©Berta Tilmantaitė

Eyes Wide Open. Lithuania stands together with Ukraine

Black and white film. A man is sitting quietly at the table. He picks up a burning cigarette and puts it out on his wrist while a voiceover impassively narrates: “A cigarette burns at 400 degrees. Napalm burns at 3000 degrees.”

This is a well-known political essay film “Inextinguishable Fire” by a German director Harun Farocki with which he critiqued the Vietnam war and the use of chemical weapons. Farocki appears in this film himself as the main character and narrator. During my Art Philosophy course, I learned that Farockis’s films strived to find a connection between image and reality as he claimed that we no longer believe in virtual images therefore we no longer have empathy towards the pain of other humans.

<p>©Berta Tilmantaitė</p>

©Berta Tilmantaitė

<p>©Berta Tilmantaitė</p>

©Berta Tilmantaitė

<p>©Berta Tilmantaitė</p>

©Berta Tilmantaitė

Once Farocki puts out the cigarette on his wrist, he faces the camera and asks, “How can we show you the wounds caused by napalm? When we show you pictures of napalm victims, you'll shut your eyes. You'll close your eyes to the pictures. Then you'll close them to the memory. Then you'll close your eyes to the facts. And then you’ll close your eyes to the whole context."

Russia invaded Ukraine on the 24th of February after announcing that it is “rescuing the country from bullying and genocide carried out by the regime in Kyiv”. Contrary to what Farocki might presume, to Lithuanians it wasn’t hard to believe the images of terrified people in Ukraine hiding from airstrikes in metro stations, of injured people being carried out of apartment buildings woken up by bombs and air raid sirens, images of men saying goodbye to their families before going to war. The war, about which there has been so much talk and yet – at least as demonstrated by a delayed response from the international community – so little belief that it can actually happen.

Perhaps Lithuanians aren’t struggling to feel the pulse of reality precisely because this cigarette of aggression from the East has been put out on our wrist so many times before?

<p>©Berta Tilmantaitė</p>

©Berta Tilmantaitė

<p>©Berta Tilmantaitė</p>

©Berta Tilmantaitė

<p>©Mindaugas Drigotas</p>

©Mindaugas Drigotas

<p>©Mindaugas Drigotas</p>

©Mindaugas Drigotas

On the 24th of February, people took to the streets in Lithuania to express their solidarity with Ukraine. Simultaneously thousands of demonstrations took place all over the world from Tokyo to New York. During the event “Freedom Shines” in Vilnius, a Ukrainian national salute “Slava Ukraini, heroyam slava” (“Glory to Ukraine, glory to heroes”) sounded loud. Ukrainian, Lithuanian and independent Belarussian flags were carried all the way to the Boris Nemcov square in front of the Russian Embassy. Alongside bonfires in the square you could see Ukrainian and Lithuanian flags waving next to flags of many other countries, uniting many nations in one shared thought and gravity.

<p>©Berta Tilmantaitė</p>

©Berta Tilmantaitė

<p>©Berta Tilmantaitė</p>

©Berta Tilmantaitė

<p>©Berta Tilmantaitė</p>

©Berta Tilmantaitė

This day it became very clear that Lithuania doesn’t need additional proof to believe that the attack by the Russian regime is real, horrifying and painful. However, we are now faced with an even bigger task – not to be tempted to close our eyes when we are tired from the pain and worrying. We cannot close our eyes – first to the images, then to our memories, facts and contexts. We need to stay together and stand together with Ukraine because the war that has been started is real. We are also real – and so is our commitment to care.

<p>“I am here because I care about freedom. Not just our freedom, but also the freedom of our neighbors, the freedom of every person. I believe that everyone can make a choice about how to live and I know that people in Ukraine want to be free, just like us. It’s very unfair to infringe on the liberty of people. Today I woke up and the first sentence someone said to me was, “I love you, but today the war in Ukraine has started.” This really affected me. My first thought was, ‘what are the people there feeling?’ What are all the mothers and daughters feeling when they know that their family members are now fighting in the war? I felt that something needs to be done to help. Even by a small donation or taking to the streets, we can show our support to the people of Ukraine. They are not alone in this fight”, says Jaunius. ©Julija Stankevičiūtė</p>

