Having a neighbor like Russia at the end of the road means Vyas Grudzinskas, 59, doesn’t get much rest. “I can best see the soldiers at night,” he says, pointing to a patch of green behind his neighbor’s garden.
“They have a shooting range that they use there behind that area. In the afternoon, you can hear the guns,” he said.
Grudzinskas has his own weapon, a machine gun, which he keeps in a cupboard, close at hand—though his guard dog, a Maltese terrier, may be less effective in combat.
The small town of Kibertai where Grudzinska resides is located inside both nato And along with the European Union one of the warmest borders in the world – the Suwalki Corridor. This tract of land, about 60 miles wide, is sandwiched between Russia’s heavily fortified, nuclear-armed, Baltic Boltol of Kaliningrad and its ally Belarus.
The pass – seen by many analysts as a weak point within NATO – has been mired in a pincer hold among Kremlin troops. The fear is that if Ukraine fell, Russia would push through it, possibly cutting off the Baltic states in a matter of days.
The traces of Soviet occupation extend deep into this part of Europe. Thousands of Lithuanians were forcibly deported to the Gulags in Siberia and the Far North by the Soviet Union in the 1940s and 1950s. About 30,000 Lithuanian prisoners died in forced labor camps.
“My father was sent to Sakhalin in the far west of Russia for 15 years,” said Grudzinskas. “He ate grass the first year to survive.”
So, when Russia Crimea annexed in 2014The Grudzinskas joined Lithuania’s centuries-old volunteer militia—the riflemen—and took up arms in their own backyard.
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