Now retired, my godmother spent years working at the Warfare Training Centre in Lithuania as a senior lecturer. I still remember a discussion we had one evening about the threat of war while I was visiting her in capital Vilnius. She said, "The prospect of war can appear in an instant; it only takes a slight provocation and an instigating factor."
It was at that point that Russian troops were training on Lithuania's border. As a NATO member, we felt safe. However, propaganda stories began to appear showing very gloomy and dramatic pictures of NATO. Moscow had positioned itself as our saviour and nearly came to 'save' us. In the midst of it all, my godmother began stockpiling basic necessities such as salt, sugar and matches. We had a little joke about it and fondly called her paranoid.
Then in 2016, the documentary, Waiting for Invasion, was released, narrating Lithuania's fight to remain independent against all odds, while simultaneously enduring the potential occupation they had already gained freedom from 25 years ago. The Baltic States then had one of the world's most dangerous airspaces and yet still many called the filmmakers 'paranoid.'
It was around this time that the government distributed tens of thousands of 75-page civil defense booklets to citizens of Lithuania, outlining steps for surviving an invasion, and even included a telephone hotline for citizens to report possible spies.
However, some still brushed off these warnings with a simple, 'Russia attacking again? Please, this is just paranoia.' And then the war in Ukraine happened, proving to us that these 'paranoid' theories had actually been true all along.
Lithuania is currently celebrating their 33rd Independence Day, as they opened a new chapter in their history on 11 March 1990, but this joy is eclipsed by the disheartening situation Ukraine currently faces. We feel strongly that Ukraine's unjust, brutal war must come to an end. It has happened to us in the past and nearly occurred in the not so distant past, and so we stand with them in solidarity.
Today, Lithuania isn't feeling paranoid about a possible attack by Russia in the Baltic states. We now know that it could definitely happen. Why does Russia insist on the concept of them rescuing ex Soviet bloc nations? It is comparable to a psychotic ex-lover, who will never give up on their past relationship.
A Ukrainian woman who fled the war said to BBC news, ‘What are they trying to save us from? From us, from our lives? We love our country.’
It's over, Russia. We have moved on and have found peace. There might be moments when it's not perfect, but we're happy. We now have the freedom to decide which international alliances we enter. We can look after ourselves. Your responsibility lies in caring for your nation and its people.
It's time to move on, Russia. We don’t want you back.
Happy Independence Day, Lithuania. Stay stong, Ukraine.