Lithuanian president honors Jan 13 defenders at school attended by one of those killed

  • 2020-01-13
  • BNS/TBT Staff

VILNIUS – Lithuanian President Gitanas Nauseda on Monday honored the memory of those killed during Soviet aggression in 1991 at a Vilnius school Darius Gerbutavicius, one of the defenders killed near the TV Tower, attended.

Just as at other schools in Lithuania, candles were lit at Vilnius Rytas Progymnasium, symbolizing the memory, unity and victory against the Soviet aggressor.

"You gave Lithuania one of the January 13 heroes, Gerbutavicius. Today you, children, who grow up so fast, will be able very soon to make you own choices," Nauseda said before lighting a candle in the school's lobby.

In his words, those choices are no longer so painful as they were in 1991 but everyone will have to choose whether to be passive towards the state or active and loving their country. "I have no doubt which choice you will make," the president said.

"IT SEEMS IT ALL HAPPENED YESTERDAY"

Gerbutavicius was killed near the TV Tower in Vilnius when he was 17. All in all, 14 people were killed and over 800 injured during the Soviet aggression in January, 1991.

The Monday commemoration at Vilnius Ryras Progymnasium was also attended by Gerbutavicius' mother.

"For me, the January 13th is both a celebration and pain that never goes away. 29 years have passed but the memories remain as if it all happened yesterday," Vince Gerbutaviciene told journalists. "Everything is live in a mother's heart and will remain so until my eyes close."

NAUSEDA WATCHED EVENTS IN GERMANY

President Nauseda said January 13, 1991 was a milestone date that showed the invader that "tanks, guns and brutal force are not everything".

"It should be a good lesson for the invader and it should make conclusions from that and never try to suppress freedom these ways," the president told journalists.

He also said he watched the events in Lithuania while in Germany where he studied at the time. According to Nauseda, they looked even worse from a distance as he did not manage to contact his family for several days.

"I wanted to drop the studies and return home (…) but my parents said: don't go, the best you can do is to get education, come back to Lithuania and, with you knowledge, contribute to rebuilding Lithuania," Nauseda said.

In late March, Vilnius Regional Court sentenced former Soviet Defense Minister Dmitry Yazov and over 60 other former Soviet officials and military officers guilty of crimes against humanity and war crimes, issuing prison sentences ranging from four to 14 years in absentia.

The memory of those killed will be also honored in the parliament and at Antakalnis Cemetery later in the day.