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Jolita Vaitkutė: Embracing Lithuania’s EU Anniversary with Joy and Pride

Jolita Vaitkutė: Embracing Lithuania’s EU Anniversary with Joy and Pride

On May 1st, Lithuania will celebrate the 20th anniversary of its membership in the European Union. Jolita Vaitkutė, a 28-year-old artist known not only in Lithuania but around the world for her exceptional talent, expresses overwhelming joy for this anniversary. She believes that for people of her generation, Lithuania has opened up boundless opportunities to create and participate actively in the life of the country.

Photo – Yuu Murata

When asked how she welcomes the 20th anniversary of Lithuania’s EU membership, Jolita shares that her primary and most profound emotion is the joy of being involved in significant national events. “I have always been civic-minded, engaged in youth organizations since my earliest memories, and I cannot imagine being passive,” Jolita explains.

She cherishes vivid childhood memories of the stories told about the Baltic Way and the events of January 13th, stating, “These stories, told by my teachers and commemorated every year, have profoundly shaped me as a person.”

Jolita acknowledges that President Valdas Adamkus significantly influenced her growth and maturity. “His belief that politics can be constructive and that we can have constructive discussions despite differing views resonated deeply with me. It inspired me to engage actively in state politics and not remain on the sidelines,” she says.

Jolita was nine years old when Lithuania joined NATO and the EU, making these past 20 years a significant portion of her life. “Reflecting on Lithuania’s path and progress brings strong and overwhelming emotions. Many of the globally recognized projects I’ve created were developed during this period. Our freedom to move without restrictions has allowed my work to reach an international audience, and I am delighted that my art contributes to the celebrations of Lithuania’s EU membership,” Jolita adds.

Discussing the changes over the past two decades, Jolita notes, “I have traveled extensively, including to countries still trying joining the EU. Each time I return, I relish the feeling of ‘It’s good to be back!’ The most significant change is in our mindset—we have become freer. My generation does not remember the painful past of occupation; our borders have opened in every sense, providing us with opportunities that we are ready to embrace. I am pleased to see a decrease in passivity and how even the older generation has embraced the benefits of EU membership, learning to communicate, solve problems, and listen effectively. This newfound freedom of thought is why we have achieved and created so much.”

According to the latest Eurobarometer, 91% of Lithuanians believe that EU membership has been beneficial for the country. Jolita sees this as proof that people are seizing these new opportunities. “We can gauge the quality of life improvements by looking at the opportunities now available to the senior generation. Most are positive, adapted to new living conditions, and proactive. They communicate, access information online, and engage in community activities. Whether in Prienai, Elektrėnai, or Nida, I see a consistent curiosity and interest in art and personal growth. I admire these life-changing efforts,” she observes.

Asked about the possibility of living or creating in another country, Jolita feels no constraints in Lithuania and has no plans to move. She enjoys traveling abroad for internships, noting, “I can fly anywhere; it’s just a matter of flight time. Vilnius is perfectly sized and always welcoming when I return. I consider myself fortunate to have a studio in the heart of Vilnius, a luxury many artists abroad might not afford.”

Looking to the future, Jolita expresses optimism: “I hope that the next 20 years will be as progressive as the last. We have created and grown so much; we are indeed on a good path.”