In February 2015, a cryptic email reached me from around the globe and across 28 years.
“You have participated in the protest meeting of Ribentrop-Molotov 1939 agreement in Vilnius, August 23, 1987.”
“Do you still keep the tape records of that day?”
I was not a “participant,” but I was at the protest in Vilnius on August 23, 1987, a day etched deep in my reporter’s memory. Yes, I was pretty certain I still had the cassette tape I’d recorded as NPR’s correspondent.
But who would want that tape now? Only a few hundred people had attended the protest. Just a year later, the same anniversary of the pact that led to Soviet annexation of Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia drew tens of thousands, making the 1987 meeting look like not much more than a backyard gathering. And from 1988 on, the numbers kept swelling until, by March 1990, it seemed as though most of the republic’s nearly four million people were in the streets supporting the vote by Lithuania’s Parliament to declare independence—the first republic to formally challenge Soviet rule.