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

Hill of Crosses – Siauliai

Palanga Amber Museum – Palanga


Gediminas Tower – Vilnius


Ninth Fort – Kaunas


Trakai Castle – Trakai


Lithuanian Sea Museum – Klaipeda


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!

25 Years in America: A Tribute to My Lithuanian Parents

On January 9th, 1986, my parents came to the United States from Lithuania by way of Italy. Having left the former USSR in late 1985, they chose Italy as their last European stop in their quest for freedom.

Before the fall of the Berlin Wall, it was very difficult for people to escape from behind the Iron Curtain. Doing so entailed many risks–even jeopardizing one’s life. Nevertheless, my parents bought their way to freedom and eventually came to California. Shortly afterward, they got their citizenship (legally) and assimilated to the American way of life.

As a first-generation Lithuanian-American, I’m especially thankful for the freedoms afforded to me. If I were born in Lithuania, I wouldn’t have the same opportunities granted to me here in the United States. My sister Anna Maria and I are pictured above at the Lithuania exhibit in Balboa Park, San Diego.

My heritage is what fuels my conservative views. My parents taught me to value freedom, capitalism, limited government, traditional values, and American ideals. I am indebted to them for raising me RIGHT!

People should look to immigrants from formerly and currently oppressed countries for guidance. My parents faced many limitations in Lithuania, which were greatly attributed to communist rule and control in Lithuania. Hearing them talk about their experiences shaped my worldview; it could shape yours too.

It is immigrants like my parents who make this country great. Never underestimate the wisdom and experiences they bring with them from their former homelands.