“I am here because I care about freedom. Not just our freedom, but also the freedom of our neighbors, the freedom of every person. I believe that everyone can make a choice about how to live and I know that people in Ukraine want to be free, just like us. It’s very unfair to infringe on the liberty of people. Today I woke up and the first sentence someone said to me was, “I love you, but today the war in Ukraine has started.” This really affected me. My first thought was, ‘what are the people there feeling?’ What are all the mothers and daughters feeling when they know that their family members are now fighting in the war? I felt that something needs to be done to help. Even by a small donation or taking to the streets, we can show our support to the people of Ukraine. They are not alone in this fight”, says Jaunius. ©Julija Stankevičiūtė

<p>“I am in shock. I have a friend who lives in Ukraine, in the very center of the country. Yesterday when I spoke to her she couldn’t even imagine that in the morning when she wakes up there would be military aircraft flying above her head and bombs falling nearby. I was crying this morning, messaging her. It seems that I woke up in a different world. The Ukrainian people have been living with this fear and hope for the last 8 years. I really wish that the hope doesn’t run out”, says Kamilė (first on the right in the photograph). “I really want people to see that Polish people living in Lithuania also support Ukraine” – adds Oskaras (in the center of the photograph). ©Julija Stankevičiūtė</p>

“I am in shock. I have a friend who lives in Ukraine, in the very center of the country. Yesterday when I spoke to her she couldn’t even imagine that in the morning when she wakes up there would be military aircraft flying above her head and bombs falling nearby. I was crying this morning, messaging her. It seems that I woke up in a different world. The Ukrainian people have been living with this fear and hope for the last 8 years. I really wish that the hope doesn’t run out”, says Kamilė (first on the right in the photograph). “I really want people to see that Polish people living in Lithuania also support Ukraine” – adds Oskaras (in the center of the photograph). ©Julija Stankevičiūtė

<p>“It’s our duty to be here. If we, other European countries, don’t show our support to Ukraine – the time will come for Lithuania too. There should be no wars” – says Mindaugas (first on the right). “You know, I am half Ukrainian myself. My mom is Lithuanian and my dad is Ukrainian. I couldn’t hold back my tears this morning, I must say. As a man, I am struggling with this. I came here to support Ukrainians. I also think that EU is too lenient with Putin”, – adds Jaroslavas who participated in the resistance during the 13th of January 1991. – “My grandparents are buried in Ukraine, in Ternopil Oblast. I spent a few years there as a child. I come from a family of deportees, I was born in Russia, in Komi where the Gulag camps were located. My father and my Lithuanian grandfather were imprisoned there. My sister and I were born there. All of my relatives are in Ukraine. Ukrainians are my siblings, just like Lithuanians.” ©Julija Stankevičiūtė</p>

“It’s our duty to be here. If we, other European countries, don’t show our support to Ukraine – the time will come for Lithuania too. There should be no wars” – says Mindaugas (first on the right). “You know, I am half Ukrainian myself. My mom is Lithuanian and my dad is Ukrainian. I couldn’t hold back my tears this morning, I must say. As a man, I am struggling with this. I came here to support Ukrainians. I also think that EU is too lenient with Putin”, – adds Jaroslavas who participated in the resistance during the 13th of January 1991. – “My grandparents are buried in Ukraine, in Ternopil Oblast. I spent a few years there as a child. I come from a family of deportees, I was born in Russia, in Komi where the Gulag camps were located. My father and my Lithuanian grandfather were imprisoned there. My sister and I were born there. All of my relatives are in Ukraine. Ukrainians are my siblings, just like Lithuanians.” ©Julija Stankevičiūtė

<p>“I woke up as usual – with a smile. I am Ukrainian, my first language is Ukrainian. Early in the morning, I found out from my friends and family that bombs are flying everywhere, that the attack is coming from all sides, artillery, military aircraft. Of course, I started calling people. I was at work and I decided to carry on working but I kept in touch with people. I’m feeling a lot of worry and stress, inside everything feels…completely baffled/confounded. But I know that this won’t help and that we have to stay strong today and help our families as much as we can. I would like to bring everyone to safety, especially my mom. But the airports are closed, the border is closed, and it’s just the worst feeling possible knowing that the people you love most are not safe, that their lives are in danger. I call them and instead of asking, “Hi, how are you?” I ask “Are they bombing your area?” or I tell them, “Pack your bag in case of evacuation”. It’s not pleasant but I feel such strong support and I cannot be anywhere else but here. Lithuanians are our siblings. I know that the truth is on our side and that we’ll defend our country. But this will come at a huge cost. And it’s all happening because of some people, some idiots…We just need to defend ourselves and protect our freedom”, - says Miša (wrapped in Ukrainian flag in the photograph). ©Julija Stankevičiūtė</p>

