Dear Fellow People of Lithuania,
Each year, on February 16, we decorate the country with national tricolors that symbolize revival, unity, and unwavering hope. As spring approaches and nature comes back to life, we share the spirit of freedom with each other.
Every time that we celebrate the Day of the Restoration of the State of Lithuania, we travel in our minds from the past through the present to the future which we have to create and pass on to new generations like the Lithuania of February 16 was handed down to us.
This year has been different in many aspects. The pandemic brought severe challenges and painful loss of life, it closed national borders and roadways, cancelled mass events, and left us longing for close direct contacts.
However, I believe that we will get through it – like those who, despite everything, delivered the vision of national independence in the turmoil of brutal wars and dangerous epidemics 103 years ago.
Today we can draw strength from the men and women who created Lithuania and defended it bravely, instilled love of Homeland in their children and paved the way for the next national revival – March 11.
When speaking about volunteers who fought in the Lithuanian Wars of Independence, the late historian professor Edvardas Gudavičius said that he would not exchange a single volunteer for all the grand dukes.
We know perfectly well that for the Lithuania of February 16 to be born and survive, the ideas spread by a handful of educators and the signatories of the Act of Independence had to take root in society. The rising house of the nation – our common home – would have collapsed quickly if not for the civic force that was awaked just in time, if not for the first volunteers, public servants, rural and town communities who made nation-building their personal ambition.
It is not easy for us today, just like it was not easy a century ago. Future historians will assess the existential challenges faced by our nation in 2020 and 2021, and how much volunteering and self-sacrifice meant to us.
I believe they will say that Lithuania overcame the crisis stoically, patiently and with dignity as it has done many times throughout history.
We live in an atmosphere of uncertainty where it is easy to slip or become hostile. We are tired of restrictions and sometimes we want to blame everybody around. For not doing enough. For doing too much. For doing it the wrong way.
But those who try to solve problems will not avoid making mistakes. Before raising the sword against each other, let us stop and think: In the name of what? Certainly, not in the name of Lithuania!
A hundred or maybe just a few years on, no one will even remember short-lived disagreements. So, do we really want to continue spinning in the wheel of fruitless political brawls at a time of critical importance for the nation? The simple truth – which is sometimes difficult to see – is that we move forward to the extent of our determination to work together. And today, when we need to take critical steps, we need that patience, dedication, and unity more than ever before.
May the restored state of Lithuania prosper and grow stronger! On this special day in history, let us rise in our dreams and deeds and be worthy of it. Happy February 16 to all of you!