The war on the horizon had been frightening to everyone, but if Lithuania had known what was going to happen to him, his heart would have seized up and died on him.
That, at least, would have been less painful than what was going to happen to him now. Every time he moves one of his joints, he can feel aching sensations raping him from his flesh through to the marrow of his bone. There are ugly bruises spotting his pale flesh- reminders of the world war that has left him in shambles.
They are far preferable of what's to come.
"Lithuania," Russia's voice purrs into his ear as his large hands trail down from his chest to the hem of his shirt. "Why do you look so scared?" He puts his lips right against the shell of Lithuania's ear and Lithuania shudders as he whispers, "We're together again, now. We'll be happy. My boss will please you. I will please you."
The other man moves and he glances into purple eyes. And then there are fingers ghosting over his cheek, his chin being tilted upwards. He feels his lips freezing with frostbite as he is given the coldest kiss he can ever recall.
"Strip," Russia commands. "We need to reacquaint ourselves, yes?"
He’s being foolish, of course. He can’t help it, though.
“No!” Lithuania’s too angry to feel surprised at how scathing his usually-gentle voice is. He doesn’t care, of course. He wants his people back where they belong. Siberia is too cold for the Lithuanians just as Russia’s arms are too cold for him. He doesn’t want to be stripped again–he’ll freeze to death.
“Careful, Lithuania,” Russia says warningly. The tone of his voice contrasts completely with his bright smile and the way his hands are toying around with his precious spigot. “Careful, or I may have to punish you.”
Lithuania exhales through clenched teeth, trying to keep his composure. “That was punishment back then anyway.”
Russia makes a tut-tut noise, as if Lithuania is some ignorant child, raised in the dark ages, and he is about to bless him with knowledge. “Ah, no. I am only trying to become one with you. Why can’t we be comrades?”
He’s fast enough to dodge the spigot, and fast enough to keep out of Russia’s reach while scanning the room for anything to use as a weapon. Nothing is there, though, so he dodges Russia’s arm and flings open the door.
There to greet him is a wall of uniformed men.
“Ah, Lithuania,” the towering man behind him says cheerfully, “have you met Stalin’s police?”
Lithuania closes his tired eyes. He’s allowed to move around more these days than when he used to live with Russia. He now has the freedom of an outfit that is not humiliating. There is no maid’s clothing, not even an apron around his waist. Instead he is in a uniform with his back straight, always looking and alert and attentive. Everyone has to be like that. Everyone has to be productive as Stalin demands it–not for the good of the people, of course. Not even for the good of Russia. It is simply for the good of Russia’s boss.
Yet, Russia, simple the man could sometimes be, attentively obeyed his boss’ orders. Maybe he didn’t have a choice either, Lithuania mused, concern warming up his green eyes briefly.
As quickly as the emotion came, it went. Even if Russia was suffering with the rest of them, he was still the one eyeing Lithuania constantly. He was still the one with the spigot at his hand, the cold metal glinting in the winter’s sun and winking deviously as Lithuania. And he was still the one driving the rest of these men to break them.
“Lithuania,” Russia’s voice suddenly whispers into his ear. Months ago–or was it years ago?–Lithuania would’ve jumped. Today, he only lets out an impatient sigh, so subtle that not even Russia can discern it.
“You are very still. Why are you not working?”
Lithuania wants to roll his eyes. He wants to express the rude wit that he’s picked up from Poland after so many years–of course, he’s not as overt about it as Poland–but he only turns to Russia with a nervous smile. He doesn’t have to act to express the fear that Russia enjoys so much. “I-I’m sorry. I was a little tired–but I’ll work now, of course.”
Russia returns the smile that Lithuania has on his face. His is somehow brighter, naïve amongst all this darkness.
“Very well, then, comrade.”
He walks away, still eyeing Lithuania as Lithuania rolls up his sleeves and prepares himself to work himself to death in this damned camp.
He hates him, of course. How could he not? Lithuania feels his people sinking deeper and deeper into poverty and oppression every day. Yet, a part of him cannot help but feel sorry for Russia–he knows that Russia is just as much of a victim as he is at this point.
“Like, I’m not worried,” Feliks says once he breaks away from Lithuania, licking his lips. Despite his confident tone, he speaks in whispers. “There’s no way that Russia thinks anything is going on. Look at us, Liet. We look like crap. Once we go out there, we’ll feel like crap too. Nothing out of the ordinary.”
