How much does it cost to restore a church? To clear out all the damage done after decades of neglect and use as storage space? To investigate the frescos hidden underneath white paint, to replace marble with just the right kind of marble, to fix statues so they don’t look brand new but do not miss a nose or limbs?
How much does it cost to restore all forty churches of Vilnius to their former, pre-Soviet glory? Who is the kind benefactor with so much wealth to give away? And why is it, beyond the restoration of a few monumental churches, not used to the benefit of the people outside of the beautiful bubble of Vilnius? To those who could not afford lunch in the idyllic, clean old town?
And yet, if there were no beauty there would be no tourism, and no steady income to develop a country further. Fighting poverty is hard. According to the World Bank, Lithuania is doing good on international poverty scale, but according to national statistics, almost 20% of the population is at risk for poverty in the future.
So many difficult questions for a sunny spring day. Each country picks its own battles, just like each one of us does. And today is not a day for battle, but a day to live and learn about this pretty city. I may sneak into another gorgeous church just about now.
(Vilnius, Lithuania; April 2014)