A Symbol of Resistance


The blissful scenery and calm atmosphere can be deceitful at first glance. The history behind the Hill of Crosses, located in Lithuania, is a mass grave site for those who fell during the rebellion of 1831 against Russian authorities. Outside of the city of Siauliai lies over 100,000 crosses that memorialize the resistance people had against Soviet rule and is considered a sacred place by many. This site is the final resting place for those whose bodies were never found after the rebellion, and it was a way for families to commemorate those lost during this dark time in Lithuanian history. 


Lithuanians and Polish citizens were officially under the Russian Empire in 1795 due to the 3rd partition of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth. By 1831 and 1863, the Lithuanians and Polish attempted to rebel against the Russians but unfortunately failed to restore order. This resulted in numerous casualties and many missing people. Then, the Soviets forbade the Lithuanian and Polish from having a proper burial for their loved ones, so the Hill of Crosses was started to remember those who were lost. 


The Hill of Crosses became a place of prayer and a way for the tragedy not to be forgotten from history. But as time went on and the Soviet Union occupied them from 1944-1990, the soviets took the crosses as a sign of rebellion against the rule; consequentially, they destroyed all of the crosses that once stood proudly on the hill. Although even with the Soviets destroying the site, Lithuanian citizens were not discouraged from walking up to the hill and placing more crosses in its wake despite the risk of being caught. In 1973 the Soviets once again destroyed the crosses that were replaced and started to assign troops to guard the area to make sure no more crosses were placed. This still didn’t deter citizens from placing more crosses during the dead of night. 


By 1991, Lithuania had gained its freedom back, and the hill was crowded with crosses. Pope John Paul ll even visited the site and acknowledged that the Hill of Crosses is a place of hope, peace, love, and sacrifice. To this day, this hill is seen as a monument of faith and culture. The Lithuanians were under Soviet power for several years and witnessed countless tragedies. During that time they also lost their freedom to express their religious beliefs since the Soviets refused to let them practice Catholicism, and had their churches either destroyed or taken away. Most of the time they had to worship and practice their religion in secret.


The location doesn’t belong to anyone but is open for anyone to visit. This historical site has witnessed tragedy, oppression and death but was also there when the Lithuanians were liberated after being under the reign of the Soviet Union. It will forever be seen as a symbol of resistance and peace among those whose lives were affected by the events of the rebellion.