“That attitude of yours,” Lithuania says with a deadpan tone he saves just for Feliks, “is really going to get you killed one day.”
Feliks snorts, green eyes closing with brief derision. He tucks away a strand of blond hair, dull and not reminiscent of the once healthy rye fields they used to frequent anymore. That’s as just as well, Lithuania thinks wryly. Those fields are in ruin.
“Less talking,” his best friend suddenly says, “more making out. Russia will start wondering why he hasn’t seen us for so long soon. That guy is, like, such a fucking stalker.”
His lips are chapped and as Lithuania becomes bolder, he can taste blood along with Feliks’ spit. The whole experience is unsavoury, really–somehow, even in the ruin of the Soviet Union, Liet was expecting Feliks to be full of energy and his attitude to be full of recklessness and his lips to be as sweet as they should be.
They aren’t, of course. But it’s still comforting, Lithuania tells himself as pulls Feliks even closer to himself. He needs something different from Russia.
Lithuania breaks off from the kiss suddenly. “We should get out of this broom closet. They never make for good hiding places, you know.” He hesitates for a second before honestly saying, “I always worry that you’re going to get killed here. Be careful.”
Feliks gives another snort, as if he thinks about the ordeal nonchalantly all the time. But then he looks at Lithuania with his infuriating, confident smirk, and suddenly, he’s not Feliks anymore–he’s Poland, the phoenix, the bastard phoenix who never listens to Lithuania’s sensible advice and somehow comes out on top of things.
“Pft, don’t be stupid — I’ll be fine, Liet. Do you know how many times I’ve had to deal with Russia? And I’m still in one piece, aren’t I?”
And Poland had told him: “You’ll be fine, too.”
Lithuania can’t help but doubt his words as he feels a familiar whip greeting his back with welts and stinging feelings.
Dammit, he thinks as he grits his teeth. Somehow, he can’t help but feel angry at Poland’s stupidity and optimism. That dumb bastard.
The whipping relents for a moment, and Lithuania’s jaw unclenches. Panting, he takes the moment to pray for his friend’s safety.
Sometimes, when Lithuania stays quiet, when he is supposed to be sleeping and resting so that he can work as just as hard the next day, he can hear Russia.
Russia talking to his older sister, Russia asking her for advice, Russia walking along the hallways, the police guarding it from the shadows with growling dogs at their side letting him pass by.
“I heard you through the walls,” Lithuania says quietly — out of turn and, thus, out of disrespect, he knows. But he has to try this. “It doesn’t have to be this way.”
The bed creaks as Russia sits on the edge. Lithuania sits up, looking up at him from the darkness. His cheeks have lost their usual chubbiness, he suddenly notes, startled. His appearance doesn’t look so misleadingly innocent anymore either. There had always been times, beforehand, when Russia had chased after dreams of sunflowers and happy people. No more, Lithuania thinks, can he do that. Marx failed him. Lenin failed him. Stalin failed him.
He still hates him, of course.
Russia’s eyes regain their usual coldness beneath his childlike smile. Without the extra fat to his cheeks, his smile looks something like out of a nightmare, an awkward expression on an emaciated face. It is all exaggerated by the gloominess that a winter night brings, by the lighting of a waning moon through steel bars.
“They can hear us through the walls, too, Lithuania,” he says, his purple eyes looking dark blue in the lighting. Suddenly he turns his head toward the window, and the poor light hits his eyes, managing to make them looked crazed somehow. “I wonder if they are watching us.”
“We will give them a show, yes?” Lithuania had been expecting it anyway, but he feels disappointed at the outcome anyway. Russia’s hands tug upwards at his ratty t-shirt as his other hand strokes Lithuania’s disgusting hair–unevenly cut, greasy, in desperate need of a wash. Nevertheless, Russia pulls his hair out of its ponytail and caresses the strands as if they are something precious.
He suddenly pulls back, as if waiting for Lithuania to continue for him. “I expect no resistance from you,” he urges. “Please. Strip.”
There’s no spigot with him, but Lithuania doesn’t take his chances. His back aches and his bones creak along with the bed as he pulls his shirt over his head.
To hell with pity, Lithuania thinks. Since when has Russia ever bothered with pitying him?
Same old scars, Liet thinks. Bruise wasn’t there last Tuesday, though.
Years ago, he had more muscle on him than bone, too, he thinks as he runs a hand over his ribs. They jut out disgustingly beneath his flesh, and Lithuania grimaces as he realizes that he’s starting to look like a skeleton.
