This is me, 25 years ago.
In bitter cold January 1991.
In the middle barricades in Riga and Latvian fight for independence from Soviet repression.
I was in there middle of Riga, among thousands of people.
I was studying in Riga and we were commanded to leave the city ASAP and go home as the situation was dreadful and no one knew what to expect.
Soviet tanks were surrounding Riga, and OMON- so called “black berets” – angry and heavily armed men from special forces of USSR, were terrorising people and opening fire.
Few days ago Soviet forces/ OMON in Lithuania had killed 14 civilians.Fearing an attack from Soviet tanks, barricades were built all around Old City in Riga.
I lost my train and so I ended there.
Among trucks, engineering vehicles and agricultural machinery and Latvian flags on them. They were brought into the city to block streets. Large concrete blocks, walls, wire obstacles were built to block/ protect all governmental buildings.
It was absolutely surreal.
People had arrived from all over the country.
I saw men from my village building barricades.
Such unity between the people I never experienced before.
By that time most were already morally prepared that something could happen.
Somebody gently pushed me and when I turned around a guy filled my hands with hazelnuts.
It was so sweet.
The energy was amazing. Rebel and revolutionary. Kind. Fearless.
I was feeling as patriotic as everyone else. Not afraid to die at all.
I watched enthusiastic men around bonfires and perfomance of some musicians and couldn’t grasp the whole thing.
I was witnessing the old, known world collapsing.
Latvians from all ages spent cold nights in the Old City to stand up for freedom.
People were ready to face tanks with empty hands, being ready to form a human shield.
Barricades were largely perceived as a form of nonviolent resistance.
Soviet tanks would have no problem to crush the barricades but they were aware that such an action would result in even bigger bloodbath than in Vilnius. And they knew that there were too many journalists from the Western World.
We heard gunshots. Radio was informing that there are openfire bottles in the park.
I drank tea in an open building to warm op and wait for the morning.
Later I learned that there were shot 2 camera men, who were unarmed. They were shot by snipers who had orders to eliminate all cameramen recording the event.
I was to shy to ask anyone anything and in the morning joined a huge demonstration in Riga.
I met my old neighbor from my village.
His face was glowing but he was serious.
He had survived the deportation and camps in Gulag.
I was thinking of my grandfather. He was so much looking forward to moment like this but didn’t live long enough to experience.
There were casualties, people were killed.
It has been a dramatic journey since.
We just wanted to get out. It had its’ price.
However I believe things happened for the best and it was an amazing experience.
Imagine growing up in dictatorship, been brainwashed and be communist and then experience freedom.
Freedom is essential. Freedom is life.
And I’m so proud of Latvians, who proved that freedom is achievable in peaceful way.
By standing up together united and fearless even to most angry & heavy equipped men.
8 months later Latvians got their freedom.
Dreams come through.
Also the crazy, unrealistic ones.