'Symbol' Zelensky inspires people with his speech in Vilnius

  • 2024-01-11
  • BNS/TBT Staff

VILNIUS – Addressing the people of Lithuania in Vilnius on Wednesday, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky urged them not to lose hope of victory, even though the large-scale Russian invasion is set to enter its third year.

Having listened to Zelensky's speech in Simonas Daukantas Square, Vilnius residents said his speech was inspiring and reminded some of Lithuania's own efforts to break away from the Soviet Union.

"Glory to Ukraine! Glory to the heroes!" people chanted both before and after Zelensky's appearance on stage, holding Ukrainian and Lithuanian flags and posters. 

Students, pensioners, families with children, members of the Seimas, mayors and former heads of state listened to the speeches of the Lithuanian and Ukrainian presidents.

In his speech, Zelensky said that Russia's imperial ambitions must be stopped as they threatened not only Ukraine but also many other countries. He argued that "Russia will not survive if we continue fighting against it".

The Ukrainian president began his address in Lithuanian: "Greetings to you, Vilnius, greetings to you, the people of Lithuania". He thanked Lithuania for its support and for "holding Ukraine in your hearts during these long months, years of war".


Laima Malinauskiene, a 64-year-old businesswoman, told BNS that Zelensky's speech and the crowd that gathered to listen to it reminded her of the rallies of the Sajudis national revival movement she attended.

"The president's speech was very emotional. He looks tired but his inner energy kicked in when he spoke and you do believe that Ukraine will win," she said.

Speaking about Zelensky, the woman teared up. Asked what his visit meant to her, Malinauskiene said: "My life."

Klemenskas Remeika, a 22-year-old student, said he found Zelensky's speech meaningful. 

"It is about survival and the ultimate victory. (....) Personally, I think it revives hope. When it comes to the support for Ukraine, which has been waning, the president is restoring it," Remeika told BNS. "Now it turns out that Zelensky visits Lithuania once every six months. He could do that more frequently because they revive that fighting spirit."

Zelensky's last visit to Lithuania was in July when Lithuania hosted a NATO summit. He also addressed the Lithuanian people then.


Pavel Kovtunec, a 42-year-old social activist, said he was inspired by Zelensky's speech. 

"It was what you want to hear. That people in Ukraine don't get tired of it, even though sometimes that is the impression you get, at least from the media. It was an inspiring speech. He is a symbol and has been since the first days of the war," the man said. 

Kovtunec said that he had spoken to Ukrainians who called Zelensky the leader who united the nation. 

"The speech was inspiring and reminded us of the need to support Ukraine and what a brutal enemy we have nearby," said Gabriele Jarosiunaite, a 23-year-old external communications specialist at the Lithuanian National Union of Students, adding that she's honored Zelensky is visiting Lithuania. 

"We feel appreciated and not forgotten. It was a great pleasure to see the president in person," she said.

Understandably, she said, there may be a sense of fatigue both in the West and in Lithuania regarding the war in Ukraine.

"But I really want to believe that public support and that burning desire to help Ukraine will never go away," she said.

Later on, Zelensky will also visit the other Baltic countries during his first foreign visit this year.