Belarusians in Vilnius hope to return and mark Freedom Day at home some day

  • 2024-03-26
  • BNS/TBT Staff

VILNIUS - Belarusians celebrating Freedom Day in Vilnius on Monday say they hope they will be able to return to their own country one day and celebrate the day there. They also hope Lithuania will continue sheltering those fleeing the Lukashenko regime.

Several hundred representatives of the Belarusian diaspora in Lithuania and their supporters gathered in Lukiskes Square in central Vilnius on Monday to mark the day, carrying Lithuanian flags and Belarusian historical flags. The Lithuanian and Belarusian national anthems were played at the start of the event. 

Marketing specialist Yulia Selech, 42, said March 25 is an important date hat marks the proclamation of the Belarusian Democratic Republic in 2018, but it is banned by the Lukashenko regime.

"We are very much looking forward to it every year. We think we will celebrate Freedom Day at home in Minsk maybe next year, together with all those who have had to leave Belarus because of the Lukashenko regime. We will all go home and it will be a big celebration," she told BNS.

She has been living in Vilnius her 40-year-old husband Alexander for almost two years. He says that this celebration reflects the will for "free speech, self-expression", given the oppression in Belarus.

"I really want to be able to express myself, to express my thoughts without the fear of imprisonment (...). We won’t be able to break the system just with flowers and white slippers. We shouldn’t probably do it by force, we shouldn’t kill, but we need to show that the nation is a united force," Alexander Selekh said.

Belarusian opposition leader Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya and other representatives of the opposition residing in Vilnius also addressed the gathering.

Later, a photo exhibition on the Belarusian battalion within the Lithuanian army in 1918-1923, as well as the ongoing war in Ukraine, will be presented here.

Rally participants will later march from Lukiskes Square to light candles at the memorial outside the Belarusian Embassy, and then march to the Vilnius Evangelical Reformed Church where a concert will take place

In Belarus, Freedom Day is not officially celebrated on March 2. The Belarusian Democratic Republic was proclaimed on this day in 1918, but remained in existence until the Bolsheviks took power in early 1919.

The Lukashenko regime forbids the celebration of this day in Belarus and does not recognize it. In Belarus, Independence Day is celebrated on July 3 to mark the day in 1944 when Nazi German troops withdrew from Minsk and Soviet troops took it.