Residents of Vilnius have actively mobilised public shows of support throughout the invasion and demonstrated their strong disapproval of Russia’s war on Ukraine with multiple city-wide protests. From the moment Russian-led attacks on their peaceful, neighbouring country began, the people of Vilnius have flooded the streets with Ukrainian flags in hand, paper flowers coloured yellow and blue and calls for the Kremlin to back down as a grim, yet hopeful mood spread through the country. It seems like the entire city was involved – mothers with children, young men, elderly people from all walks of life and many more have been protesting the atrocities committed in Ukraine every day since 24 February.
As the most active supporters of Ukraine, residents of Vilnius and other Lithuanian cities have been continuously donating clothing, food and basic items to Ukrainian refugees since the beginning of the war. Just two weeks after the beginning of Russia’s invasion, Lithuanians also collected and donated over EUR 17M to an NGO sending humanitarian and military aid to Ukraine. Vilnius has also made the most arrangements of any Lithuanian city to house war refugees, and many of them have already found temporary homes in the capital.
Lithuania’s capital didn’t waste any time ardently protesting against Russia’s aggression. One of the acts of support was dedicating a street to the brave Ukrainian fighters. And not just any street – the one where the Embassy of Russia is located. It has been renamed ‘Ukrainian Heroes Street’, and the embassy is now officially required to change its address, forever reminding anyone who visits that when it comes to taking a stand, Vilnius doesn’t mess around.
Remigijus Šimašius, Mayor of Vilnius, did not think the renaming of the street was enough, so he also had it decorated with municipality-commissioned graffiti reading, “Putin, The Hague Is Waiting For You,” which was spray-painted by the Mayor himself. The same phrase has also appeared on a gigantic banner above the Vilnius City Municipality building.
Vilnius has a passion for grand gestures, and what could be more grand than 20-metre-long Ukrainian flags dangling along the skyline above the city? Since Vilnius is the only European capital to officially allow hot-air balloon to fly over it, eight of them took to the skies carrying seven Ukrainian and one Lithuanian flag to spread a meaningful message: Lithuanians stand in solidarity with their friends in Ukraine.
Vilnius is also a creative city, brought to life by the inspiring artists that work there and play an active part in Vilnius’ anti-war campaign through emotionally charged artwork and performances. For example, the ‘Swimming Through’ performance , conceptualised and performed by a group of Lithuanian creatives, served as a call to take a stand in the face of war and defence of freedom. The staggering sight consisted of a freezing-cold pond – situated right across the Russian Embassy in Vilnius – dyed blood-red and being crossed by Olympic swimmer Rūta Meilutytė, symbolising the horrors of genocide and the importance of taking a stand against it.
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