1940 / 1990

Laisvės avenue during soviet time

Writer Markas Zingeris: for me as a child, Laisvės Avenue (Lithuanian: Laisvės alėja) was both freedom and a promise. Freedom from classes or concerns, and a promise of dreams and exotic places. There was a book store there, in which I bought The Severed Hand by W. Hauff, and a cinema near the city garden, where, when I was about thirteen years old, I got into a night screening of The Magnificent Seven. Seeing the avenue covered in foliage through the gates of my yard was one of the most invigorating feelings ever.
Back in June of 1941, my parents and grandparents agreed to meet at Laisvės Avenue after the war, should fate split them apart. When the war was over, those alive returned here from all the distant places.
Nowadays, I sometimes get the feeling that Laisvės Avenue has anemia. It can be artificially freshened up with international festivals or artistic tricks, but it needs something that cannot be cultivated in a single season – authentic freedom and high culture of residents. (2013)

Sculptor Robertas Antinis: for me Laisvės Avenue is, first and foremost, a historical place. Generally speaking, I always remember various adventures, recognize signs that tell about things that transpired here. Speaking specifically – there are a couple of very memorable events. First of all – the self-immolation of Romas Kalanta and the following Movement (Lithuanian: Sąjūdis). I remember walking down the avenue during the unrest, where there was a living wall of communists and state officers blocking the people’s way. I saw my professor there and think it was a fairly unpleasant moment for both of us, as I did not even greet him – just walked by. Another interesting event was how I had to build a monument for R. Kalanta, even though my father was supposed to do it initially. For me, as a child, the most memorable times were when Laisvės Avenue was not a pedestrian avenue. Sounds unbelievable, when I tell about how barrels of beer used to be delivered to local bars in horse carts. In the years after the war, Laisvės Avenue was completely different. The buses circling around are still very clear in my memories. I remember running out of the house with my father and rushing to the bus station, afraid to be late. I also remember being entertained at the cafe Tulpė and later we would walk outside and get a cab. The driver would ask “where to?”, and we would answer: “just drive around Laisvės Avenue”and all the time the cab driver would just take us in circles between the St. Michael the Archangel's Church and Gertrūdos street; such were the mischiefs of drunken people. Cabs were cheap during the Soviet occupation, but rarely seen. Should people catch one, they were sure to have fun. I also remember the peculiar girl “hunts”, where you would walk down the avenue and talk to girls and before the war, according to my parents, there were a lot of Jews in Kaunas that would sit down on the benches and talk in their language. This way the avenue would get its unique atmosphere. (2013)

Actor Saulius Eduardas Pauliukonis: all the people that were special in some way would meet on Laisvės Avenue. Everything was there. The night bar was here, the Kaunas Drama Theatre was there as well. The small garden near the Musical Theater on Laisvės Avenue was very popular. This avenue is not comparable to others, it was some kind of a symbol. (2013)