Lithuania: Celebrating freedom
Holiday: National Independence Day.
When? On February 16.
Its meaning. This national holiday commemorates the re-establishment of the Lithuanian State on 16 February 1918, when the Lithuanian Council declared independence from the disintegrating Russian Empire. The path that led to Lithuania becoming a sovereign state began on this date. The Republic of Lithuania was an independent state until July 14, 1940, then the Soviet Union occupied and annexed Lithuania in accordance to the secret protocols of the Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact. Lithuania only proclaimed its independence again on 11 March 1990 and became the first Soviet republic to do so.
How it is celebrated. This day is very important for all Lithuanians. All the big cities organize festivities, public speeches, and parades. During national official celebrations, the President confers the state awards. Both Lithuanian and foreign citizens are honored for their outstanding achievements in politics, economy, culture and volunteering. In the evening, various events and concerts take place around the country. Vilnius, the capital of Lithuania, holds public shows at the Lithuanian National Opera and Ballet Theater. To commemorate February 16, sixteen symbolic bonfires are lit.
Family traditions. Before Aiste Jankauskaite, a talent attraction manager at Infineon, came in 2008 to Villach, she had been living for several years in Berlin and Cologne. “I was born in Lithuania and grew up there, my native language is Lithuanian. At school I learned German as my first foreign language. It was the reason why I moved later to Germany to study”, she says. Her first contacts in Carinthia were purely professional, but Aiste could socialize very quickly and decided to stay here. "With Infineon I found an international work environment and open and respectful interaction. On my opinion, perfect language is the key of successful integration. People should be open to other cultures, traditions and mentalities and to adapt it, without losing its own cultural identity".
What does the National Day mean for Aiste personally? “On February 16, my thoughts are with my homeland. If I may explain it in a modern way, this holiday means for me "Celebrating Freedom". For me is also very important that I am free and independent myself. It was not always so in Lithuania and people know that there is a great value, to be sovereign”.
Research and article: Vita Vitrenko.