Vilnius changed a huge amount during the time I was visiting regularly – October 93 to March 99.
The Soviet command economy was replaced by a free market one. A functioning democracy had to be created almost from nothing. The country started on the path to EU membership.
Going back to the city in June was fascinating. I could see how it has changed in the the last 15 years. EU and NATO membership. Joining the Eurozone.
I found distant memories around almost every corner. I found more vivid ones too.
Among the former… on the first day of my visit last month I was heading into the city centre to meet a former colleague for lunch. My orientation was still a bit poor, having arrived in the dark in the early hours. Not far from the apartment I thought I recognised a street. Teatro gatve, named after the Russian language theatre there.
Why did it seem so familiar? About 10 minutes later I remembered. My firm had rented an apartment there for visiting staff to use. I stayed there several times.
The vivid ones were easier. I took a walk past the first office we’d had there (a brief arrangement), and then the one I visited every month for several years. Šermukšnių gatve.
Emerging from the western end of that street you can’t miss the high rise hotel across the river.
It is now a Radisson Blu, but used to be Intourist’s Lietuva. I never stayed there – it had a reputation for being full of gangsters and prostitutes. Privatising it was one of the big projects we took on.
Across the square from Šermukšnių g. lies the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
The scene of many meetings as we worked on a programme of modernisation of the country’s commercial laws. It helped pave the way to a functioning free market economy.
Many happy memories and a few tricky ones too.
I’m a strong believer in looking forward and not dwelling on the past. Having said that, my return visits to Toulouse this year and last renewed and gave me a stronger bond with a place which had a huge impact on my development. My week back in Vilnius did the same.
Those strengthened bonds remind me of how I came to be the person I now am, and will help me find my way forward.
© iain taylor 2015