How Baltic Activism Stays Alive Today
When written Lithuanian publications were banned, activists fought back by building underground homeschools to preserve their cherished language.
When the Soviets forced deportations and murdered citizens, dissidents like Lidija Doronina-Lasmane fought back by delivering medication to partisans and by distributing anti-Soviet literature.
When Estonia was the first country ever to be the victim of a coordinated national cyberattack, Estonians fought back and developed a world-class cybersecurity infrastructure.
When threats evolve, Baltic activism evolves with it.
Today, despite independence and a participation in NATO, the Baltic nations continue to face threats through the forms of military force, energy dominance, and communications infrastructures. Baltic activism meets this challenge. Recently, Baltic-Americans continued to fight back against these threats by advocating Congress through Virtual Baltic Advocacy Week (BAW – because everyone know it’s not really a true political event unless there’s an acronym).
Starting in 2018, under the umbrella of the Joint Baltic American National Committee (JBANC), the first Baltic Advocacy Day was held. In 2020, the organizing team had hoped to plan another Baltic Advocacy Day, but then a global pandemic hit. The need for advocacy was still important, so in true Baltic-activism fashion, the evolution continued, and the D.C. Baltic Advocacy Day would become a Virtual Baltic Advocacy Week.
The week was a chance for Baltic activists (Baltivists – if you will?) to have a face-to-face meeting with a staff member from one of their members of Congress. For many, it was their first time doing anything like this, and the organizers wanted to keep it open to anyone who simply cares about the Baltics – no matter what their level of understanding of politics is.
For everyone, participation was worth it. (Literally, everyone who participated in the post-Advocacy Week survey said they’d participate again). As one participant put it:
The most important thing was that we were able to meet. Just a few months before BAW, the Congressional staff we met with had their workplace stormed by an angry mob. One Congressional staffer relayed how the Capitol, which was once a peaceful tribute to American Democracy, was now showing scars with heavily armed guards patrolling the halls.
Still, these Congressional staffers felt that the cause of Baltivists was important enough to set aside time for meetings.
Actually, it wasn’t just the staff who found it important, even members of Congress found it important. That is why Senator Dick Durbin spent the morning of Lithuania’s Independence Day with Baltivists.
Whoah. That’s cool.
The thing is – Baltic issues are bipartisan, so here’s another group that met with Republican Representative from Omaha and newly-inaugurated House Baltic Caucus Chair Don “Bits” Bacon.
No, it wasn’t lost on a single one of us that bacon bits are deeply rooted cultural icons for us. Well played Rep. Bacon, well played.
Thanks for the Tweets and meeting with Lithuanian American Community President Arvydas Urbonavičius too!
Building strong relationships with our Baltic partners @JBANCchatter is critical to confronting Russian efforts to dominate energy resourcing in Europe. We must #StopNordStream2. A Russian energy distribution monopoly will harm Europe, @US_EUCOM and @NATO forces. https://t.co/BjVniTKoEc— Rep. Don Bacon (@RepDonBacon) March 15, 2021
As Co-Chair of the Baltic Security Caucus I will continue to advocate for stronger defense and economic cooperation with our Baltic friends, who are our NATO Allies. Anniversaries like this remind us of the threat the Russians pose. @JBANCchatter https://t.co/YjXoXifXIY— Rep. Don Bacon (@RepDonBacon) March 25, 2021
Pretty neat, huh?
Here’s what other people had to say about their meetings:
To everyone who participated, thank you so much for your participation. Your time and work was important. You made a real difference.