It’s startling, he thinks, how badly the glorious communist visions had failed the Russians. But Stalin is long gone. Now, things are finally changing. No more cameras stalking his every motion. No more famine. No more enthralled cults dedicated to a man who ruined entire countries. No more Stalinism.
And Ivan is weaker than ever, weaker than even Toris.
“Aren’t you getting tired of it too?”
Lithuania glances at Estonia, wondering what’s going on in his head. Maybe complete nonsense, from the looks of it–he looks tired, with his formerly neat hair in a mess and his glasses broken, taped together, broken again, the lenses cracked… he should just throw them out.
“I’ve been tired of it for a lot longer than you have,” Lithuania says dryly.
Estonia continues as if he hadn’t heard Lithuania. “This is our chance now. I-if… If we can get our act together, if I can convince Latvia… and I’m sure Latvia would be willing–yes, Latvia is willing.”
Lithuania smiles at Estonia’s excited mumbling. Either he really has been driven insane, or he has some sort of idea more coherent than breaking free of the USSR. Everyone has had that idea–Poland, Hungary, Latvia, Prussia, and Lithuania especially. Nobody is quite sure how to handle things, though. Everyone has the desire for revolution within them, but not the right ideas.
When Estonia gets up and smiles at Lithuania, eyes holding confidence even behind the dirty glasses, he’s convinced that his brother has come up with something, though. Figures that he would be the person to do it.
“I think that very soon, we’ll have to act. Don’t you agree?”
He wants to reply, yes! Of course! but Estonia is already walking away, quietly singing hymns in his native tongue.
“He’s kind of changed, hasn’t he?” Latvia asks, his voice quiet. Estonia glances at him and wonders when he’ll stop copying the pose of a wilting flower–so ready to crumple and rot at oppression.
He reminds himself that Latvia’s stronger than he looks, though. After all, he’s survived… all of this.
“Everyone’s changed,” Estonia says. He can’t help but smile as he continues. “Even you. You’re stuttering less, aren’t you?”
Latvia stiffens and shakes his head, as if the idea’s impossible to believe. “B-but n-not by that much…” He pauses, then, eyes drifting back towards Lithuania’s figure that is facing towards the west–the half of the world that all of them knows is free from this pain they know as the Soviet Union. “I… I can’t b-believe we’re going to do this.”
Estonia pats him gently on the shoulder. “We were going to have to do this someday. We can’t live like this forever. Not even Russia can live like this forever.”
Latvia nods, knowing it’s the truth, but can’t help his shaking anyway. He’s so used to the invisible police, watching their every move, Russia watching their move, Russia starving them, his ruler sucking them dry of all their worth, his people suffering… Latvia can vividly remember when Siberia first greeted him and his brothers with its biting cold and blankets of snow, trying to get them to go to sleep for a chance to kill them. And then there was General Winter, pounding at the thin walls that housed them at the labour camps… always, always, there had been the biting cold.
He stands up suddenly, and he knows he looked like a coward. He’s shivering, of course, and tears are already showing up in his eyes…
Still, Latvia stands up and begins to walk towards Lithuania.
Lithuania closes his eyes. He has not seen Russia in a while. He has not been touched by either Russia’s fingers, or his damn spigot. But his back still aches from old scars, and he doubts that they will ever heal as a normal human’s would. After all, he is a country, and he doesn’t think his people will ever forget about the pain Russia’s inflicted on them.
And as far as he is concerned, Lithuania hates Russia. He does. Maybe one day, for the sake of progress, he’ll be able to drop that hate. But until he and his brothers are free, when Prussia is reunited with West, when Poland has risen once again, when Hungary is able to stand tall and proud, and when even Russia will relent and correct his mistakes, Lithuania will remain resentful.
He swears his nails will draw blood from his palms soon.
Calm down, he tells himself, exhaling slowly. Today is not the day to for such feelings. Today is meant for something above such feelings.
“Lithuania,” Estonia says in a light-hearted tone, drawing him out of his thoughts. “We can’t do this if you have fists like that.”
Laughing, Lithuania lets his hands relax. Estonia’s right. He has to let go of his anger, at least for now.
And as soon as he does, Estonia and Latvia are at his side, their fingers lacing up with his, clutching tightly, and not intent on letting go.
The Baltic Way occurred on August 23, 1989. Two million people across Lithuania, Estonia, and Latvia joined hands to form a human chain to show the world their common history of suffering under Soviet rule.
Just two years later, the Baltic States were considered independent in the eyes of most western countries.