#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

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Gediminas Tower – Vilnius

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Ninth Fort – Kaunas

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Trakai Castle – Trakai

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Lithuanian Sea Museum – Klaipeda

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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!