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Split: Iron Curtain Still Dividing Europe in Belarus and Lithuania

In Eastern Europe two villages once separated by nothing but a thin line on a map have now been cut in two by a new iron wall. Only this time the division is not communism and capitalism, but belonging or not — membership in the EU versus non-membership.

Belarus is ruled by President Alexander Lukashenko, who appears to regard economic and political reform as the kryptonite to his power. To the west of his nation lies Lithuania, now a member of the European Union and NATO and therefore beneficiary to all that membership entails: economic prosperity and political freedom. In the town of Pyatskuny Lukashenko has erected a Berlin Wall-style fence complete with Soviet-esque border guards and secret service agents to keep tabs on those living in the border region. The now two villages, which once shared a church, cemetery and other services are now hit by huge problems.

“Our hearts were left on the other side of the fence.” Said one 67 year-old woman. To find out why,

. The woman hasn't been able to visit her husband’s grave on the Lithuanian side in two years. If she did want to visit the grave, she would have to travel ninety miles to the nearest Lithuanian consulate, pay roughly a month’s income, travel another sixty miles north to the checkpoint and then sixty miles south to reach a destination roughly 2 miles from her home.

Since Lithuania joined the EU and NATO in 2004, it has been required to toughen restrictions on Belarus hoping this pressure will force Lukashenko to free political prisoners and hold free elections. Still, there is one thing the government on either side has been able to prevent: good old fashioned hollering. A 61-year-old woman shouts through the fence to communicate with her nephew whose house is the first one on the Lithuanian side.

The divide is huge and eye-opening in our post-Berlin Wall era: on the Lithuanian side, cell phones are common while those who live in Belarus must share the one phone in the grocery store. Some in Belarus are so desperate to cross over, they survive on bread and water to save enough money to head across the line — anyone attempting to climb the fence can be jailed for up to two years.

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harmonyfrance harmonyfrance 8 years
AMEN hypno!
harmonyfrance harmonyfrance 8 years
AMEN hypno!
hypnoticmix hypnoticmix 8 years
Sigh, I really can't wait for women to rule the world.
raciccarone raciccarone 8 years
Belarus? Lithuania? Weren't they in Lord of the Rings? Are we just using fictional countries now?
stephley stephley 8 years
Let's ask Homeland Security that question, maybe it will shed some light on the Belarus/Lithuania situation.
stiletta stiletta 8 years
What I find so strange is that Lithuania and Belarus, while obviously not the same people, have a shared history that dates back for more than a thousand years. I know it's naive, but why do leaders continually believe that by putting a wall up, it will have any long-term affect? It's like trying to keep the ocean away with a broom.
True-Song True-Song 8 years
It's so weird that this is happening in this day in age. It sounds like something from at least a century or two ago. Makes you appreciate the good ole U.S. of A.
stephley stephley 8 years
It's not good when Belarus builds walls and it's not good when the U.S. does it.
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