March 10, 2022

Vilnius Outpours Support To Ukraine: Resident Solidarity Runs Deep On Buildings, In Streets, and Even Sky

Vilnius, like the rest of Lithuanian cities, has been far from silent or indifferent about Russia’s war crimes committed against Ukraine since February 24th, the first day of the invasion. The capital has found numerous ways to show its solidarity and deep compassion for the war-struck Ukrainians and their homeland, which range from ceased partnerships with all Russian and Belarusian cities to multifaceted support to the arriving Ukrainian refugees. 

Ukrainian Heroes Street

The capital did not waste any time in ardently protesting against Russia’s aggression. One of the acts of support was dedicating a street to the brave Ukrainian fighters. And not just any street—the street where the Embassy of Russia is based. Now it is named Ukrainian Heroes Street, and the Embassy is officially required to change its address, forever reminding anyone who visits it that when it comes to taking a stand, Vilnius does not mess around. 

Graffiti against the war

Remigijus Šimašius, Mayor of Vilnius, did not think the renaming of the street would be enough. Therefore, the street right outside the Embassy of Russia was decorated with municipality-commissioned graffiti, which was spray-painted by the Mayor himself—a phrase “Putin, The Hague Is Waiting For You.” The same phrase appeared on a gigantic banner above Vilnius City Municipality building. By hanging the banner, visible from far away, the Municipality both protected the phrase from being washed down by rain or erased and emphasized its firm stance against the war in Ukraine. 

Hot-air balloons with giant Ukrainian flags

Vilnius has a passion for grand gestures, and what could be grander than 20-meter-long Ukrainian flags dangling in the skyline above the city. Since Vilnius is the only European capital to officially allow hot-air balloon rides over it, eight hot-air balloons took off to the skies, carrying seven Ukrainian and one Lithuanian flag to spread a meaningful message: Lithuanians stay in solidarity with their friends in Ukraine.

Protest weeks

Vilnius residents have not been idle during the invasion and demonstrated their strong disapproval of the Russian-inflicted war on Ukraine with city-wide protests. Thousands of people with Ukrainian flags, posters, and even funeral wreaths with Putin’s name on them gathered to protest in front of the Embassy of Russia during the first week of the war. March 8th, International Women’s Day, also drew hundreds of people to show their support for Ukrainian women, mothers, and girls. The protesters came bearing sunflowers—a symbol of Ukraine’s resistance against aggression.

Humanitarian aid to refugees

As the most active supporters of Ukraine, residents from Vilnius and other Lithuanian cities have been continuously providing clothing, food, basic items to Ukrainian refugees ever since the beginning of the war. Just in two weeks, Lithuanians have also donated over EUR 17M to an NGO sending humanitarian and military aid to Ukraine. 

Like other Lithuanian cities, Vilnius has also made arrangements to house war refugees, and many of them have already found their temporary homes in the capital. The city also offers Ukrainian refugees free public transportation, free access to a number of museums, and proposes new similar initiatives daily. 

Free education for Ukrainian students

Vilnius University, a globally recognized educational institution and the largest high-education school in Lithuania, has offered to provide financial aid and free education to its Ukrainian students. It has also set up a donation fund for the public to contribute to the future of Ukrainian scholars, whose ties with families back at home were cruelly severed.