By Beata Bruggeman-Sekowska
Born and spending my childhood and teenage years in occupied by totalitarian communist system Poland I have been researching the subject of communist oppression, communist rule and visiting many places related to it for my various publications both for the European Institute on Communist Oppression as well as for my Central and Eastern Europe Center platform.
This year one of my destinations was Elektrėnai in Lithuania. A purpose built town for power plant workers whose lives were also purpose designed by communists. A communist party decided where they worked, how they lived and what they were allowed to do in their free time.
Elektrėnai is a town located just between Vilnius (about 50 km from) and Kaunas (about 40 km from). It has 11,000 inhabitants and since 2000 it has been the capital of the Elektrėnai Municipality. (25,520 inhabitants). On February16 February 1959 the Council of Ministers of the Lithuanian SSR formed a state commission who had to choose the location for a new 1800 MW thermal power plant and the location between two biggest Lithuanian cities was their choice. Elektrėnai was a Soviet purpose built town for the workers of the power plant like for example Pripyat, which was home for workers of the Czernobyl Nuclear Power plant.
To start the creation of the town in 1961 several villages were flooded and a cooling reservoir, artificial lake was formed in order to cool down the nearby power plant. In 1962 the new town received its name, Elektrėnai, meaning Electricity in Lithuanian. 
Between 1961-1962 the first school was established here, in 1962 the House of Culture and a Sports club ‘’Energija’’ were formed. Three years later hospital was built and in 1976 another sports facility was created in this little town, namely an Ice palace. The library was built after the communist times, the workers had to be fit and not well-read.
When we entered the town I had a feeling as if time stopped. Soviet-era panel-block cement apartments for the workers of the energy plant dominated the landscape. The city project was carried out in the 60s by two architects B.Kasparavičienė and K.Bučas. As in communist times projects had to be functional, quick and cheap therefore the appartments in Elektrėnai as in many Soviet towns were built from panels which were in big numbers brought to the building sites and installed. They had a minimalistic decoration in the form of electric bolt motifs.
The power plant chimney and a monument situated in the middle of the roundabout erected in 1975 and entitled Anthem for Work also cannot be missed. Anthem for Work is high, with three spikes and wave formed energy bursts on top of them. At the roundabout you can see also the coat of arms given to the city in 1961. It depicts a stylized lightning bolt and two eight-pointed stars, which symbolize the new city of Elektrėnai and the disappeared old villages.
The Ice palace of Elektrėnai designed by the architects A. Juseviciene and A. Domarackas is situated near the banks of the artificial lake. It was the first indoor profesionally equipped skating rink winter sports arena, with capacities of 2000 seats in Lithuania.
Sport played an important role in communism and was incorporated in the life of the workers. They were for example expected to pursue various exercises during the working hours to increase the level of the productivity. Soviet athletes were equivalents of super-heroes like Batman or Spiderman. Posters presenting them as national heroes were supposed to influence others to work harder, train harder, to make the Soviet state proud of them.
But what I wanted to visit most was the Soviet standards amusement park ‘Children’s World’ (‘Vaikų Pasaulis’), which was launched in 1986. It is is situated next to the artificial lake, near the forest. It had Soviet Ferris wheel, the carousel and spinning rocket ride. All of them are gone now. You can still find there an eye-catching rollercoaster with an English sign “Jet Star 2.”
As the Exutopia article mentions, according to local sources, the English sign was added after the collapse of the communist system to persuade visitors that they were safe on the rollercoaster as it was Western, and not cheap and flawed Soviet technology. The amusement park was closed in 2013 as it did not meet the safety requirements. Next to the amusement park the public park, skate park and amphitheater have been developed recently.
Walking around the town you will be struck by the contrast between the Soviet, brutalist, plain architecture and The Church of the Blessed Mary Queen of Martyrs. This church was designed by architect Henrikas Šilgalis, and constructed after the fall of the communist times between 1990-96. In the communist times religion was forbidden and churches in the Soviet Union were closed. The architects had to create functional buildings so there is no surprise that after the fall of the system they could finally release their original architectonic dreams what you can see back in the design of the church. It has six pillars, double crosses and high arch that form the facade and represent the seventh centenary of the Christianization of Lithuania. The interior apse is decorated with the sculpture of the Resurrected Christ made by S. Kuzma.
Elektrėnai is definitely worth visiting when you are in Lithuania. You can follow the path of Soviet workers, from their cheaply built en masse cement houses, to the local energy plant, its chimney and installations, visit the Ice palace, see the monument Anthem for Work and finally visit the rests of the amusement park. People lived there not their own lives but the lives directed by the communists and defined by the limitation of this oppressive system.
Article was first published by Central and Eastern Europe Center Communications-Unlimited.nl and has been republished with permission. All photos are copyrighted by Central and Eastern Europe Center.
 It is worth mentioning that the power plant is still operating. It is related to the fact that one of the conditions of joining the EU by Lithuania was closing the largest power plant in the Baltic States Ignalina Nuclear Power Plant. It had the same type Soviet-built RBMK reactor which had malfunctioned at the Chernobyl NPP. After closing Ignalina Nuclear Power Plant Elektrėnai Power Plant became a vital source for domestic electricity.
 It is the home arena of Elektrėnai’s own ice hockey team: SC Energija. It is interesting to add that two national hockey league players Darius Kasparaitis and Dainius Zubrus were born in Elektrėnai and many players of the national ice hockey team come from here.