Planning to Travel in 2015? Visit Lithuania

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Who else is digging the love Lithuania is getting lately from travel blogs and similar publications?

The Baltic nation of Lithuania has a special place in my heart. For those who know me personally, I often boast about my Baltic roots and showcase delicious food from my ancestral homeland. I can’t help that I appreciate my Lithuanian roots! (Last Friday marked 29 years since my parents and relatives left then Soviet-occupied Lithuania for the U.S.)

For those of you shaking your head questioning whether or not Lithuania is a real country: Yes, it’s a real country with a rich history. It’s also a freedom-loving, rebellious, deeply Catholic (socially conservative) country giving Russian oligarch Vladimir Putin massive headaches. (And rightly so!) Moreover, I’m proud to say that my Lithuanian heritage has tremendously aided me in advancing conservatism.

What is Lithuania known for? In short, basketball, beer, and beautiful women. The first written mention of Lithuania dates back to March 9, 1009. It’s also the largest and most populous of the Baltic Republics. Additionally, Lithuania was the first Baltic Republic to declare its independence from the Soviet Union on March 11, 1990. (How cool is that?)

Need a reason to visit the Baltic Republic?

Lonely Planet listed Lithuania as one of the top 10 countries to visit in 2015:

Rebellious, quirky and vibrant, Lithuania (Lietuva) is one of Europe’s best-kept secrets. Though the country rarely makes it into newspapers outside its borders (and when it does, it’s for some basketball exploit), the southernmost of the three Baltic countries holds a bag of treats.

Lithuania joined Singapore, Namibia, Nicaragua, Ireland, Republic of Congo, Serbia, the Philippines, St Lucia, and Morocco on Lonely Planet’s Best in Travel 2015 list.

And Forbes also listed Lithuania as a top travel destination in 2015:

It’s also home to three UNESCO World Heritage Sites, including the old town of capital city Vilnius, a Baroque masterpiece and one of the largest old towns in Central and Eastern Europe; and the Curonian Spit, a 60-mile peninsula of spectacular beaches stretching south into Russia’s Kaliningrad exclave. Once heavily forested, it’s now the pride of the country and backed by Europe’s largest moving sand dune.

I don’t know about you, but I’ve certainly caught the travel bug. Last time I was in Lietuva was in August 1999. (I was eight at the time.) Hoping to pay a visit in the near future, especially sometime later this year!

Would you want to visit Lithuania this year? Weigh in below!

Happy 29th Freedomversary, Mom and Dad!

On this day 29 years ago, my parents arrived in the United States in search of a better life.

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[Aren’t my parents adorable? They’ll be celebrating 33 years of marriage in April.]

I often brag and boast about my parents because, well, they’re awesome. Not only that, they are the best [naturalized] Americans I know! They came here virtually penniless from the now-defunct Soviet Union in search of a better life. (Soviet attitudes still thrive in Russia today.) Their first home, Lithuania, was sadly ravaged by Soviet policies. Thankfully the country is now free.

I recently watched “Moscow on the Hudson” (1984) which starred the late Robin Williams. In the film, there is a profound scene featuring a swearing-in ceremony for soon-to-be naturalized Americans. Here’s a relevant quote from that scene:

 …Today you will become citizens of the United States of America. No longer are you an Englishman, Italian, a Pole or whatever, neither will you be a hyphenated American. From this day you are no longer a subject of a government, but an integral part of the government, a free man. May you find in this nation the fulfillment of your dreams of Peace and Security, and may America in turn never find you wanting in your new proud role of citizen of the United States…

This scene will certainly have an impact on you. Becoming American used to be lauded. Now, it’s “xenophobic” and “insensitive” to suggest people should assimilate to the American way of life. My parents retain many aspects of Lithuanian culture, but understand that success in America comes with blending into society. Without a doubt, American citizenship is a great privilege. Cherish it more!

I’m proud to be a daughter of legal immigrants from Lithuania. My parents sacrificed so much to come here to achieve the American dream. My sister and I are eternally grateful to them for giving us a good life here in the U.S.

Happy 29th Freedomversary, Mom and Dad!

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.

