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Ingrida Šimonytė: Freedom and Independence are not a gift taken for granted

<strong>Ingrida Šimonytė: Freedom and Independence are not a gift taken for granted</strong>

On 16 February Lithuania celebrates State Restoration Day. On 16 February 1918, the Council of Lithuania proclaimed the Act that legally restored the Lithuanian State. This was done on the basis of the right of self-determination of the peoples, the will of the Lithuanian nation and a resolution of the Lithuanian Conference. The Act was signed in Vilnius, in the premises of the Lithuanian Society for the Relief of Victims of War (Didžioji st. 30, now Pilies st. 26, Signataru namai). The Act, read out by Jonas Basanavičius, who chaired the meeting of the Lithuanian Council, was adopted unanimously. It is a conceptual, laconic document – just 122 words – of long-held hopes, with no promise of material goods.

The implementation of the Act of February 16th was conditioned by a favourable international situation – the disintegration of the Russian Empire, the clear defeat of Germany in the war and the universal recognition of the right of peoples to statehood.

“At that time, the founders of the Republic of Lithuania were united by a powerful force – the idea of an independent state. The feat of 1918 saved us from the oblivion of history and proved to the whole world that this land is inhabited by courageous and homeland-loving people,” said Prime Minister Ingrida Šimonytė in her greetings on the occasion of February 16.

The truth of February 16th brought together the people of Lithuania from different nations to build their own state, opening up extraordinary opportunities for the future. The state began to exchange ideas, discuss the importance of democratic values and civil liberties, and the advantages of a parliamentary republic. 

Neither the subsequent deportations and killings, nor the collaboration of some of the weak, diminished the basic idea that was smouldering in the nation’s consciousness – Lithuania will be free. The love of the Fatherland and the aspiration to live in a free country created a tremendous power of unity. This powerful force led us to become an independent state again on 11 March. Today we are proud to be equal members of all the world’s most powerful alliances and to build a modern, prosperous Lithuania.

“This year, Lithuania’s State Restoration Day almost coincides with the anniversary of Russia’s brutal war against Ukraine. This is a clear testimony that terrible imperial ambitions are just around the corner, and that freedom and independence are not a gift taken for granted – we must preserve and defend these fundamental values with all our might. Only the unity of the democratic powers of the whole world can ensure victory over the aggressors,” reads Prime Minister’s message of greetings.