Dr. Laima Andrikiene, signatory of Lithuania’s March 11, 1990 Act of Independence Restoration: “I know it is a fact, but for me, an independent Lithuania is still a miracle, God’s gift”

  • 2024-04-09

Marking the Day of Restoration of Independence of Lithuania, the British-Lithuanian Society hosted a remote meeting with Dr Laima Andrikienė, signatory of the March 11, 1990 Act of Re-Establishment of the State of Lithuania, a former MEP, and, currently, member of the European Court of Auditors, about the restoration of Lithuanian independence 34 years ago.

Reminiscing about the historic day, Dr Laima Liucija Andrikienė confessed it was the “topmost peak” that she attained in her lifetime.

“The miracle that occurred during my life and the greatest trust that I, as a young politician, received from my nation. Then, in 1990, I was 32,” Dr. L. Andrikiene said, noting that her memories of the 11th March 1990 are somewhat different than those of most.

“Only on the previous night that I returned from London, where I was invited by the British Council following the 24 February victorious elections to Lithuania’s Supreme Council…The first session of the Supreme Council was due on the 10th of March, but I’m in London, though in daily touch with home by phone. The paramount question was this: will the Supreme Council, the parliament, proclaim independence or not? To cut short my visit to London and fly to Lithuania? Or to remain in London and return after completing the British Council’s programme? Messages coming from Vilnius were clear: come back, every vote counts; it’s not clear how others, the communists, will vote, one hears all sorts of ideas,” Dr. L. Andrikiene recalled.

Being called on by the friends in the Lithuanian Association in Great Britain (Didžiosios Britanijos Lietuvių Sąjunga), including Vladas Dargis, Kazys Makunas, Paulius Tricys, Jaras Alkis, Klemensas Tamosiunas to go back for the history-changing vote, Dr. L. Andrikiene apologised to the British Council for curtailing her visit, and on the 10th of March flew back to Lithuania. 

One of the Association’s leaders, Klemensas Tamosiunas, accompanying her to the Heathrow airport, had persuaded the airport officials to change her ticket. 

Late that night she landed in Vilnius – without the luggage that disappeared on route. And the next morning, on the 11th of March, the deputy of the Supreme Council, elected in the Jurbarkas District, was in the Supreme Council, the legislative body that later turned into the country’s Parliament, Seimas.

“The plenary session was in progress, the mandates of all 133 elected deputies were confirmed. Among them, twelve women. The Supreme Council consisted of 70 non-partisan deputies – they were members of the popular national movement Sąjūdis (I was among them), 63 belonged to political parties – of whom 40 were members of the Lithuanian Communist Party, five of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, and a few of the Green and Democrat parties. We elected the Chairman of the Supreme Council, Vytautas Landsbergis, who received 95 votes, Algirdas Brazauskas, leader of Lithuanian communists, got 38. Discussions take place, and we hear that the communists do not want to proclaim independence – they are frightened, so it is not clear how they will vote. We also hear – following their statement – that if anything happens as a result, meaning if Moscow reacts, using its military force, we, the Sąjūdis people, will bear the responsibility. Brazauskas and his fellow party members leave the meeting room. We realise that we must be meticulous, must not leave any unwanted word or comma in the documents under debate, as our inattention could turn our efforts to dust. We must not hand a weapon either to our opponents or to the overt enemies of our freedom,” Dr. L. Andrikiene remembered.

Having done all the essential preparatory work, the deputies did not want to leave the decisive vote until the next day.

According to the March 11, 1990, Independence Restoration Act signatory, the Supreme Council deputies were worried that they might be, in her words, ‘scooped up’ during the night and locked up somewhere under a pretext. 

“That is why we proclaimed Lithuanian independence late that night. The voting was by name, so that it was clear who was who. 124 voted in favor, six abstained, nobody was against. It was the 11th March 1990, 22:45,” she remembers.

As Mrs Laima was leaving the Supreme Council late that night, she had to pass along a ‘living corridor’ of well-wishers, and the crowd outside the building was shouting: “Thank you!”, “hurray!” 

But as Dr. L. Andrikiene was getting closer to her home in Antakalnis, she saw just empty streets – no trace of a celebration.

“Before the event, when I thought about the day of the restoration of independence, I imagined church bells ringing across Lithuania, plenty of joyful people on the streets, kind of an unprecedented celebration. Instead, I saw a hushed, wary Lithuania. What now? Will the Kremlin send specnaz forces to split our skulls with trenching tools? Or perhaps they’ll send us to Siberia, something they did with our parents and brothers? All scenarios were possible…

Only back home, as I saw my father, fighting back tears, and heard him say: “My child, do you understand what you did today, do you understand, my child?”, as I noticed my little son Sarunas running around the room clutching a tiny tricolor and shouting “hurray!”, and only then did I fully understood what really occurred earlier the day…“, recalls Dr. Andrikiene. 

“A lot of time has passed since that day: more than three decades, 34 years, in fact. But I am still counting. In the beginning, I counted the days, weeks, months; later: years, decades,” Dr. L. Andrikiene says.

The announcement of Lithuanian Independence on the 11th of March 1990 did not receive much support from the world superpowers. Leaders of the democratic world were confused: how to react? Lithuania still depended on the Soviet Union, Lithuania’s borders were guarded by the Soviet Army, Soviet military bases were situated on its soil. 

The Soviet leader, Mikhail Gorbachev, had confused the major Cold War protagonists with his slogans of „glasnost“ and „perestroika“. 

“It looked like leaders of the countries that were highly important to us – UK Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, US President George Bush Sr., German Chancellor Helmut Kohl – adored Gorbachev. They wished to avoid any trouble and inconvenience in their relations with the Soviet Union,” Dr. L. Andrikiene says now.

“We, Lithuania, turned out to be troublemakers, and anything could happen… I know it’s a fact, but for me, an independent Lithuania is still a miracle, God’s gift, for which I shall not cease to thank Him and the people of Lithuania,” says a convinced Dr. L. Andrikiene.