The Hill of Crosses in Lithuania – A Symbol of Hope

The Hill of Crosses in Lithuania

I made a side trip from Warsaw to visit The Hill of Crosses in Lithuania. From Warsaw, it’s an eight hour drive on tree lined roads. Since the times of the Crusaders, people have been making pilgrimages to this unusual site. It is neither easy to get to nor to find but it is well worth the journey into Northern Lithuania.

Entering Lithuania

Entering Lithuania

As we drive on the road, I see broken lamps; metaphors from the days of communism. The further east you go, the more symbols like the broken lamp one sees. My friend Hanna says “I have cake from my mother, special for you.” Her mother had baked a coffee cake for our road trip, another act of kindness. We listened to Michael Jackson, we listened to silence.

En route to Lithuania

En route to Lithuania

Poland was and is full of trees along the roads. The trees served a purpose during WWII; the main strategy was to hide the tanks from the planes. Even if a plane noticed the tanks, it’s hard to hit a tank so close to many trees.

The Road from Poland to Lithuania

The Road from Poland to Lithuania

On a hill, in the town of Siauliai, are thousands of crosses in every size and shape. Not only crosses but crucifixes, Virgin Mary statues, Lithuanian patriot carvings, tiny rosaries and effigies.The crosses combine elements of architecture, sculpture, blacksmith art, and painting. I left a wooden cross from Mexico and another from my dearest friend in a corner of the hill that seemed perfect. My friend from Poland, along with her gentle, kind son who drove us, left four crosses.

Entrance to The HIll of Crosses

Entrance to The HIll of Crosses

The Hill of Crosses

The Hill of Crosses

The first crosses were placed there 182 years ago by relatives killed during an anti-Russian uprising in 1831. This site is a symbol of hope, of father and freedom for the Lithuanian people.

As I climbed up and down the narrow paths, I felt stillness and in the quiet, I could sometimes hear the wind chimes blowing in the breeze, creating a special musical sound. The Hill of Crosses, like Jerusalem, is experiential. My photos cannot do justice to seeing this sight in person.

After the outbreak of the Second World War, Lithuania was occupied three times: first by the USSR in 1940, then by Nazi Germany in 1941, and finally by the USSR again in 1944. Mass deportations continued until the death of Stalin.

The site has been destroyed multiple times. The Soviet government could not tolerate such spiritual expression and in 1961 completely destroyed the hill. Every cross was bulldozed, burned and recycled. The crosses returned. The Soviets destroyed it again in 1973 and 1975. The exact number of crosses there now is unknown but there are estimates of put it at about 100,000 in 2006.

The Hill of Crosses took my breath away as I could feel the undefeated faith of the Lithuanian people along with hope and devotion, even amidst the suffering. The country suffered a 33% population loss due to the Holocaust, executions, incarcerations and forced emigration.

Leaving my friend's cross

Leaving my friend’s cross

The Hill of Crosses

The Hill of Crosses

The Hill of Crosses

The Hill of Crosses

The Hill of Crosses

The Hill of Crosses

The Hill of Crosses

The Hill of Crosses

Two crosses I placed; one from Mexico and one from my closest friend.

Two crosses I placed; one from Mexico and one from my closest friend.

The Hill of Crosses

The Hill of Crosses

The Hill of Crosses

The Hill of Crosses

Hannah & her son, Bartek

Hannah & her son, Bartek

Self portrait in Lithuania

Self portrait in Lithuania

En route to Warsaw, Poland

En route to Warsaw, Poland

Lithuanian proverb: Visur gerai, namie greasier. “Everywhere is good to live, but home is best.”

The Hill of Crosses in Lithuania

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About hannahkozak

I am passionate about photography & have been making photos since I was a little girl. I have been a stunt woman for twenty five years. I have a passion for exploration, discovery, and escape. I dream of every place I seek to travel to. A recovering adrenaline junkie, I seek authenticity in everyday experiences. I love Kundalini Yoga,travel, books,writing and authentic, real experiences and people. I brake for squirrels. Que le vaya bien! View all posts by hannahkozak

6 responses to “The Hill of Crosses in Lithuania – A Symbol of Hope

  • mjblisss

    Thank you for sharing this experience and story, Hannah. It left me speechless and ignited gratitude for the ability to express my faith. Just beautiful!

  • Hanna

    Thank you Hannah… it was very deep experience…

  • hannaes

    Thank you Hannah for your essay… It is very personal for me. The travel with you was big experience to me, for Bartek as well… If not you, we couldn’t never be in this amazing place. Thank you one more time…

    Hannah my myastenhya is in eye… my eyelid a little flop. Now I have a little problem because I have allargy to my medicine and they don’t have the substitute… I’m without medicine right now… I send you my arm on the photo. Thanks to God next week I’m going to my doctor.

    In Poland almost Spring. I’m very happy for it… you know, I like the sun very much…

    I send you my hugs, all the best sister God bless you Hanna

    2

  • hannahkozak

    Thank you my dear sister in Poland. I am thinking of you. It was truly an amazing site and I’m happy we could experience it together.

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