Seimas solemnly commemorated the Day of the Defenders of Freedom of Lithuania
Press release, 13 January 2018
Photos of the Office of the Seimas (author Olga Posaškova)
On Saturday, 13 January 2018, the Hall of the Act of 11 March of the Seimas hosted a solemn commemoration dedicated to the 27th anniversary of the Day of the Defenders of Freedom and award ceremony of the Freedom Prize.
Viktoras Pranckietis, Speaker of the Seimas, addressed the solemn sitting by emphasising that the people – men, women and children – who stood in defence of Lithuania’s freedom on the bloody night of the 13th of January, were courageous and stayed true to their values.
“There was fear. But there was no selfishness. We are free today because of their sacrifice and determination. Hunger for freedom should continue to spread further and reach the hearts and minds of people who were either already born on a free land or who came to a free land. There is no other society that could give you more but the one that is built on freedom and democracy,” Viktoras Pranckietis said.
Archbishop Paul Richard Gallagher, Secretary for Relations with States within the Holy See’s Secretariat of State, who also took the floor at the solemn commemoration, recalled that two days before the tragic events, Pope John Paul II sent a telegram to Cardinal Vincentas Sladkevičius to express his solidarity with the Lithuanian people. “Following the deaths in Vilnius, the Pope, in his Angelus address on the following Sunday, publically expressed his concern, assuring the people of Lithuania that he was suffering and praying with them,” the Archbishop said. The Archbishop noted that the commemoration was intended to celebrate freedom and recall the defenders of freedom. “They remind us that we must work hard to preserve freedom. […] True freedom is not a licence to do what we like, but it gives us the possibility of working for the good, including the good of individuals and of society as a whole,” he said
Paul Richard Gallagher
Romualds Ražuks, Chairman of the Popular Front of Latvia in 1990–1992, Member of the Saeima of the Republic of Latvia, and member of the Presidium of the Baltic Assembly, stressed that the events of January 1991 had once again bound closely the destinies of the Lithuanian and Latvian people. “The January events in Vilnius allowed us time to get ready to defend Riga and prevent an unexpected attack by the enemy. As early as on 20 January 1991, the Ministry of the Interior in Riga suffered similar bloody events, thus demonstrating once again to the rest of the world what a possible the reaction by Moscow might look like. This must have helped Lithuania to withstand Moscow’s pressure,” he said.
Archbishop Emeritus Sigitas Tamkevičius, a political prisoner, initiator and publisher of the Chronicle of the Catholic Church of Lithuania and winner of the Freedom Prize 2013, emphasised that Lithuania would survive as long as there were people who cared not only about a satisfying life and personal gains. In response to the national initiative Idea for Lithuania, dedicated to commemorate the Centenary of the Restoration of the State, the Archbishop proposed his own idea. “I invite all people of Lithuania, who are not indifferent as to whether our country becomes more abandoned or prosperous, to be on watch and guard the four pillars, i.e. God, homeland, family and morality. If these four pillars remain solid, we will manage to respond to all current challenges, including emigration. If we disregard them, then all the most beautiful ideas will remain but ideas and will not yield any expected results,” he outlined.
Justina Lukaševičiūtė, a scout, used the opportunity to thank, on behalf of the younger generation, the defenders of Lithuania’s freedom: “Today I am expressing my gratitude to you, brothers and sisters, people who stood there on those days, who do not forget and keep coming here year on year to stand by the bonfires and be a reminder to others. Thank you for preserving this freedom, for bringing and transferring it to us, the younger generation, so that we could cherish and foster the eternal freedom and carry it, like an eternal flame, to other generations,” she said.
At the TV Tower and the building of the Lithuanian Radio and Television Committee, the night of the 13th of January 1991 claimed the lives of Loreta Asanavičiūtė, Virginijus Druskis, Darius Gerbutavičius, Rolandas Jankauskas, Rimantas Juknevičius, Alvydas Kanapinskas, Algimantas Petras Kavoliukas, Vidas Maciulevičius, Titas Masiulis, Alvydas Matulka, Apolinaras Juozas Povilaitis, Ignas Šimulionis, and Vytautas Vaitkus were lost. Later that February and April, Vytautas Koncevičius and Stasys Mačiulskas died due to sustained injuries.
Saulė Eglė Trembo, Press office, Information and Communication Department, tel. + 370 5 239 6203, e-mail: [email protected]