“I woke up as usual – with a smile. I am Ukrainian, my first language is Ukrainian. Early in the morning, I found out from my friends and family that bombs are flying everywhere, that the attack is coming from all sides, artillery, military aircraft. Of course, I started calling people. I was at work and I decided to carry on working but I kept in touch with people. I’m feeling a lot of worry and stress, inside everything feels…completely baffled/confounded. But I know that this won’t help and that we have to stay strong today and help our families as much as we can. I would like to bring everyone to safety, especially my mom. But the airports are closed, the border is closed, and it’s just the worst feeling possible knowing that the people you love most are not safe, that their lives are in danger. I call them and instead of asking, “Hi, how are you?” I ask “Are they bombing your area?” or I tell them, “Pack your bag in case of evacuation”. It’s not pleasant but I feel such strong support and I cannot be anywhere else but here. Lithuanians are our siblings. I know that the truth is on our side and that we’ll defend our country. But this will come at a huge cost. And it’s all happening because of some people, some idiots…We just need to defend ourselves and protect our freedom”, - says Miša (wrapped in Ukrainian flag in the photograph). ©Julija Stankevičiūtė

<p>“It’s scary and I’m feeling angry at the same time. Beyond waving flags there are lots of other ways we can help Ukraine – financial support, offering refugee protection, and other support. So today I want to focus not on fear but on coming together and finding ways to help. We came here to find unity and to show unity not only to Ukrainians but also to each other, our fellow Lithuanians who have been divided across different questions in this current context. I think today is the day when we have to be united,” – says Aura (on the right). ©Julija Stankevičiūtė</p>

“It’s scary and I’m feeling angry at the same time. Beyond waving flags there are lots of other ways we can help Ukraine – financial support, offering refugee protection, and other support. So today I want to focus not on fear but on coming together and finding ways to help. We came here to find unity and to show unity not only to Ukrainians but also to each other, our fellow Lithuanians who have been divided across different questions in this current context. I think today is the day when we have to be united,” – says Aura (on the right). ©Julija Stankevičiūtė

<p>©Berta Tilmantaitė</p>

©Berta Tilmantaitė

<p>©Berta Tilmantaitė</p>

©Berta Tilmantaitė

<p>©Berta Tilmantaitė</p>

©Berta Tilmantaitė

<p>©Berta Tilmantaitė</p>

©Berta Tilmantaitė

<p>©Berta Tilmantaitė</p>

©Berta Tilmantaitė

<p>©Berta Tilmantaitė</p>

©Berta Tilmantaitė

<p>©Berta Tilmantaitė</p>

©Berta Tilmantaitė

<p>©Berta Tilmantaitė</p>

©Berta Tilmantaitė

<p>©Berta Tilmantaitė</p>

©Berta Tilmantaitė

<p>©Berta Tilmantaitė</p>

©Berta Tilmantaitė

<p>©Berta Tilmantaitė</p>

©Berta Tilmantaitė

<p>©Julija Stankevičiūtė</p>

©Julija Stankevičiūtė

<p>©Berta Tilmantaitė</p>

©Berta Tilmantaitė

<p>©Berta Tilmantaitė</p>

©Berta Tilmantaitė

<p>©Berta Tilmantaitė</p>

©Berta Tilmantaitė

<p>©Julija Stankevičiūtė</p>

©Julija Stankevičiūtė

<p>©Julija Stankevičiūtė</p>

©Julija Stankevičiūtė

<p>©Berta Tilmantaitė</p>

©Berta Tilmantaitė

<p>©Mindaugas Drigotas</p>

©Mindaugas Drigotas

<p>©Mindaugas Drigotas</p>

©Mindaugas Drigotas

<p>©Mindaugas Drigotas</p>

©Mindaugas Drigotas

<p>©Julija Stankevičiūtė</p>

©Julija Stankevičiūtė

<p>©Karolis Pilypas Liutkevičius</p>

©Karolis Pilypas Liutkevičius

<p>©Berta Tilmantaitė</p>

©Berta Tilmantaitė

<p>©Karolis Pilypas Liutkevičius</p>

©Karolis Pilypas Liutkevičius

<p>©Julija Stankevičiūtė</p>

©Julija Stankevičiūtė

<p>©Karolis Pilypas Liutkevičius</p>

©Karolis Pilypas Liutkevičius

<p>©Berta Tilmantaitė</p>

©Berta Tilmantaitė

<p>©Berta Tilmantaitė</p>

©Berta Tilmantaitė

<p>©Berta Tilmantaitė</p>

©Berta Tilmantaitė