Euronews has paid a visit to a divided village on the border between Lithuania and Belarus, dubbed the frontier between the European Union and Europe’s last dictatorship.
Lithuania will host the so-called Eastern Partnership summit later this month and Belarus is on the guest list.
The meeting aims to strengthen the relationship between Brussels and a number of former Soviet states. But locals, such as Stanislav, in the Lithuanian villages of Norviliškės still daydream about the USSR era.
He told euronews that life was better before his country joined the European Union. His aunt, Yanina, lives in the village of Pitskuny, across the border in Belarus.
They only see each other three times a year when visa requirements are temporarily lifted. Unemployment estimates range from 30 to 25 percent on the Lithuanian side; twice the national average. And the villagers cannot afford to pay up to the 200 euro fee for a year-long Belarus visa.
«We believe that it is necessary to reduce a little bit the price of these visas,» said village councillor Ceslava Marcinkevic.
But as yet there has been no such agreement. Not to mention talk of a visa free regime for the people living here. Leokadia Gordievich did not see her husband for five years when he found a job in Belarus.
«It takes the whole day to make the trip. You know how to wait at customs for six or eight hours? Well, my husband said he wouldn’t do it anymore,» she told euronews.
The tough border controls remain in place, even for those who want to go and mourn long-lost loved ones. The main cemetery is on the Lithuanian side, but the only crossing is hundreds of kilometres away.