The Museum of Genocide Victims (the KGB Museum)
This KGB Museum is not a happy or uplifting place. I am not going to make this a long post either, but long enough to give you an idea of what you will see and read there and to encourage you to visit the museum. Start early, go when they open. Wednesday’s are free. If you read Lithuanian or Russian, there are a lot of books you can buy that probably have really interesting information on the life of some prisoners, the history of the KGB in Lithuania, etc. There were not many books in English and the ones they had were simple, so I passed on buying any, but I have been looking for more info since I returned home because I am still curious.
The museum is located in what was the headquarters of the KGB in Vilnius and has been converted into a museum to honor the Lithuanians who fought against the KGB (the Resistance), the citizens who were just victims of the horrors, and to inform visitors about the atrocities committed by the Soviets and the KGB as an agency and by individual officers. The main floor is mostly artifacts, info graphics, and some of the preserved offices and office equipment of the KGB. The basement floor is still preserved as the prison, with cells, solitary confinement cells, the yard, and the execution chamber still intact.
You read that correctly, the execution chamber, where there are still bullet holes in the wall and in the floors. They’ve covered them with hard, clear, plexiglass so that no one can disturb them, but there are also shoes, clothing and other artifacts of the dead strewn about the room as well (and also covered by the plexiglass. Let that sink in. I absolutely did not take pictures of that, but I teared up because it was terrible to think about people who were killed in that room simply because they were fighting for the Lithuanian Resistance movement, or were Jewish, or not Russian, or gay, or who knows why?
The stories you will read in there about prisoners and life in the Resistance and life for those sent to work camps is unimaginable. The saddest part for me was that many people who were sent off to work camps in Siberia and managed to escape were often not allowed to return to Lithuania - even once they’d traveled back to their home country. So they just went back to the work camps. Equally as depressing for me was reading about a number of children who were taken from their parents or children who saw their parents dragged away or killed right in front of them. Just simply unimaginable.
Travel, for me, is not all about only seeing happy things and visiting beautiful sights of the world. That is a wonderful part of it, but I travel to learn about what others have been through and where they’ve come from and to understand how we all fit together in this world. The Museum of Genocide Victims is a must-see in Vilnius.