2021 had been a difficult year for me and I hoped for a better 2022. The hope was in vain. On 24 February, Russia invaded Ukraine, a country where I have many friends, where I have travelled a lot and which I love. I had also planned a trip to Ukraine for spring 2022. It was not possible. Instead, I went to Lithuania twice to take photos for my book “Grenzland | Borderlands”, which will be published in early 2023. However, the trips to Lithuania were more than a substitute for Ukraine. The country looks back on an incredibly rich Jewish history. A selection of the photos taken during these trips can be seen in the new Vanished World calendar. May 2023 be better than 2022!
Our road trip through Lithuania came to an end on 7 April with a long drive back to Vilnius. Yuliya, Anna and I first returned to Žagarė, because this shtetl had caught our attention. Then we continued via Joniškis to Šiauliai, Lygumai, Pakruojis, Linkuva, Rozalimas and Šeduva.
Day 5 of our journey through Lithuania. After a rest day by the sea, my friends and I continued on 6 April towards the border with Latvia. Kretinga, Salantai, Plungė, Alsėdžiai, Telšiai, Seda, Tirkšliai and Žagarė were on the way. Žagarė turned out to be a remarkable time capsule.
4 April, the third day of our road trip through Lithuania. When Yuliya, Anna and I left Kaunas in the morning, the sky was still cloudless. In the course of the morning clouds came up, then it started to snow. Winter was back. On our route to Klaipeda were Čekiškė, Skaudvilė, Kaltinėnai, Laukuva, Rietavas, Veivirzenai and Švėkšna.
Yuliya, Anna and I continued our journey through Lithuania on 3 April. It was a sunny, spring-like day. We visited Jewish remembrance sites in Miroslavas, Veisiejai, Lazdijai, Simnas, Kalvarija, Marijampolė and Garliava. It was a day when we saw the efforts that have been made since Lithuania’s independence to preserve its Jewish heritage.
On the morning of 2 April, Yuliya, Anna and I set off for Alytus. A 6-day road trip to Jewish places of remembrance in Lithuania lay ahead of us. The first day took us through the border region of Belarus. Eišiškės, Varėna, Merkinė, Daugai, Butrimonys, Balbieriškis and Alytus were on our route.
It should have been a trip to Ukraine and became another trip to Lithuania. From 31 March to 9 April, I was once again on the road in the Baltic region – from Lithuania’s capital Vilnius up to the Curonian Spit and back.
The visit to the memorial in Paneriai on 4 March was the most difficult part of the trip through Lithuania. Paneriai is a suburb of Vilnius with extensive forests. The German occupiers turned it into a murder site. More than 100,000 people were killed there – mainly Jews, many of them from Vilnius ghetto, but also Soviet prisoners of war, Poles, Roma and Lithuanians.
3 March, the last day of the road trip through Lithuania. Yuliya and I made our way back to Vilnius. Finally, a grey sky and no more sunshine. Maybe the clouds will protect my friends in Ukraine from the Russian bombings, I thought. Probably that’s nonsense. But I couldn’t fight this thought. Our route today was not as long as in the last few days. Synagogues and Jewish cemeteries in Vabalninkas, Kupiškis, Anykščiai, Kurkliai, Alanta and Moletai were on our way.
2 March, day 4 of the journey through Lithuania, day 7 of Russia’s war against Ukraine. Yuliya and I continued our journey. We headed northwest, close to the border with Latvia. On our route were Jewish memorial sites in Krekenava, Pušalotas, Pumpėnai and, of course, Panevėžys and Biržai.