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Name: Melissa

About Me

Countries Visited (not including Turnarounds): Australia, Austria, Azerbaijan, Belgium, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Brazil, Canada, China, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Ghana, Great Britain, Greece, Iceland, India, Italy, Japan, Kenya, Latvia, Libya, Lithuania, Malaysia, Malta, Mauritius, Moldova, Monaco, Morocco, Netherlands, New Zealand, Nigeria, Norway, North Korea, Philippines, Romania, Russia, Singapore, Senegal, Serbia, Seychelles, South Africa, South Korea, Spain, Sri Lanka, Sweden, Switzerland, Tanzania, Thailand, Tunisia, Turkey, Uganda, United Arab Emirates, United States, Vatican City

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Saturday, January 14, 2012
I mentioned in my previous post on Vilnius that I wanted to separate the photos from the KGB museum from the other shots taken on the trip. Aside from the other post being very photo-heavy, I think the subject matter warrants a post on its own. Much of the photography is very dark, and I tried to lighten them up where possible, but I wanted to keep the photos true to the experience as much as possible. If you see one place in Vilnius, this should be it.

So after arriving and settling into my room, and seeing as though I was so close, I decided to first visit the Museum of the Genocide Victims, also informally known as the KGB Museum. The first and second floor are worth a look, and are in fact what is recommended by the museum to visit first - they contained a plethora of memorabilia, letters, prayer books, handicrafts, uniforms, badges, bullet casings and photos amongst its vast collection.

But it's once you enter the basement floor that the museum really becomes poignant. Chilling. Disturbing. What I saw at the basement of the museum still enters my thoughts, had done so every single day during my visit to Vilnius. The basement contains the cells that victims were imprisioned in, some done up to focus on one particular group that was marginalized (such as the Jewish memorial in cell no. 3) but many were set up to recreate the exact conditions of the cell during Soviet occupation.

A cell with some shredded documents. Probably a recreation, but there was noting I saw written saying it was. For all I knew it could have had sensitive KGB information in those bags.

From the top, a 4 person shared cell and a 2 person shared cell.

The majority of the cells were in either the 2 person or the 4 person configuration, but there were other cells that they saved for those convicted of more serious offenses, such as espionage.

The interrogation cell. I think my photography here is a little misleading as the cell was only about 2m x 2m, not very large at all.

The water cell. The guards filled the cell with water until it was about 10cm off the ground. Those who occupied this cell had no choice but to either stand in the water or to stand on that tiny island. Considering how cold it can get during the winter in Vilnius this was, essentially, torture

Onto the most chilling room in the entire museum. That black thing in the middle is actually a straight jacket, and this cell is completely padded. Reserved for those prisoners that were, or had become, mentally insane. The padding was interesting to look at - it didn't look particularly soft, there wasn't a lot of 'give' when you pushed with your finger. I think the padding was more to stop whatever screaming and shouting from the prisoner becoming too loud rather than to prevent the prisoner from seriously injuring themselves.

Under Stalin, the prisoners were permitted 15 minutes outdoors every day, which increased to 1 hour of exercise time when he was no longer the one in power. The walls of the exercise yard was no larger than one of the 4 prisoner cells, so it was only really 15 minutes of fresh air that they were getting. As you can see there wasn't a whole lot of sunlight.

This was the room where all the executions happened - the plexiglass you can see in the photo is Linkprotecting the bullet holes from corroding further. The TV is playing on loop a movie that had some scenes shot in the room about the occupation in Lithuania. The transparent floor showcases some more memorabilia, some of them items left behind by the executed prisoners. The room also has this smell to it that is very strange, not in a putrid sense - it isn't yak-inducing, but in addition to the history of the room the smell really sends a chill down your spine. I wish I knew how to describe it.

Stock photo taken from here.