President of the Republic of Lithuania President of the Republic of Lithuania

Speech by the President of the Republic of Lithuania, Gitanas Nausėda, at the unveiling ceremony of the monument to Chiune Sugihara in Kaunas

2020-10-17

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I am so pleased to be able to say that today the Japanese diplomat Chiune Sugihara is returning to Kaunas – and to Lithuania. The strong commitment of the City of Kaunas has contributed significantly to make this possible.

Today we unveil a monument to a person whose humanity and courage have long ago become a moral compass for all of us. Sugihara is coming back to where 80 years ago he issued visas for life to the Jewish refugees who sought shelter from war and suffering.

Those rescued have always kept the memory of this outstanding person from far-away Japan alive. And even though the freedom of Kaunas – like of the whole Lithuania – was trampled by the occupiers, its spirit lived on in the noble deeds of Sugihara and other Righteous Among the Nations: diplomats, priests, doctors, and farmers. Risking their own life to save the life of another human being, they helped to save the world from physical and moral self-destruction.

We had to live through the Nazi and Soviet occupations, to lose and regain Lithuanian independence in order to better understand where hatred and indifference can lead us. We became more sensitive to the rights and freedoms of all.

Today it is important for us not only to overcome the pandemic, but also to effectively respond to other threats that humankind is facing. We must not only to make Covid harmless, but also destroy the viruses of antisemitism, racial, ethnic and religious hatred. We need to support our closest neighbors and the people of distant countries fighting for their dignity and freedom – for which, as we well know, it is worth sacrificing your life. There are fewer and fewer far-away countries in today’s shrinking world. There should be no place left for other people’s pain, too!

Last year, I had the privilege of visiting the hometown of Chiune Sugihara in Gifu Prefecture. During my trip to Japan, I felt the affection of the Japanese people, their genuine interest in Lithuania and their wish to continue cooperation.

There are many broad opportunities for us to develop not only political relations, but also economic, cultural and academic exchanges. But people-to-people contacts have always been and will continue to be the primary driver. Given that our athletes will compete for Olympic and Paralympic medals in Tokyo, I would like to see as many Lithuanian sport fans as possible traveling to Japan and visiting the Sugihara monument in Jaocu city.

The memory of Chiune Sugihara and his moral legacy stand as a strong bridge for the modern generation, connecting Lithuania with Japan, Israel, the United States, Australia, and other countries that uphold the values of humanism.

May this monument always remind us that we must learn from Sugihara, his actions and the painful lessons of World War II. Let us always keep to eternal moral values and let us be honest and truthful in the face of endless time!

Thank you for your attention.

Gitanas Nausėda, President of the Republic of Lithuania

Last updated 2020.10.17 16:11

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