Lithuania's first visa from 1990 on exhibit in the Vilnius airport

  • 2010-04-01
  • By Rokas M. Tracevskis

BRITISH PASSPORT DONATION: Edward Lucas (pictured), journalist of The Economist, handed over his passport stamped with the first Lithuanian visa (No. 0001), dated March 28, 1990, to the Lithuanian Foreign Ministry’s museum of diplomacy. For the next year, this UK passport will be on exhibit in the glass-case in the Vilnius airport.

VILNIUS - On March 26, Vilnius International Airport hosted a ceremony during which Edward Lucas, journalist of The Economist, handed over his passport stamped with the first Lithuanian visa, No. 0001, dated March 28, 1990, to Sarunas Adomavicius, Lithuania’s foreign affairs vice-minister. For the next year, it will be on exhibit in a glass case in the Vilnius airport.

Lithuania proclaimed re-establishment of independence on March 11, 1990. On March 28, Lucas took the Berlin-Vilnius flight to visit Lithuania. He was stopped by the Soviet KGB officers still operating in the Vilnius airport. “They asked me for visa. I told them that this is Lithuania and I don’t need a visa. Lithuanian Foreign Minister Algirdas Saudargas showed up. The KGB officers told him, ‘He has no visa.’ Saudargas put a stamp on my passport and said ‘Now he has it’,” Lucas said during the ceremony in the airport.

“It was an act of lifting of the iron curtain,” Adomavicius said.
Lucas spent a lot of time in Lithuania in the 1990s and learned Lithuanian. “I can speak Lithuanian, but when I speak Lithuanian, you don’t understand me,” Lucas said in quite good Lithuanian. This British journalist enjoys the status of a media star in Lithuania and gives numerous interviews during his visits to Lithuania.

This time he expressed his suspicion about the outcome of the warming Lithuanian-Russian relations. According to Lucas, it was a mistake to please Moscow by not inviting Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili to the celebration of the 20th anniversary of restoration of Lithuania’s independence. There will never be enough concessions for Moscow if it smells the readiness of the opposite side to make concessions - Lithuania should stick to the values of freedom, Lucas said.

Lucas described the protests of some 50 MPs, mostly from the ruling Homeland Union - Lithuanian Christian Democrats and the opposition Order and Justice Party, against the planned homosexuals’ demonstration of May 8 in Vilnius as “a Soviet mentality,” when everything that is foreign to the tradition is met with hostility. According to him, the threat to Lithuanian families is not such demonstrations but the highest level of emigration among the European Union states - emigration separates families in many cases and is caused not only by the economic situation, but also by the frustrating psychological atmosphere in the country, partially created by the arrogant state apparatus.

The slow solving of the issue of writing Polish minority names in Polish transcription in Lithuanian passports and ID cards is due to the stupidity of Lithuanian bureaucrats, which harms good Vilnius-Warsaw relations that are vital for the region’s security, according to Lucas.

Lucas also described as scandalous the fact that during the last 20 years, Lithuanian governments did not manage to establish energy links with the West. On the other hand, he said that he would not believe back in 1990 that Lithuania would be able to make such progress and join the EU and NATO.