EVS Volunteer Arnold: My first impressions in Vilnius

It has already been five weeks since my arrival in Vilnius. In the meantime, I acclimatised to the seemingly unwelcoming Lithuanian atmosphere and I am gradually getting used to the myriad of unsmiling and unfriendly faces in the streets and shops. I would even say I feel comfortable calling the piece of socialist architecture where I live „my home”. Even though it is relatively easy to get along with English, I still face some language barrier. However, I am always happy to use my non-existent Lithuanian knowledge. Thus, the first word I have ever used in a conversation was „humusas” as I was trying to find it in Lidl. Though I soon realized that one should go to Rimi for real hummus. I am also on the right track to find everything that would make my life complete: I already found authentic Middle Eastern food and Fritz Kola!

In the midst of Lithuanian post-soviet reality, LGL’s office serves as a shelter full of rainbows. Thus, the saying “you can’t have a rainbow without a little rain” seems to be rather relevant to my current situation. For now, my everyday life is concentrated mainly on my work at LGL and on my studies (since I am taking my finals at the end of this month). In the past few weeks I tried to familiarise myself with LGL’s work, main activities and upcoming projects. I am also trying to find out more about the human rights situation of LGBT+ people in Lithuania. Thus far, it seems to me that the Romanian and Lithuanian LGBT+ communities face the same social and legal obstacles. Even though we’ve been experiencing an increasing visibility over the past few years, social stigma and internalized homophobia still remain an all-too frequent reality. Moreover, attempts to legally recognise same-sex unions face fierce opposition in both countries.

So far, I haven’t had time to discover Vilnius and its surroundings since I am preparing for my final exams. However, from February onwards, I wish to immerse myself into Lithuania’s fascinating Polish and Jewish culture and life!

ErasmusLGL is carrying out the 10-month project “Disappearing Borders: Empowering LGBT Community and Allies In Lithuania” under the Erasmus+ program EVS (European Voluntary Service).