On Monday, May 14, I was invited to participate in a commemoration of Kalanta’s self-immolation at the Veršvų Secondary School in Kaunas. The school is located in the Viliampolė neighborhood and Kalanta attended the school (although it had a different name then). The event included two performances by students and speeches by a representative from Vytautas Magnus University, people who had participated in the demonstrations, and a couple of local of politicians. There were a lot of speeches — probably too many. By the time I gave a 10 minute talk in Lithuania about the hippie movement, it was an hour and a half into the program. I was faced with two hundred restless teenagers. The teachers were all pleased that I could speak Lithuanian; I don’t think the kids were that impressed.
Articles about and commemorations of Kalanta’s self-immolation often use “fire” language. This event was no exception — it was called “Lit a fire in the hearts of freedom.” Students performed a dance representing Kalanta burning himself, which I’m not sure what say about but I found fascinating. In the first performance, students dressed as hippies sang songs from the late 1960s. The first song is the lyrics of a famous 19th century Lithuanian poem “Trakai Castle” set to the melody of The Animals song “House of the Rising Sun.” The young men in dark coats and caps represent the Communist Youth League harrasing the hippies. Later in the performance, a larger group of young men came out and pretended to beat up the hippies, which is actually historically accurate.
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