Thursday, July 16, 2009
The Hill of Crosses
DD and I had a wonderful trip; we met in Paris, where we spent a single night before traveling to Vilnius, Lithuania the next day. Her sweetheart Andrius, who really IS a sweetheart, showed us all over his country for the next two weeks, joined by his wonderfully hospitable parents Viktoras and Rasa as soon as they arrived from Tbilisi. Altogether this family made sure we didn't miss anything in their beautiful country; they are a real class act.
One of the most memorable places we visited in Lithuania is called the "Hill of Crosses." The way it came about is this: Back in the bad old days of the Soviet Union, a group of Lithuanian partisans were killed by the Soviet authorities and buried in unmarked graves on or near a small hill in the northern part of Lithuania. Some of the local people erected crosses on the graves, to honor the sacrifice these brave individuals had made for their country. Even though religious displays were strongly discouraged in the Soviet Union, others added crosses of their own, and the hill became full of crosses. The authorities brought in bulldozers on occasion and destroyed the crosses, but the people always returned and put up more, even after guards were posted and it became much more dangerous to do so.
Now, of course, Lithuania has won its independence and there is no penalty for putting up a cross of your own on the Hill of Crosses. There are more than 200,000 today. Some make you want to cry, like the one above, placed by a young American soldier to honor a fallen comrade. Others are kind of funny, like the one that uses children's magnetized plastic letters to convey its message. All of them together testify to the power of faith to change the course of history.