 

Irony in Estonia

There is no greater irony than an American president with Marxist beliefs who already brokered a deal with Russia telling the nations of Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania that he has their backs.

Here are some gems from his speech in Estonia today: “People want more control of their lives, not less.”; “Our commitment to your security is rock solid!”; and “I should have called the Estonians when we were setting up our healthcare website.”

Really? If he says he loves freedom, why are his policies here rooted in control and more government involvement? Why did he okay START II with Russia if he has the Baltics’ backs? Why should he and his administration be trusted if their foreign policy strategy is out of whack? Why would Estonia want to touch something like Healthcare.gov when that country, like many other formerly occupied countries under the USSR, already suffered under the wrath of socialized healthcare? It’s quite pathetic.

Here’s why you should be skeptical about the Obama administration backing the Baltics: During a 2004 trip to Ukraine, he and former U.S. Senator Dick Lugar told Ukrainian officials that their country should be disarmed of military weapons–at minimum, weakened militarily (meaning they are more vulnerable to Russian attack). Additionally, Obama essentially gave Putin via Medvedev the okay to do whatever that country wants in the name of “flexibility” in that infamous hot mic scandal before the 2012 election.

I have a vested interest in Baltic affairs because I have many family members back in Lithuania and friends in several of the Baltic states. (My mom is in Lithuania as we speak.) Given how the Obama administration has handled things domestically and foreign policy-wise, he’s not to be trusted. The Baltics need to take matters into their own hands and have the moral support of fellow freedom-lovers at their disposal.

Fail: CNN Confuses Baltic Republics with Balkans

During CNN’s “State of the Union” program this morning, Baltic ambassadors to the U.S. Marina Kaljurand (Estonia), Andris Razåns (Latvia), and Zygimantas Pavilionis (Lithuania) came on to discuss the impact Russia aggression will have on their three countries. (I thought Amb. Pavilionis was the most articulate of the three.)

Throughout the segment, CNN displayed the caption “Balkan states worry they are next?”:

The problem with this is that the Balkans and Baltics are two separate entities. I tweeted at CNN’s Twitter account to correct them about the caption error.

Then I offered them a geography lesson:

And this:

Earlier this week, CNN misspelled Boeing as “Bowing.”

Thankfully, a producer for “State of the Union” corrected the mishap:

Well done, mainstream media. Well done.  (Not.)

23rd Anniversary of Lithuania’s Day of the Defenders of Freedom

Picture Credit: LTUWorld

Picture Credit: LTUWorld

January 13, 2014, marks 23 years since Lithuania’s Day of the Defenders of Freedom.

LTUWorld has more on the event:

On this day in 1991, unarmed Lithuania struggled for its right to be a free, independent and proud country. 14 people were killed, about 1000 were injured as the Soviet occupation army and the KGB attempted to overthrow the legitimate government of the country and to seize the Lithuanian national radio and television building, the TV tower and publishing houses. The people of Lithuania demonstrated their inner strength, they defeated the Soviet aggression and defended their freedom in the spirit of truth and love.

We will never forget that tragic day. The anniversary of January 13 is a day of history, emotion, and reflection for most Lithuanians wherever they live. Over the last twenty-plus-years, this day has also come to symbolize the resilience, kindness, and unity of the Lithuanian people.

This anniversary is always commemorated with forget-me-not flower pins. More on this custom below:

The pins represent forget-me-not flowers and they are meant to mark the Freedom Defenders Day in Lithuania.

As an American of immediate Lithuanian descent, I happily acknowledge Lithuanian holidays that celebrate freedom. Lithuania was the first Baltic Republic to leave the Soviet Union. Soviet totalitarianism brutalized the Baltics and other formerly occupied countries. This is something that needs to be told.

Growing up, I’d hear my dad tell stories about his time building the famous Vilnius TV Tower that the Soviets tried to seize in 1991. My mom also reminds me that my uncle, her brother, stood alongside other Lithuanians during this important day. Although my parents were already in America by 1991 – the year I was born – they were proud of their fellow Lithuanians for standing up to Soviet bullies.

No matter the demands for big government, freedom will always trump collectivism. Freedom is contagious; spread it around!