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On the Day of the Defenders of Freedom, the Freedom Prize was awarded to Petras Plumpa, an anti-Soviet resistance activist, and to the European Parliament

Press release, 13 January 2024


On 13 January 2024, at the commemoration of the Day of the Defenders of Freedom at the Seimas, Viktorija Čmilytė-Nielsen, Speaker of the Seimas, awarded the Freedom Prize 2023 to Petras Plumpa, an anti-Soviet resistance activist, publisher and columnist of the underground press, and a former political prisoner; and to Roberta Metsola, President of the European Parliament. 


The Freedom Prize was conferred to Petras Plumpa for his contribution to the struggle for Lithuania’s freedom and independence. The European Parliament was awarded the Prize for the current efforts to consolidate democracy and human rights, for the defence of the right of nations to free self-determination and sovereignty, for the unrelenting efforts towards historical justice, for support to the cause of Lithuania’s freedom and the aspiration of the Soviet-occupied Baltic States towards independence, for the diplomatic assistance to Lithuania after restoring its independence, and for the contribution to EU integration.


Ms Čmilytė-Nielsen congratulated the winners of the Freedom Prize and recalled the resolution adopted by the European Parliament after a lengthy debate on 13 January 1983, confirming that the sovereignty of the occupied Baltic States had not been, and could not be, renounced from the point of view of international law. ‘This resolution was a tremendous political and moral achievement, and the European Parliament became the only international institution of its stature to openly support the liberation aspirations of the Baltic States,’ the Speaker of the Seimas stressed.


According to Ms Čmilytė-Nielsen, following eight years after the tragic events of 13 January 1991, the European Parliament strongly condemned the aggression of the Soviet army. ‘The European Parliament has maintained this strong effort ever since, and its position in consistently supporting Ukraine is particularly significant and deserves the highest praise,’ the Speaker of the Seimas said.

Photo by Ilona Šilenkova, Office of the Seimas


When accepting the Freedom Prize awarded to the European Parliament, Ms Metsola observed that the award did the European Parliament a great honour. She added that the Prize would inspire the European Parliament to stand up for Europe and continue its support of democracy and the self-determination of nations. ‘Today, with you, the European Parliament commemorates the Day of the Defenders of Freedom in Lithuania. In 1990, the year of peaceful anti-Soviet freedom marches in Vilnius, a European Parliament delegation was amongst the first to come to Lithuania’s side,’ the President of the European Parliament said.


Ms Metsola noted that the Day of the Defenders of Freedom symbolised all what was still relevant today: freedom, fearlessness, and foresight. ‘Ukraine is fighting for all this today. So, yes, the European Parliament will live up to the responsibility and the legacy of this Freedom Prize,’ the President of the European Parliament underlined.  

Photo by Ilona Šilenkova, Office of the Seimas


In his acceptance speech, Petras Plumpa, paid particular tribute to thousands of Lithuanian partisans whose bones still lie in the unknown pits of forests and fields. According to Mr Plumpa, the blood of the fallen patriots brightens the souls of the more sensitive fellow Lithuanians, fostering their noble aspirations and desires.


‘Today, the main tribute and respect should be given to those fellow countrymen and women who shed their blood for our land at the TV Tower, in Medininkai, by the Seimas, and elsewhere. No prize can reward their sacrifice and no words can comfort their families. All what remains is to sincerely wish that they rest in peace and that the light of eternal life shines upon them. Let us be grateful not only to those who passed to eternity, but also to those who are fighting a hard and bloody but legitimate battle in Ukraine today for their own freedom and for ours!’ underlined Mr Plumpa.

Photo by Ilona Šilenkova, Office of the Seimas


Paulė Kuzmickienė, Chair of the Freedom Prize Commission of the Seimas, said that at the age of six, Petras Plumpa would bring food to partisans. At the age of twelve, he and his school peers would verbally fight the Communists. At the age of sixteen Mr Plumpa joined an anti-Soviet pupil organization. A year later he established an underground youth organisation demanding freedom for Lithuania and swore to fight for Lithuania’s independence. ‘On the eve of 16 February 1958, a nineteen year old Mr Plumpa hoisted a Lithuanian tricolour flag on the chimney of the Petrašiūnai power plant, being the highest peak, and the tricolour flag flew higher than the flag of the occupying power. As a result, he was sentenced to seven years in a labour camp in Mordovia. Following his release, Mr Plumpa engaged in the anti-Soviet activities again, changed his name, lived underground, disseminated Christian literature, and organised book publishing. He drafted the Memorandum of Lithuanian Catholics, signed by over 17 thousand people, which was forwarded to Leonid Brezhnev. In 1972, Petras Plumpa joined the editorial team of the Chronicle of the Catholic Church in Lithuania. A year later, he was arrested again and sentenced to eight years of labour camp. Petras Plumpa was dubbed by KGB officers “the Chameleon”. While in prison, he was actively engaged in human rights campaigns organised by political prisoners. And yes, that is cool. However, Mr Plumpa himself might explain his lifelong activities in the following way: “I swore an oath, I honoured it, and I did not waver in my position”,’ Ms Kuzmickienė described the winner of the Freedom Prize. 


The Freedom Prize honours individuals and organisations for their achievements in and contribution to the defence of human rights, development of democracy, and promotion of international cooperation for the cause of the self-determination and sovereignty of the nations in Central and Eastern Europe. Follow this link for the previous winners of the Freedom Prize.



Rimas Rudaitis, Adviser, Press Office, Information and Communication Department,

tel. +370 5 209 6132, e-mail: [email protected]


   Last updated on 01/16/2024 15:54
   Monika Kutkaitytė