On January 13th, 2021, Lithuania marked the 30th anniversary of the Day of Freedom Defenders to honour the memory of the victims of Soviet military aggression in Vilnius in 1991. On that date the Soviet Union used force to overthrow Lithuania’s legitimate government, which declared the country’s independence on 11 March 1990. The Soviet army attacked Vilnius TV tower, Lithuanian Radio and Television and other strategic infrastructure. During the assault, 14 people were killed and hundreds were injured. These ordinary citizens – the Defenders of Freedom – became a symbol of Lithuania’s victory in fight for freedom.
Last week, the Canadian Lithuanian Youth Association commemorated the 30th anniversary of Lithuania’s Freedom Defenders’ Day. Ahead of time, the Association’s Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/KanadosLietuviuJaunimoSajunga invited friends to create the symbolic blue forget-me-nots used throughout Lithuania to commemorate this important date in its recent history. On January 13, Lithuanian youth gathered in Toronto’s Park Lithuania with blue flowers and Lithuanian flags. After reading the names of those who lost their lives as a result of the Soviet onslaught on January 13, 1991, attendees quietly sang a song to express their solidarity with brothers and sisters throughout Lithuania who also remembered that day.
The Embassy of Lithuania in Ottawa reminded us that Lithuanians use the symbol of forget-me-not flower to show tribute and gratitude to all the victims of January 13, 1991.
To commemorate the 30th anniversary of the Stand for Freedom of all the brave Lithuanian men and women Ambassadors of Latvia and Estonia, representatives of House of Commons and Global Affairs Canada attended the gathering with the display of forget-me-not flowers that was set up next to the Centennial flame on the Parliament Hill in Ottawa. The “meadow”of forget-me-not flowers was also arranged in front of the Heritage Building of Ottawa City Hall.
To mark the January 13th anniversary Lithuanians in Canada also joined the annual civic campaign “Memory is Alive through Testimony”. Each year in the morning hours of January 13th Lithuanians around the world light the candles honouring the freedom defenders who died in 1991. The lit candles symbolize the Freedom Defenders’ fires that were put up next to the Parliament of Lithuania in 1991, the light of defended Freedom, victory against brutal force, and the memory of the victims. Embassy of Lithuania to Canada joined the campaign as well.
The Embassy also invited Lithuanian Canadians to join the virtual run (walk)
“Road of Life and Death“, a symbolic distance of 9 km, the distance from Vilnius TV Tower to Antakalnis Cemetery, where the victims of the events of January 13th are laid to rest.
The “Road of Life and Death” tribute run has been organized in Lithuania every year since 1992 and the Embassy of Lithuania to Canada joined the initiative in 2020. Lithuanians and friends of Lithuania around the globe join the tribute run annually. By running together, we all manifest our commitment to freedom and human dignity.
Lithuanian Canadians were vocal and active in Lithuania’s fight for freedom from the Soviet occupation. To mark this year’s Day of Freedom Defenders Lithuanian Museum-Archives of Canada opened the special digital exhibition “Democracy – One Defining Moment”. It shows the statements and actions taken by Lithuanian Community in Canada, provides publications in Canadian press and decisions of Canadian Government. Virtual exhibition available on the website of Lithuanian Museum-Archives of Canada: https://www.lithuanianheritage.ca/january-13/
For more testimonies about the January 13th events please visit the virtual exhibition “SWORN TO NEVER RETREAT: Lithuania’s Stance in the Face of the 1991 Soviet Aggression” by the Parliament of Lithuania: https://www.lrs.lt/sip/portal.show?p_r=37311&p_k=2