Last Friday, I had the good fortune to make it across the Czech Republic, Poland and Lithuania alive on a 20-hour bus. And I did so just in time to attend the 2nd annual gathering of be2gether, a summer music festival on the Lithuanian-Belarusian border.
Aside from the open-air festival elements (you know – quarter pipes, near nudity, mud wrestling and appearances by bands like Groove Armada, Fishbone and LTJ Bukem), be2gether’s uniqueness hinged on the theme of solidarity between Lithuania, a member of NATO and the European Union since 2004, and its neighbor Belarus, a country notorious for its long-reigning crackpot leader, Alexander Lukashenko (aka, “Europe’s last dictator”).
A strange thing happened at this Lithuania-Belarus lovefest. Although it was held on the grounds of Norviliskes Castle on a hair’s edge of the Lithuanian-Belarusian border, the Belarusians never showed up. Or if they did, they remained eerily silent and kept their flags folded in their trousers.
However, crowds of supporters wishing to show solidarity with Georgia (Republic of Georgia, that is) did. Georgia’s dramatic red crosses flew everywhere: on flag poles, on sticks and shawl-wrapped on the backs of young men and women. Georgian flags, the dominant visual as the sun set over the grounds, vastly outnumbered Lithuanian flags.
Hastily-assembled banners featured politically correct messages like “Putin’s Bastards Go Home.” Custom-made Lithuania-Georgia t-shirts, stickers and pins circulated as a local NGO capitalized on current events. Georgia’s conflict with South Ossetia and Russia struck a chord with Lithuanians who recall when – not so long ago – Lithuania was a reluctant Baltic component of the Soviet Union.
And if you don’t believe any of this, just check out the photo set.