Sunday, April 26, 2009

A visit to the Occupation Museum

We had heard from a couple of people that we should visit the Occupation Museum in Olde Towne Riga. Yesterday was a perfect day to be out and about so we boarded the number 9 trolley buss and were happy to be dropped off right in front of the museum (we knew it would be in the vicinity but thought we might have to search a little). You climb several steps to reach, and walk beneath, this dark grey "wall." Underneath is the entrance to the museum and you may not be able to tell, but the doors are very heavy, metal. The museum is free, but there is a donation container inside the door.

It was quite an eye-opening and, in some respects, troubling thing to read of the history of the Baltics and how they were invaded and occupied by Russia, then Germany, then Russia, beginning in 1920 and ending in 1991. The borders of the countries in that part of the world changed several times over that period of time.

It was amazing to read of the "secret combination" entered into by Russia and Germany, to take over the Baltic States. Other countries were also subject to their invasions and occupations.

One of the most troubling things to me was that much of it took place during my lifetime and I was completely unaware of the Baltics. I knew of Poland and Czechloslavakia, but I didn't know about the Baltics.

And the people in the Baltics suffered the same inhumane tortures and pogrammes and suffering and loss of family, of religious freedom, indoctrination, etc., as those in Poland and other countries.

Perhaps the most troubling thing was what I am (was until I came here) seeing in America. The acceptance of socialism and the Government programs being the answer to everyone's problems. I talked with a woman at Church today who has been a member of the Church for 17 years--she and her husband were two of the first members in the Baltics. She talked of her parents (her mother is 2 years older than I am) and her own growing up years as a teen, joining the youth groups. They went about their lives and even now I'm not sure she sees the Russian/Communist occupation as oppressive and evil as it was.

This is a picture of the interior of the museum and the picture on the bottom, that I can't seem to get to with the cursor, is a replica of the cells in which prisoners were kept. (my pictures have jumped around again.) The written description was enough to make me ill. The conditions were reprehensible. One single incident will give you a small idea. The men slept crammed together on the planks and if one got up to relieve himself, the others "spread out" and filled in his place, so he had no place to return to. So, many would not bother to get up to relieve themselves.
Anyway, we spent a couple of hours going through the museum and it was worthwhile. I pray we as human beings can learn from history so we don't repeat it.

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