On August 23 1989, more than a million Estonians, Latvians and Lithuanians defied the Soviet authorities to link hands in an unbroken human chain that stretched from Vilnius to Tallinn via Riga and call for the restoration of their countries' independence which had been shattered by the secret agreements of the infamous Molotov-Ribbentrop pact signed exactly 50 years earlier.
On July 14, Aivars Noviks-Grasis, a 37 year old carpenter originally from the central Latvian town of Cesis set out from Vilnius' famous Gediminas Square on what called his own personal Baltic Way “pilgrimage”.
Having taken up distance running three years ago and participated in several marathons, Noviks-Grasis decided to set himself a new challenge by walking the route of the Baltic Way – nearly 700 kilometers – at a rate of 50 kilometers a day, spending 10 hours a day walking.
“I chose the Baltic Way for my pilgrimage. At the time I didn't take part because I was just a young boy and didn't understand. But now I can find out about it and participate in it for myself,” Aivars said.
Speaking via telephone to LTV after completing his first day's walking on Monday, he said he was making good progress.
“It's a fast pace. Keep moving forward. Normal roads. I thought it would be more dangerous than it is. Everything will depend on staying healthy, but I'm hopeful of completing the route,” he added.
Along the way, Aivars hopes to meet some of the people who participated in the Baltic Way and to hear their memories, but this is no highly-organised corporate expedition that seeks to grab headlines despite having the support of a UNESCO project called “Baltic Way Stories” – even his accommodation along the way remains sketchy, though he says he is taking a sleeping bag in case he is forced to rough it.