The KGB Museum (the Museum of Genocide Victims) is one of its kind in the European Union
Lija and I were among a number of other visitors to the KGB Museum that I could see had an emotional day. This is the place where you want to whisper instead of talking as the gruesome reality of the past exhibited over a few floors is almost too hard to handle.
The very first thing that struck me as I was approaching the museum was that the former KGB prison stands in the very heart of Vilnius.
In the past many people would pass the building yet they never heard the cries of desperation of the freedom fighters, locked in the basement prison.
For Lithuanians, the KGB Museum symbolises the 50-year-long Soviet occupation. During World War II it was the site of Gestapo headquarters and later of the KGB.
Between 1940 and 1991 people who resisted the soviet occupants were arrested, killed or deported to Siberia. You will see a lot of the names of anti-Soviet resistance fighters carved into the stone walls of the building.
The museum building is as intact as it was in 1991, when the KGB left the premises. You will see KGB rooms authentically furnished and secret KGB spying equipment.
Don't miss a visit to this museum.
I learned a lot about the most tragic period of Lithuanian history and about people who bravely fought with genocide. I learned that Lithuanians, even though a small nation, were gallant and dignified people.
Its hard to believe, especially after seeing the daunting basement prison, how the soviet authorities brutally tortured and killed innocent people whose only fault was fighting for their country’s freedom.
On the ground floor of the KGB Museum the authentic photographs of the partisans, original documents, personal belongings are displayed.
The photographs depict the life of partisans, who were struggling to re-establish Lithuania’s independence. It was sad to look at the immortalised faces, as many of them looked so young, barely 18 years old. The courage, sacrifice and love for their country of those young people is truly moving.
Lija’s grandfather, who was among thousands of other partisans who fled to the forests and fought for Lithuanian independence, told me a lot of stories which gave me a deeper insight into this one of the longest guerrilla wars in Europe in the 20th century.
When asked what helped them to resist the soviets for so long in the very unequal fight, he said the love for the country, hatred of the occupants and one of the most important things- loyalty to each other. If caught they wouldn’t betray their brothers in arms, even after being interrogated and beaten for 8 and more hours.
The exposition on the first floor of the KGB Museum displays dramatic black and white photographs depicting awful working and living conditions of the people sent to the hard labour camps.
The scenes look so grim with wiry fences and armed guards. Among the prisoners there was a great number of priests and women, arrested for publishing underground anti-Soviet papers. I couldn’t believe it when I saw that many of them had to wear signs on them that read: ‘Extremely dangerous criminal.’ Clothes and footwear of the prisoners and some personal items like hand made books are on display.
The basement prison is the most sobering part of the building. Here a lot of prisoners were brutally killed in the execution chamber for participation in the anti-Soviet resistance.
When you enter the prison, there are two about 1.6-square-metre dark cells called boxes, where prisoners were kept while the duty officer processed their documents. It’s sickening how small the cells were where you can hardly sit or stand.
(Photo right: One of the regular prison cells)
Among other cells you can see solitary confinement rooms which were used to break down the prisoners and make them confess.
Prisoners either had to stand in ice-cold water or to balance on a small platform. Every time they got tired they fell down into the water.
The horrific padded cell sends chills down your spine. The walls are padded and soundproofed, made to absorb the cries and shouts for help.
The straitjacket on the back wall was used for those who resisted or were demented with torture.
The execution chamber is the grimmest place in the KGB museum. On display there is material, which shows the procedures of sentencing people to death and the inhuman treatment of dead bodies. Under a glass floor some personal belongings of the victims are displayed: shoes, buttons, glasses and engagement rings.
In a way I was relieved to leave the KGB Museum and all the pain behind, shivering at the thought that many prisoners never left the premises alive. However, the museum is one the must see places in Vilnius and leaves a really deep impact. Even though I knew quite a lot about the KGB through history, only after visiting the museum did I get closer to realising what the people went through under the Soviet rule.
(The photo above from the museum depicting a scene from one of the rare peaceful moments in the life of this freedom fighter. Lithuanians are known for their love of the country's nature.)
A very moving video about freedom fighters in Lithuania
Address: The Museum of Genocide Victims (KGB Museum) Auku Street 2a, tel.:+370 5 249 6264 Open daily: 10:00-17:00, Sun: 10:00-15:00, Mon: Closed
Entrance fee: Adults 4Lt, students 2Lt, children 1Lt. Guided tours 30-40Lt. Photo/video permit 4/10Lt.) Tours can be arranged in Lithuanian, English and Russian.