Maxim Behar and Lithuanian Crisis in January 1991

I was a correspondent for a daily newspaper “Duma” from Bulgaria from 1988 till 1991 in Warsaw. During this period, I published thousands of articles about the changes in the region, the falling of communism, the establishing of market economy and the democracy. In fact, in all countries around as I was travelling all the time.

Being a correspondent in Warsaw I was following very close the events in Lithuania as the Polish media were covering extensively the developments. On 12 January 1991 I was having breakfast and a coffee in my office in downtown Warsaw listening to the first and only then private radio station Radio Z and suddenly the radio anchor announced that the Government in Lithuania decided to form a government-in-exile and the Minister of foreign affairs Algirdas Saudargas is in Warsaw with this mission. In couple of hours, he will be guest in the radio. Actually, Radio Z was located just a couple of blocks from my office, I immediately called the program director of the radio – Marisza Wernikowska and told her that dead or alive I would like to have an interview with Minister Saudargas. She advised me to come to the radio station and that she cannot promise me anything as the minister is quite busy and it is up to him to give an interview or not…   

Of course, in five minutes I was in front of the radio, soon minister Saudargas came, entered the studio and on the way our I stopped him with request for interview, but he kindly apologized that he has another meeting, and he is in a hurry. Then I simply said very loud: “Minister, I am leaving to Vilnius now, at least give me an advice what to do and whom to meet!” He was already gone, but one of his team came to me, later he presented himself as Members of Lithuanian Parliament Cieslaz Okincic, and told me: “Listen, go to Vilnius and call this number, look for Rasa Maria, tell her I am sending you and she will help you…”

On the way to Vilnius, I was listening to the Polish radio the entire time, which was covering pretty well the whole western part of the country and hear that there is a curfew imposed and people are surrounding Vilnius TV tower in order to defend it. I entered Vilnius about 8 pm, it was totally dark, I knew there was a curfew, so I hid my car in a forest nearby the city, covered it with leaves and bushes and walked with just a bag with toothbrush and sandwich. Although it was totally dark, suddenly a passenger bus stopped on the road and the driver asked me where I am going. I answered that I am a journalist and must reach any point in Vilnius to send my stories to the newspaper and it is crucially important. The driver agreed to let me in the bus and there was only one passenger inside, he was sure I am Polish as I was speaking Polish (and have mustaches on the top) and he was speaking broken Polish, so we understood each other well. Suddenly the driver stopped the bus and as he was listening to the radio he said: “Soviet tanks smashed our people in front of the TV tower, there are people killed, we are going there!”.

I asked Raimondas if he can find me a hotel somewhere to stay in, but he said – No way! – and this is how I went to his small “kommunalka” and met his wife Gintara, later a close advisor to President Landsbergis and their daughter – a great artist, graduated Lithuanian Academy of Art, but then not older than 5 years.

This night we did not sleep, they called Raimondas to go to the Parliament to defend it, I stayed with Gintara and Eagle all night listening to the noise of the shots and wanted very much to go to the Parliament be with the people, but the people in the corridor did not allow me and kept me inside. Doors of the apartments were open, and everyone was going to the neighbors to see what is happening.

Early next morning I immediately called Rasa-Maria, she was the assistant of the Member of the Parliament and with cold voice she said: “If you want to enter the building of the Parliament you must come immediately, we close it in 30 minutes”. I went to the Parliament, and this is how I stayed there for almost 10 days, two or three times I left to take a shower, but usually live in the parliament and slept on the coaches in the corridor. I spent two or three nights in the room of the secretary of President Landsbergis, who was with us all the time inside the Parliament.

What I did inside – everything is written in details in my articles which I published in Bulgaria. Every single day the news of the only one at that time TV channels were starting with my stories, I was live in the radio and also sending stories to many newspapers. I can enclose just one of my correspondences in the TV with this package, all of them are available on a very old-fashioned format and they cannot be recovered, according to the Director of Bulgarian National TV, but this one by coincidence was downloaded many years ago by a TV anchor who sent it to me.

After 12 days and tens of articles and TV correspondences written and sent, I went back to Warsaw.

All what I did these days is in the articles, you can read them carefully, and also the articles which Lithuanian press published about my stay in Vilnus years later.

Since then, Lithuania is deeply in my heart and soul. Forever.      

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