Address by Mr Česlovas Juršėnas, Speaker of Seimas of the Republic of Lithuania, at the presentation of Katyn, a film by Andrzej Wajda, at the Lithuanian National Opera and Ballet Theatre


15 April 2008



Your Excellency Mr President,

Distinguished Ambassadors,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Dear friends,


I sincerely thank the Embassy of the Republic of Poland and those who contributed to organising this event in Vilnius, allowing us to see the excellent film of the distinguished Polish film director Andrzej Wajda. I believe it will not leave anyone indifferent.


This evening, we have an opportunity to rekindle the tragic history of the 20th century, which twisted the fates and crippled the destinies of a host of Europeans. Dozens of Central and Eastern European nations paid a huge price for the conspiracy of the dictators in the 1940s, the impact of which can still be seen today.   


In Europe, the Nazi and Stalin regimes were the greatest plagues of the 20th century. Lithuania and Poland suffered badly from the totalitarian regimes and today we address the subject openly. Rethinking of the most painful moments in history is particularly important in the quest for reconciliation with the painful past. The historical memory should occupy an important part in our consciousness, so we are able to build the full-fledged future for our children and ourselves.


Our nations underwent a double challenge: apart from the Nazi atrocities, the people had to go through the Stalinist terror. Millions were imprisoned, killed, mutilated, deported or forced to work in the forced labour camps in Siberia. The Katyn tragedy became one of the most horrible examples, when a significant part of the elite of our neighbouring country was brutally and deliberately destroyed; over 20,000 military officers and other intellectuals of the Republic of Poland perished in the plight. I take this opportunity to repeatedly express my sincere condolences and solidarity with the Polish nation.


Regrettably, Ladies and Gentlemen, of these pages of history most Europeans still remain largely unaware. I have no doubt that the work of the cinematic genius Andrzej Wajda will play the key role in telling the global community about this crime against humanity, one of the most cruel crimes committed in the 20th century. Together with Poland, we want the history of our nations to play a significant part in the pan-European historical awareness and shape the European system of values. We should not lose the momentum. Thanks to our joint efforts we have already induced the EU to launch a public debate on the totalitarian regime. I firmly believe that in the near future the crimes of all totalitarian regimes will be duly assessed and condemned. We are looking forward to a joint European Union position and to an active role played by other international institutions. This is particularly crucial in view of the fact that due to political reasons some Western democracies failed to support the attempts of the Polish Government in emigration to declare the true perpetrators of the Katyn tragedy immediately after the end of the war, during the Nürnberg process.


Ladies and Gentlemen,

The Katyn tragedy has shaken Europe, and there is no longer anyone indifferent to it in Lithuania, either. Hundreds of inhabitants of the Vilnius region representing a variety of nationalities were equally murdered in the Katyn forest, three of them Lithuanians. On the other hand, it is not widely known that Lithuania accepted 14,000 Polish military officers in 1939 by providing them with temporary asylum and thus helping them to survive.


The Seimas already expressed definite solidarity of Lithuania with the Polish nation; in spring 2005 it adopted the Resolution on the 65th Anniversary of the Massacre in Katyn. We wish to make a contribution to the efforts of Poland and other nations to further analyse this crime.


Ladies and Gentlemen,

Finally, I want to revive an old idea and to call on you to commemorate the victims of the Katyn massacre in Vilnius, Lithuania. I invite you to jointly think of the ways to do this. The commemoration could take the form of the initiative promoted by an old colleague of mine, Mr Jerzy Surwillo, or take the shape of other projects.


We cannot forget history. However, even the most painful history should become a bridge to the future, particularly if we experience catharsis, a cleansing feeling comparable to those evoked by the first films by Andrzej Wajda.


Thank you and enjoy the film.

 © Office of the Seimas, 2008