- March 10, 2022
“Poland and Lithuania – Together in the Name of Freedom.” Symbolic Exhibition in Vilnius
“This exhibition is a symbol that today takes on a special meaning of the fight for freedom, which, as we can see, must be guarded and fought for at every step” said Iwona Arent, Chairwoman of the Polish-Lithuanian Parliamentary Group in the Polish Parliament, during the opening of the exhibition “Poland and Lithuania – together in the name of freedom,” in the Lithuanian Parliament.
The exhibition shows the most important moments in relations between Lithuania and Poland during the 1989-1990 period, which was a turning point in the history of both countries. It includes the cooperation of the freedom movements of Poland and Lithuania – Solidarność and Sąjūdis, as well as documents on the resumption of diplomatic relations between Lithuania and Poland and the recognition of Lithuania’s independence.
A Common Path to Independence
“Today, the word freedom sounds different in our mouths, hearts and thoughts. Today, in times of the war in Ukraine, in the face of aggression – for every European, freedom and independence take on a more important and different meaning,” Rita Tamašunienė, the initiator of the exhibition, a member of the parliament of the Republic of Lithuania, and chair of the Seym Group for contacts with the Seym and the Senate of the Republic of Poland, said at the opening of the exhibition.
Speaking about the exhibition, she emphasized that the activities of the freedom movements – Lithuanian Sąjūdis and Polish Solidarność in the years 1989-1990 contributed to the liberation of their countries from the Soviet occupation and established close cooperation with each other. “The first direction chosen by members of the Lithuanian Sąjūdis for a foreign visit in 1989 was Warsaw, whereas Polish journalists and politicians stayed in the Lithuanian Seym on January 13, 1991, when there were barricades at the parliament in Vilnius, and Soviet tanks were driving around the city,” said the politician.
She pointed out that after the fall of the Iron Curtain, Poland, Lithuania and the people of both countries were united by “a common road, a common history, a close neighbourhood, a strong consensus, and even by contradictions to which we are looking for solutions. Moreover, the common path to independence, membership in the European Union and NATO lead to common, strong positions in key European and global organizations. Today Ukraine needs our voice and support. The geopolitical reality allows us to act together today,” said Tamašunienė. She expressed the hope that the exhibition presented in the Lithuanian Seym would strengthen the “understanding of the community of our countries.”
“For our and your freedom – our common motto, today is dedicated to war-stricken Ukraine, our friendly nation, demonstrating an irresistible desire for freedom, courage and determination. We are with you on the road to peace and independence” emphasised the politician.
The Symbolic Exhibition
Iwona Arent, President of the Polish-Lithuanian Parliamentary Group in the Polish Parliament, who is visiting Vilnius with the Polish delegation, spoke about the fact that this exhibition is becoming particularly important today. “This exhibition is a symbol that today takes on a special meaning of the fight for freedom, which, as we can see, must be guarded and fought for at every step” said the Polish MP.
She also pointed out that this exhibition is important not only for Poles and Lithuanians. “Recent world events show that this is a lesson in the fight for freedom for other nations as well. Freedom must always be sought. There is a saying: freedom is not given once and for all, it must be constantly regained. This saying has a huge impact today ” said Arent.
Referring to the exhibition, she emphasized that the cooperation of the freedom movements of Poland and Lithuania – Solidarność and Sąjūdis – allowed for liberation from Moscow tentacles, and the common past obliges to act in solidarity even today. “Looking at what is happening in Ukraine today, we can also be afraid of what may happen to us in the future. But we are together. Together we are in NATO, in the EU and thanks to this we can jointly ensure that no one takes away our freedom” said a member of the Polish Parliament. She went on saying that “we must remember that in every international forum, Poland and Lithuania should, must and hopefully they will always stand strong next to each other and support each other regardless of whether or not anyone would threaten us.”
The symbolism of the exhibition opened in the Lithuanian Seym was also pointed out by Andrzej Dudziński, Deputy Ambassador of the Republic of Poland to Lithuania. “Our exhibition today has a lot of symbolism. Symbols that we want to remember about, because our past, and especially such a noble past as the cooperation of Solidarność and Sąjūdis, is worth and should be remembered” said the Polish diplomat. That is why it is so important that this exhibition is shown on the eve of Lithuania’s Independence Recovery Day, he emphasized. Referring to the events in Ukraine, he said that this exhibition gains additional symbolism of the Polish-Lithuanian-Ukrainian fraternity.
Anna Piekarska, deputy director of the Museum of Polish History, co-organizer of the exhibition, pointed out that the dramatic events of 1989-1991 were recorded in the history of both Lithuania and Poland. “When preparing the exhibition, we wanted to remember those days and the heroes of those events. Many of whom have left in recent years, including Kornel Morawiecki and Henryk Wujec. We also wanted to show how the common experience of enslavement by the Soviet Union contributed to overcoming mutual resentment between Poles and Lithuanians, whose roots reached back to pre-war disputes. The experience of 1989-1991 brought our nations very close,” said Piekarska. “At a turning point in history, on the eve of the collapse of the Soviet Union, the leaders of Solidarność and Sąjūdis were able to create a common front and oppose the dictatorship of Moscow. Polish parliamentarians supported the Lithuanians’ efforts to regain independence. It was also a period of rebuilding bilateral relations between our countries.”
She pointed out that today Poland and Lithuania are in both NATO and EU structures, “however, they are still facing the challenges of a difficult neighbourhood, which we are all experiencing in recent days in the face of the tragic war in Ukraine. Therefore, it seems that it is very important to show, especially now, that despite the difficulties in the history of mutual relations, we are definitely more connected than divided” emphasized Piekarska.
The strong message of this exhibition was also indicated by its curator, Dr. Barbara Jundo-Kaliszewska. “We paid particular attention to the cooperation of the two leading freedom movements – Polish Solidarność and Lithuanian Sąjūdis, which in the face of danger, at an important historical moment, were able to unite and create a clear common front,” said the curator. “Today, when we face a new danger, when we realize the fragility of what seemed as lasting and untouchable, it is worth remembering that unity builds, and that the convergence of our goals and the common vision of the future, should unite our countries.”
During the vernissage there was also music and poetry. Katarzyna Parszuta sang several songs in Polish and Lithuanian languages, and Wiktoria Szarejko and Dawid Rynkiewicz from Niemenczyn recited poems.
The exhibition “Poland and Lithuania – together in the name of freedom” will be exhibited in the Seym of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, in the Visitors’ Centre, until March 20. The exhibition was prepared by the Museum of Polish History in Warsaw and the Embassy of the Republic of Poland in Lithuania in cooperation with the Lithuanian Central State Archives, the Lithuanian Special Services Archives and the Polish Institute in Vilnius. The exhibition can be viewed on Monday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., as well as on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m., and on Friday from 8 a.m. to 3.45 p.m.
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Translated by Marta Graban within the framework of a traineeship programme of the European Foundation of Human Rights, www.efhr.eu.