During the Cold War, more than 300 civil defence shelters (also known as bunkers, vaults, fallout shelters) were built underground in Soviet Vilnius to protect residents from chemical, biological and nuclear attack, air bombardment and other threats.
These structures made of reinforced concrete were not only isolated from the outside world, but supplied with the equipment necessary for survival: filtered air, food, medical supplies, measurement devices and even items for recreational activities.
After the collapse of the USSR, most of the shelters in Vilnius were sold, reconstructed, demolished or fell into disrepair. Some of the shelters still exist, but are inaccessible to the public. To preserve an intriguing and authentic relic of a bygone era, VšĮ Gatvės gyvos (Streets Alive) purchased a shelter that had belonged to the company Lietuvos automatika (in Soviet years called Vilniaus montavimo SZMA valdyba) in the Naujamiestis neighbourhood.
We invite anybody with an interest in not-so-obvious history to join us on a tour, during which you see under what conditions residents would have lived in case of nuclear war, you try on a chemical protective suit and gas mask, with your own hands you turn on the ventilation mechanisms and you open airtight doors weighing hundreds of kilograms.