OPINION | HUMAN RIGHTS | CHRISTIAN-JEWISH ISSUES | CEMETERIES & MASS GRAVES | OLD VILNA JEWISH CEMETERY AT PIRAMÓNT | OPPOSITION TO ‘CONVENTION CENTER IN THE CEMETERY’ PROJECT |INTERNATIONAL PETITION
by Andrius Kulikauskas
A Victory for Hanukkah, Christmas and New Year’s
On December 16, 2020, the sixth day of Hanukkah, defenders of the oldest Jewish cemetery in Vilnius (at Piramont-Šnipiškės) won a major, decisive, surprising, timeless victory. Lithuania’s government, acting on our campaign’s and Seimas member Kęstutis Masiulis’s proposals to the Seimas (parliament) Budget and Finance Committee, struck from the 2021 budget all funding for the reconstruction of the Vilnius Sports Palace into a Vilnius Congress Center. This building, which the Soviets had erected in the middle of the Cemetery, had fallen into disuse. The Lithuanian government acquired the building in 2015 with plans to remake it as a center for international conferences, further desecrating the Cemetery for untold years to come. Thankfully, the newly elected Government has eliminated funding.
The Government’s website includes a page for that afternoon’s meeting. The third item of the meeting is Finance Minister Gintarė Skaistė’s report on the revised budget. She spoke for twenty minutes and made no mention of the Congress Center. However, if you look through the documents (here and here), you will see that the allocation of 515,000 euros (around $631,000) as installment toward the multi-million euro reconstruction of the Sports Palace has been expressly eliminated.
Seimas Budget and Finance Committee Bureau Chief Alina Brazdilienė sent me an email so that I would be sure to notice. She had been responsive to my concerns that the 54 letters and many more received by the Committee from us in November were not visible to the Government. On December 15th she had told me that the day before she had emailed the Ministry to ask if they would like to see our emails. The Ministry had replied that they would not because they had not yet come to their own position. Understandably, I was not happy that the Ministry was not interested to see all of our arguments. I did not expect us to win. I was wrong!