Siauliai, Northern Lithuania is a pilgrimage site mainly for believers of Catholic Christianity, but ancient historical origins place crosses in this particular location for hundreds of years, since the lost uprising Wars of Independence of 1831. I’m not a Catholic, but I visited the Hill of Crosses and its memory stays in my heart because it is a sacred pilgrimage of peace and hope.
I walked to the Hill of Crosses in the company of a young woman whose father also committed suicide. We approached the hill from a half-mile distance. There is a commercial aspect to the place near the entrance, a gift shop lets you buy wooden crosses on site, and a paved path had an accordion player to one side, serenading, his case open for donations. So what?
The place wasn’t always commercialized as it is today. Some people still wait their whole lives to make their pilgrimage to this holy site. Pope John Paul II visited in 1993 and declared it a place for hope, peace, love and sacrifice. At least three times during Soviet times, bulldozers came and destroyed the crosses. There was even talk of building a dam to flood the location. Replacements were in place before dawn the next day all three times. People believe in the Holy Spirit. Faith is faith.
It doesn’t matter how much money or punishment goes into a sacred place, it’s alive with love and hope. Despite pain and fear of what happened or what may come again in a country’s lifetime, a holy place counts for healing and release from pain.
My friend and I wrote prayers to our fathers. We walked to a quiet spot near a tree, placed our words under a small stone and prayed. I pray for everyone now and forever, and know my words are in a loving place for all of us.