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Address by Ingrida Šimonytė, Prime Minister, in Independence Square at the commemoration of January 13, the Day of the Defenders of Freedom, and the Freedom Prize Award Ceremony

Date

2022 01 13

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Address by Ingrida Šimonytė, Prime Minister, in Independence Square at the commemoration of January 13, the Day of the Defenders of Freedom, and the Freedom Prize Award Ceremony

Distinguished Heads of State,
Dear guests,
Dear people of Lithuania,

As an adolescent, I was part of the crowd in this square 31 years ago. Full of youthful courage and nonchalance, I was then old enough to understand that 11 March 1990 was the biggest gift one can get in a lifetime, but too young to grasp the size of responsibility shouldered by the Members of Parliament and the Head of State of the time. Blissfully unaware was I of the heavy burden attached to freedom, as heavy as the wreath of flowers I carried from the Palace of Concerts and Sports to the Antakalnis Cemetery in the mourning march to commemorate the victims who perished on 13 January 1991.

Young as I was back then, I really could not fathom how much courage and determination one needed to oppose blunt force face to face. Neither could I comprehend that all the strength needed for the effort is available if you stand for something that is more than you yourself — for freedom, for the truth, for your state and for your faith.

And most importantly, for commitment. Commitment to others from the past generations and generations to come. This is true freedom.

Underscoring the importance of the Act of the Reestablishment of the State of Lithuania, the Day of the Defenders of Freedom confirms that the content of the Act is valid, meaningful and precious.

Today, we continue focusing on state-building and reinforcement; we continue addressing the emerging challenges and threats. At the same time, we must always remember the high price tinted with blood shed for the restoration of Lithuania’s independence. All hardships put aside, our independence can be compared to a white bird from a Lithuanian popular song: a bird that keeps singing as it flies above our heads and that will continue singing no matter what. Therefore, even though we are paying tribute to the dead today, it still remains to be a bright and happy day full of light.

When it comes to fighting for freedom, every generation has its own challenges to overcome. This refers to the Signatories to the Act of Independence, the people vested with the powers to establish the institutions of a free state, the post-war partisans, the Soviet dissidents, the representatives of the Sąjūdis Reform Movement, the people who stood shoulder to shoulder as human barricades during the events of 13 January 1991, the doctors fighting COVID-19, the border guards who go through daily tensions, other officials, and, finally, the young people who are learning and paving the way for others to learn living in a world of differences.

Notably, at all times, the real freedom is about self-sacrifice for the sake of others, rather than an effort to showcase the signs of merit or an egoistic pursuit of benefits. Other than blind denial, or a desire to rebel and create havoc, the freedom cause is a fight for what is important and for the things you are committed to. Because freedom always stands for creation rather than destruction.

And the fact that you can barrack at the moment is also part of the freedom that has been won...
The Day of the Defenders of Freedom reminds us of a very important victory. It is a day of hope, determination and inspiration to never give up in the fight for freedom. Therefore, I want to congratulate the people of Lithuania all over the world and express the hope that the traditional January bonfires will give us strength and inspire us with pride in our homeland that will never stop burning in our hearts.