – Siauliai

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Palanga Amber Museum – Palanga

(pgm.lt)

Gediminas Tower – Vilnius

(lithuaniantours.com)

Ninth Fort – Kaunas

(richardbloomproductions.com)

Trakai Castle – Trakai

(hqworld.net)

Lithuanian Sea Museum – Klaipeda

(balticsea.travel)

Lithuania was the first Baltic Republic to declare its independence from the USSR on March 11, 1990. The rebelliousness that fueled this has inspired many to speak out against collectivism and tyranny.

Our fellow Americans should look to people like my parents and others who’ve escaped here to better appreciate the freedoms afforded to them here in the United States.

Happy Independence Day, Lietuva!