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"February 16 symbolizes the deep historical bond which unites our nation in the never-ending quest for freedom," says Lithuania's President

Monday, February 16, Vilnius - President of the Republic of Lithuania Valdas Adamkus presented state decorations to Lithuanian and foreign nationals for merits to Lithuania, on the occasion of Lithuanian Independence Day.

"Today we celebrate a very important date in our history that defines and signifies Lithuanian statehood and love of freedom. February 16 symbolizes the deep historical bond which unites our nation in the never-ending quest for freedom. The Declaration of Independence of 1918 is a vibrant expression of our freedom ideals and their importance to the future generations of Lithuania," the Head of State said in the awards ceremony.

The President underlined the road to the Day of the Restoration of Statehood was built by many educated and learned people by their hard work and strong ideals. The Head of State mentioned Vincas Kudirka as a herald of the nation who had awakened the people to rise up for their rights and freedoms, and who had inspired their solidarity and joint endeavor.

"Today, I would like to mention yet another son of our nation who drew strength from the past and followed the path of unwavering faith. We will honor, posthumously, Archbishop Mečislovas Reinys - an outspoken defender of the Church and the rights of the faithful and an active member of the anti-Soviet resistance movement," President Adamkus said.

According to Lithuania's leader, Mečislovas Reinys, as a servant of God, stood by his pastoral duties, safe-guarding faith, humanness, and Christian love and respect until his death in the Vladimir prison.

"On the day of the restoration of its statehood, Lithuania also pays respect to two of our contemporaries who are no longer with us: prosecutor Gintautas Sereika and Russian democrat Galina Starovoitova, who ten years ago fell in the fight for a more just and dignified life. They were assassinated for their uncompromising stand and convictions, for their fight against corruption and for their honest belief in democratic principles, ideals and values," the President said.

The President also noted that sixty years ago today the Council of the Movement of the Struggle for Freedom of Lithuania issued another declaration of February 16, which re-enshrined the ideals of independent Lithuania.

President Adamkus expressed belief that the courage of those awarded today, to stay their own self and their strong faith in genuine values protected our freedom, illuminating it with true meaning.

"We are independent because our brothers and sisters pursued a path of freedom that is one and only and above personal interests and ambitions. This shared road of ours leads to a more promising future and stronger togetherness," Lithuania's leader stressed.

Addressing to those who were awarded the Life Saving Cross, the President thanked them for their courage and self-sacrifice in saving human life.

This morning, the President also visited Rasų Cemetery to give honor to the signatories of the Independence Act, by laying flowers at their graves.

At noon, President Adamkus and President Lech Kaczyński of Poland, who visits Lithuania to join it for the celebration of the Independence Day, will take part in the ceremony of raising state flags of the three Baltic states in S.Daukanto Square in Vilnius. At 12:30, the two Presidents will celebrate Holy Mass in Vilnius Cathedral, to be followed by a working lunch between the two Presidents.

In the evening, Lithuanian and Polish Presidents will take part in the festive commemoration of February 16 in Lithuania's National Opera and Ballet Theatre in Vilnius.

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