aA
For our freedom and yours, we heard this motto during the independence movement in 1990 inviting everyone--Lithuanians, us Jews, and others--to rally to fight for independence. And we rallied, believing that in that Lithuania--the Lithuania of today--we would all be equal, and not just before God. We thought we'd be equal before memory, and before our history. As brothers and sisters. Are we equal in memory? Are we equal before history?
Sergejus Kanovičius
Sergejus Kanovičius
© Asmeninio archyvo nuotr.

What about today, when discussion has come up whether it is worth honoring with a street name a volunteer soldier who fought for Lithuanian independence, the first to raise the tricolor on the castle tower almost a century ago, a man who commanded a different sort of movement, one which systematically and openly called for freedom only for some, before and after the June Uprising.

His ideology and that of his organization, the Lithuanian Activist Front, was inseparable from that of the battle for independence. For independence without Jews--without me, without my father, my grandparents and of those for whom there are annual bureaucratic gatherings to feel ashamed beside the larger pits, or beside those for whom the television cameras await.

This volunteer who turned from patriot to his polar opposite didn't know after eighty years had passed his enemies would become the people who stood beside me on the Baltic Way [a peaceful protest in August of 1989 when people formed a human chain across the Baltic republics], and the people who invited others to join the event.

If we still believe until now Lithuania is a state where everyone is equal--before God, memory and history--and if we believe we are fighting today in the face of rising threats for the freedom of all of us without exception, we shouldn't have any reservations about letting remain names of streets, university auditoria and schools honoring those who didn't fight for this sort of Lithuania.

Once upon a time, not so long ago, in 1941, the sadly notable typical anti-Semitic call went out from the Lithuanian Activist Front led by Škirpa: to brother and sister Lithuanians. Today I can only call upon you:

"Brother and sister Lithuanians, that decisive final hour of reckoning has arrived when you can act courageously and nobly: to turn that black page of history by saying that there will never be a place in Lithuania for honoring any collaborators."

To say that the final hour of reckoning with the Jews has not come, and that the rights and privileges Vytautas the Great granted us are not rescinded, and that we do not have to immediately quit the land of the Lithuanians, that hour had not come, but the moment has come when we can be addressed thus:

"Brother and sister Lithuanian Jews, we assure you that the criminals responsible for the death of your ancestors, the actual murderers and their ideologues, will never return to our life, neither in the form of streets named for them, nor schools or squares. We apologize for those politicians who tried to justify in all sorts of ways those sinners, we apologize that there is even discussion on whether or not to honor those movements and their leaders responsible for the fact that so few of your and our brother and sister Lithuanian Jews remain.

"Today we cannot even conceive of naming a place in Vilnius or another part of Lithuania after a Sąjūdis [Lithuanian independence movement in Soviet Lithuania] figure if that person had distributed leaflets in Cathedral Square calling for a Lithuania without us, if the fathers of our independence had been like Mr. Škirpa and Lithuanian Activist Front's anti-Semitic platform. For your freedom and ours, without a question mark."

Speech by poet, essayist and translator Sergejus Kanovičius delivered at the Old Town Hall in Vilnius during the discussion "Should We Change the Name of Kazys Škirpa Alley?"

Authorized translation by Geoff Vasil

|Populiariausi straipsniai ir video

Lithuania may need over EUR 100 mln to buy coronavirus vaccines

Lithuania may need over 100 million euros to purchase COVID-19 vaccines , the country's prime...

45 new coronavirus cases

On Monday, 45 new COVID-19 cases were confirmed in Lithuania . Overall, 3859 coronavirus cases have...

PM: some mass gatherings to be banned as of October

In response to a recent spike in coronavirus infections, the Lithuanian government is planning to...

Mandatory testing for all new hospital patients ordered visits tightened

The Lithuanian government is planning to reintroduce mandatory coronavirus testing for patients on...

70 new coronavirus cases

On Sunday 70 new COVID-19 cases were detected in Lithuania . It adds to 3814 confirmed coronavirus...

Top news

Tighter checks at Lithuanian-Belarusian border push up haulers' costs

Lithuanian haulage companies are facing delays and increased costs after Belarus has stepped up...

Lithuania may need over EUR 100 mln to buy coronavirus vaccines

Lithuania may need over 100 million euros to purchase COVID-19 vaccines , the country's prime...

45 new coronavirus cases

On Monday, 45 new COVID-19 cases were confirmed in Lithuania . Overall, 3859 coronavirus cases have...

Ryanair launches new route from Vilnius

Low-cost carrier Ryanair announced a new Vilnius route to Leeds Bradford, flying three times per...

President: COVID-19 numbers are growing everywhere but Lithuania is better-prepared (2)

The number of coronavirus cases is growing in all countries, and Lithuania is this time better...

|Maža didelių žinių kaina