I wrote this on January 3, 2010. This morning I was searching for it on my website, but I couldn’t find it, so I am posting it again.
Some things cannot be forgiven…
Someday I will come back to Granada. I loved the tiny Arab bath, the archaeological museum, the unprettified streets of the Albacin area. And the Alhambra charged every neuron in my body. Over the week the geography of the place, the lonely vega and the glory of the mountains, began to imprint my senses. But while I was here, I felt restless and agitated. Lorca’s ghost walks, uneasy in this city. Some things cannot be forgiven. The crime was in Granada.
These are the words of Frances Mayes, thinking about the poet Federico García Lorca who died in Granada, shot by Nationalist soldiers in the first months of the Spanish Civil War.
The thoughts and feelings mirror my own when visiting Vilnius and other parts of Lithuania. I return to Lithuania every year, drawn by the beauty of the place, the depth of the history, the mystery of the pagan and Christian folk art, the haunting tunes of the dainos, perhaps by a longing in my genes, the same longing for home that my Grandmother might have felt.But nothing is simple. Being in Lithuania also brings up feelings of fear and grief, anger and frustration, a deep sadness that sinks into my bones. Lithuania is a country of beauty and death, and sometimes the two are inseparable, as in Ponary where the natural beauty of the Lithuanian forest is marred by the mass graves holding the bones of 100,000 victims of WWII, mostly Jews from Vilna.
Žagarė, a small town near the Latvian border, home of an annual cherry festival, is surrounded by beautiful countryside and farmland. Shortly before the Nazi’s invaded, many of Žagarė’s Jews were expelled to Siberia by the Soviets. The remaining Jewish population was gathered in the town square on the day after Yom Kippur in 1941. Some were shot on the spot, while others were brought outside of the town to be slaughtered. Sitting near the town writing at the side of the river, and walking through the town square, I could not reconcile the beauty and the terror.
Some times it is impossible to forgive, inadvisable to forget. But the sins of the fathers should not be visited upon the sons. I neither forgive nor refuse to forgive. The tragedies that underly Lithuanian history are beyond the scope of my imagination. All I can do is hope to be a small voice for peace and understandingand to help, in any way I can, to make sure that the future is a thing of beauty, not of death.