While doing research on Lithuanian culture for Love Songs of the Revolution, I came upon a YouTube video that changed everything for me. Fuzzy images from a massive demonstration in 1989 are overlaid with a rock anthem whose words I couldn't understand, but whose meaning couldn't be more clear.
The Baltic Way was a major milestone in the Singing Revolution that swept the three Baltic nations in the late 1980s and ultimately led to their independence. No one knows exactly how many people showed up in the streets that day, but estimates run between one and two million people across the three countries.
Music and especially mass singing festivals have long played a major role in Baltic political movements. The rock anthem being sung in 1989 is "The Baltics are Waking Up," written especially for the Singing Revolution, in all three languages. The recording is sung by leading singers from each country:
This year marks the 25th anniversary of the Baltic Way.
It's an amazing story and a historic moment in European history. We in the West know about the fall of the Berlin Wall and the demonstrations in Tiananmen Square in China, both of which happened the same year, but have never heard about the Baltic Way. Once I learned about it, I knew it would have an important place in my novel. There on he streets of Vilnius in 1989, the crowds holding hands around them and singing for their freedom, the lives of Martynas and Indre are irrevocably changed.
Lately I've been making zines. For a limited time, you can see my first zine on exhibit at the Irvine Fine Arts Center. Read more.