Feature

Lithuania: On the very edge of free Europe

There’s a “new Iron Curtain” in Europe and it even has a tangible presence.

Egle Digryte15min.lt

There’s a “new Iron Curtain” in Europe, said Egle Digryte. It even has a tangible presence, in the form of a fence erected on the border between Lithuania and Belarus. Just 20 years ago, the two countries were both part of the Soviet Union, and residents could wander across our mutual border freely. But since then, Lithuania has joined NATO and the EU, while the autocratic regime of Alexander Lukashenko still holds Belarus in its Soviet-style grip. The metal fence, erected in 2008, runs right through a village known as Norviliskes here and as Pyatskuny in Belarus. The fence has “separated families, put a distance between neighbors, and blocked access to the church and the cemetery.” On the well-kept Lithuanian side, residents are EU citizens and can travel to Germany to find work or get subsidies to stay and farm their own land. On the dilapidated Belarusian side, residents must work on a collective farm for a pittance. Pyatskuny residents can’t even see their cousins or visit their parents’ graves in Norviliskes without making multiple long trips to the consulate and paying for visas. “Here,” said one Norviliskes resident, “is where Europe ends.”

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