Speech by Vytautas Landsbergis, first Head of State of Independent Lithuania, President of the Supreme Council – Reconstituent Seimas, and Signatory to the Act of Independence of Lithuania, on the occasion of the Day of Restoration of the Independence of Lithuania.
Congratulations on the 11th of March, fellow citizens. On this day 31 years ago, we, as your representatives, expressing the unanimous will, proclaimed the renewed existence of the Lithuanian State and the exercise of the sovereign rights of its citizens. Most importantly, we restored the right to independently manage our own land. Our country was no longer under foreign rule and no foreign power would control Lithuania any longer. From that day onwards, the government would be in the hands of the people of Lithuania.
We elected our government without any capital either in the East or the West telling us how to vote. We broke free from occupation and yet we still have to escape from another form of captivity called hatred. What has become of our Reform Movement of brotherly people and our country of brothers and sisters? People have to care about their state and the state has to take care of its people.
But what is the state? It is represented by the very same people serving in government institutions and bodies, and, primarily, in Parliament. ‘But for the state, we would end up being a heap of rubbish,’ said the late Reverend Jonas Juraitis, a thinker, patriot and priest, 30 years ago, months after we had just started building our state from scratch. However, there is a spiritual element to the state and it must be cultivated like soil, nurtured, and fostered whatever the weather. By no means should we only exploit our recovered country for our own needs? For our own needs! Let us not forget the name of the sin.
The major problem in Lithuania is that we are constantly confronted with the phenomenon of exploitation. Having become masters and users of our country, we have ultimately started behaving like conquerors of our own land or that of our ancestors. However, new conquerors may soon come to overpower your and your children’s right by a bigger fist, heavier tool or mightier bomb. Or conquer you because of your own stupidity.
The Holy Bible relates the story of Esau, a first-born son, who sold his birthright for a bowl of lentil stew. On many occasions, we have similarly witnessed offers to give up Lithuania for a bowl of lentil stew in the form of a communist or a capitalist hoax. So let us not lose our moral compass to become strangers or estranged. Let us not renounce our identity while wishing to be tearfully referred to as modern deportees. Let us not give in to this pandemic. Let us be happy about and welcome the compatriots returning to Lithuania after long wandering abroad. Let us build and improve our country on the foundations of justice and love and leave the crooks, liars, and haters in their murky bog.
It is the light and the truth that must guide Lithuania. Or so our national anthem says. Even though we are neither fast nor effective in following upon them. And we do not have much time left as the world order is creaking. Adam Mickiewicz elegantly wrote about his homeland Lithuania 200 years ago: ‘Only he can truly appreciate thy worth who has lost thee’. While the state taking care of its people and people’s selfless ownership of their state remain the ideals we should strive for, the achievement of these ideals depends on each and every one of us.
The concept of ‘this is my country’ should preferably be embraced by as many as possible. Nobody would wish to rob their own country. Yet, do you sincerely take ownership of your country? Or do you think it is the responsibility of some governmental officers? In that case, you are a mere passer-by. Do you care about the course of development of your country and the threats it faces? If not, stop grumbling and asking what the country can do for you, like an idle child scrounging for money from his retired parents. If this is all you can do, stop calling yourself your country’s daughter or son. You are merely part of the population, whatever your passport says.
Since someone restored the independent state on 11 March 1991, everyone thinks they can now draw benefits from statehood and freedom for free. Hence, they may take freedom for granted. Or not. To make sure of this, see if they take care of their own mothers.
Some people wish to be Lithuanian citizens. And yet only one in two citizens exercise their voting rights. I presume their failure to go to the ballot box attests to their willingness to join in our country’s efforts, to contribute to its progress, prosperity, appeal, and joy over having a free Lithuania. Does it really?
I tell you once again: build, embellish, and improve Lithuania. You will then no longer question its ownership. Defend it if you consider it to be yours. Concentrate on your primary objective and do not let the unknown distract you. Let us be the children of Lithuania. Of Lithuania.