Address by President Gitanas Nausėda on the occasion of the 30th anniversary of the reestablishment of Lithuanian independence
Dear Citizens of the Independent Republic of Lithuania,
Dear Guests and Participants of the Celebration,
It was thirty years ago here – in the very heart of Lithuania – that thousands of Lithuanian citizens waited for national independence to be reestablished. And even though there were several hours to go before the state would be restored de jure, all of us in Independence Square and thousands of thousands of others glued to their TV and radio sets felt like true citizens of the Independent Republic of Lithuania.
We did not yet have passports of the Republic of Lithuania. We had just restored the name of our state and its coat of arms. But in our hearts, we already lived in a sovereign Lithuania.
The state of Lithuania had been occupied, but the spirit of citizens of an independent republic was always there. From partisan fights to the Helsinki Group, from the Lithuanian Freedom League, the Chronicle of the Catholic Church to new green movements – Lithuania has never lacked people who embraced and defended freedom and fought for independence ideals. Their sacrifice, courage and resolve were behind the drive that changed history.
When we remember the year 1990, the first thing that comes to our mind is unity. We had one idea, one desire and one Sąjūdis that permeated the whole of Lithuania. Unity was the force that broke the empire.
The signatories of the Act of the Reestablishment of Independence were different people with different experiences and different outlooks. But they were united by one vision – the idea of independent Lithuania – for the ultimate life decision.
Can Lithuania anticipate such complete unity today? Do we have a vision that could bring people of different political perspectives together? Do we have an idea that would urge us all to create, not demolish?
It is my strong hope that the idea of a welfare state – built on commitment, justice and solidarity – would become such an all-unifying creative force. A force that would protect and strengthen the Independent Republic of Lithuania. A force that would help to resolve longstanding problems of social and regional exclusion. A force that would give a powerful impetus to a breakthrough in education, economy and environmental protection.
Trust. This is yet another word that I think about when speaking about 1990. The people expressed their trust as they elected the Supreme Council and placed their overwhelming desire for national independence in its hands. And that trust was never betrayed.
President Vytautas Landsbergis – and I did not make a mistake here because president is the word that best reflects his accomplishments as head of state – was the person whose leadership thirty years ago was integral to the rebirth of independent Lithuania. It is very sad that from now on Vytautas Landsbergis will be also filled with a feeling of great personal loss on March 11. Sincere condolences, Mr. President. Rest in peace, Gražina Landsbergienė. You will always be an inseparable part of our independence.
Love. Yesterday, during a meeting with the signatories held at the Presidential Palace, we spoke about its opposite: lack of love that chips away at people and society from within. I recalled the movie “Loveless” that tells about an estranged couple and how their bitterness and hostility against each other plunges their son into lovelessness. Like a ball, it keeps rolling down through bleak housing districts that have turned grey from pointless indifference. Is that not the reality we wanted to escape from? Did we escape it? Or are we quietly turning back, even though in an independent state?
Our Lithuania is as beautiful as much love it was given when created. It is as unattractive as much hate it had to confront. And it does not matter if hate is molded by the loss of direction, by political competition or by mere fatigue. Hate is nothing more than anger against another person, a tree or surroundings. It is always destructive. “May love of Lithuania burn in our hearts” – these words are from the national anthem. They testify to nothing else but patriotism – yet another word that we have somehow silently expelled from our vocabulary.
Patriotism – like a tree – grows from the bottom up: from love of your family, street, town, and homeland. It eventually matures to embrace love for humankind.
Let us not be afraid of being true patriots of our country! Let us inscribe March 11, 1990 in our hearts as the Day of Unity, Trust and Love. The day that Lithuania was reborn to become a strong and fair nation of freedom loving and freedom fighting citizens.
Let us celebrate freedom!