Lithuanian President Dalia Grybauskaite was awarded the the Star of Hope (Vilties Zvaidgzde) on June 12, for her efforts in strengthening the Lithuanian state.
The award was given to Grybauskaite during her visit to Tremtiniu Namai, a care home for those exiled to Siberia during the Soviet Union’s occupation of Lithuania.
According to the President, the strength of those who survived the deportations and forced labour camps, assisted Lithuania on its path to eventual independence from the USSR in March 1991.
She believes the living memory of all former exiles and political prisoners is an obligation for every Lithuanian to remember. She also believes their remembrance is important for the defence of Lithuania.
“The experience of people who were deported is an example to every generation that we can repel all hardships by loving our homeland,” said Grybauskaite. “The deportations touched every family but did not crush Lithuania.”
“Marking the 75th anniversary of occupation, our country is again facing threats.
“However, Lithuania will not be trampled because it is defended by loving people,” she concluded.
During the mass deportations of June 1941 under the first Soviet occupation of Lithuania*, more than 17,000 people were deported to Siberia.
Throughout both Soviet occupations of Lithuania, more than 280,000 Lithuanians were deported and imprisoned in forced labour camps across the USSR.
In Tremtiniu Namai, 60 people who survived exile and Soviet forced labour camps live in the social care home; three are 100-years-old or over. It is the only social care home in Lithuania for former exiles.
June 14, 2015 (The Day Mourning and Hope) marks the 75th anniversary of the USSR’s first occupation of Lithuania and the subsequent deportations.
*Lithuania was annexed by the USSR in 1940, and then invaded by Nazi Germany in 1941. The Soviets re-invaded in August 1944.