On Sunday, 27 February, crowds of women gathered near the Russian Embassy in Lithuania’s capital of Vilnius to protest Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
Just one day after a spontaneous invitation by several famous Lithuanian women to protest Russia’s aggression in Ukraine, thousands of people gathered in Vilnius and similar women’s protests took place in other Lithuanian cities.
The organisers said their goal was to encourage women around the world to stand with their Ukrainian counterparts, who are being forced to live through incredible pain and trauma caused by the war waged by Russia against their country.
They hope to appeal to Russian women to take an active stand against the unnecessary war in which their sons, brothers, and husbands are being sacrificed in vain.
The peaceful protest began with a minute of silence and the Ukrainian national anthem was played to honour those tragically killed since the start of Russia’s brutal invasion of Ukraine’s sovereign territory.
“I am a mother, and my heart is breaking witnessing what is happening. Today, we are supporting Ukrainian women and appealing to the hearts of Russian women,” said journalist Daiva Žeimytė-Bilienė, one of the protest organisers. “They can help stop this madness. All they have to do is take to the streets of Russia and say out loud: we don’t want to fight, we don’t want to bury our children.”
Lithuanian TV anchor Živilė Kropaitė-Basiulė knows very well that women can be inconceivably strong, but support is also very important for them.
“Ukrainian women have to send their husbands, sons, brothers, and fathers to fight in a war they do not deserve – a war that they could have never imagined in their worst dreams,” said Kropaitė-Basiulė. “We want to show them that we understand and that we will do everything we can to make the rest of the world understand, too.”
The protest attracted thousands of Lithuanians and inspired women’s protests that took place on the same day in the Lithuanian cities of Kaunas and Klaipėda.
“We can each be a symbol of light”
Other organisers shared their shock and pain of witnessing the current suffering in Ukraine.
Inga Jablonskė, founder and head of WoW University, invited Lithuanian women and women of the world to come together: “We have witnessed a children’s oncology hospital being targeted and a baby being born in a cold subway amid explosions and gunfire. What a great pain it must be to take a newborn baby in your arms and not be able to tell them the world is safe. Let us not be silent, let us listen, let us act, let us be together. We can each be a symbol of light.”
Dovilė Filmanavičiūtė, an advertising specialist, shared the emotions she felt after seeing a viral video on social networks of a brave unarmed Ukrainian woman who stood in front of Russian soldiers and said, “Guys, put sunflower seeds in your pockets so the flowers will grow from you after you lay down on this land.” According to Filmanavičiūtė, the world’s powers are also slowly waking up. “I hope that our peaceful campaign in Lithuania will awaken Russian women as well. If only our message would reach them,” she said.
Jūratė Juškaitė, director of the Lithuanian Centre for Human Rights, said that it was impossible to enslave Ukrainians and that the most important place to resist Putin’s regime in Moscow. She stressed that about 40% of the Russian population does not support the war against Ukraine. “We have to resist Russian aggression in Vilnius, Berlin, Rome, and New York – but most important of all, in Moscow,” Juškaitė reflected.
Businesswoman and co-owner of the communications agency Olive. Live Communication Agnė Grigaliūnienė thanked the Lithuanian women for being an example of how much can be done when people come together.
“This protest is peaceful but it’s not sweet. It seems that the Russian people will have to choose between living in a toxic state and isolating themselves from the rest of the world, or loudly seeking freedom and peace,” Grigaliūnienė said. “It will take lives, but the other option – the path of silence – sows death on Ukrainian soil every minute. And now, every Russian person is responsible for those deaths.”