15 April 2008
Your Excellency Mr President,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
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
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.