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Speaker of the Seimas

Speech by the Speaker of the Seimas International Holocaust Remembrance Day

Photo by Viktorija Chorna, Office of the Seimas


Ladies and gentlemen,


We have just celebrated the 700th anniversary of ‘our city Vilnius‘, as Gediminas, the ruler of Lithuania, once wrote in one of his letters. The same letter, which first proclaimed the name of Vilnius, also invited craftsmen, merchants and all the people of good will who could contribute to the country’s prosperity to come to Lithuania. It also declared religious tolerance.


Soon after, Jews, a nation that lived together with Lithuanians all the subsequent centuries, arrived first to Lithuania and then to Vilnius. The Jews in historical Lithuania built a strong religious cultural tradition of Litvaks, which led to naming Vilnius, one of its key centres, as Jerusalem of the North. The secular Jewish culture in Lithuania also nurtured a number of outstanding personalities in the last century. Some of them have already been brought back to our memory while others are still coming back to us.


It is sometimes said that the Holocaust had wiped away all previous achievements. Indeed, the losses were enormous and difficult to imagine; yet both the Jewish culture and the Jewish community had ultimately survived in Lithuania. This is also confirmed by the fact that we are here now and that we are determined to not leave anything behind.


The Holocaust has become a part of the memory culture and an object of scientific, artistic and moral reflection. This tragedy, which highlights real values as if a magnifying glass, shows how fragile human life is and how unstable life is, as well as how much effort needs to be made to make sure that this horror does not repeat itself.


For three decades, the late professor Irena Veisaitė kept in her archive the poems written during World War II by Matilda Olkinaitė, now a current film protagonist. ‘Matilda wrote in Lithuanian; she, much like me, identified herself with both the Jews and the Lithuanians. She was not only a poetic talent of tragic fate, but also a symbol of the untapped potential to link cultures,’ said Irena Veisaitė, who had herself become a symbol of the possibilities to link cultures.


It is only in our power today to make the most of the positive energy of possibilities that we have accumulated since the times of Grand Duke Gediminas.





   Last updated on 01/27/2023 15:29
   Monika Kutkaitytė