WORD OF THE PRESIDENT. The Speech of the Lithuanian President Antanas Smetona, Delivered during the First Day of the Sea on 12 August 1934 in Klaipėda

 

...There has not been an hour in the reborn Lithuania as the one upon us now. Crowds of people have gathered on our Baltic shore, where our rekindled nation can freely commune with the entire world and where the goods of our lands are exchanged with goods from other nations. These organised crowds have been assembled here by a collective purpose of making a statement that Lithuanians feel and understand the importance of the sea to the freedom of their homeland and that they will protect and defend this right of access to the sea in all ways they can. This very first magnificent celebration in liberated Lithuania will leave a trace in our minds and the history of our nation.

The ancient Lithuanian Empire stretched from the Baltic Sea to the Black Sea. We are proud of what it was. Lithuanians defended their coasts, but were unable to preserve their rights in the sea, build their fleet or free trade. Perhaps that was the reason for the elimination of the great Empire, with the nation itself barely surviving divided and tortured.

Today we stand here in full realisation of the errors – or perhaps even sins – of our past, willing to redeem them. Lithuanians will spare nothing to protect and defend their right to the sea. Although owning barely one hundred kilometres of the coast and a single port of Klaipėda, they do not strive for more or envy their neighbours, owning a longer sea coast and better-fixed ports. Being satisfied with what they have, Lithuanians only want to live with all of their neighbours in neighbourly friendship. We do not block the sea route to anyone – all of our neighbours can access it by all means.

Should anyone threaten to shorten our coast or take over our single port, they would be threatening to subdue the whole of Lithuania. This would only mean slavery with the most difficult of trading conditions and imminent removal from the ranks of free states. With our beliefs such as these, we greatly value our coast.

The Lithuanian people and their brothers – Latvians and Prussians – had been established on the Baltic shore from time immemorial and ancient days, which had never been recorded in any language. Thus our right to the sea comes from the ancient times and we are the true heirs of the sea. And when our peaceful seaside was plundered and raped by Galindians or, as our song calls them – the bearded men of the distant lands, or endured centuries of war with the Crusader and Livonian orders, our ancestors did not give in to these vultures, defending their rights to their patrimony with their blood and life. Our ancestors’ struggle for the freedom of the Baltic seaside is a tragedy of blood, recorded in chronicles and witnessed by our mounds. Read it and learn how terrible and uncanny it was! Our Prussian brothers died in uneven struggle, giving up the land of their fathers’ to the cruel invaders and only the short seashore, now in the hands of our reborn Lithuania, had been preserved by our ancient heroes. It was their deed that the Baltic Sea can now be once again reached by our nation, becoming our nation’s lungs that we can breathe freely,and a way that connects us to the whole world. Under this heritage it is our duty to become firmly established by the sea and protect it, defending the port of Klaipėda as a window that brings us light, and a gate, which opens to all roads.

Just like the ancient hordes of Crusaders and Livonians cared not of the Christ’s teachings or the light of Christian faith on the Baltic shore (which they pretended to bring), but only to subdue the people of these lands and use their fortune, thus the Eastern land seekers want to build their fortune on violently taken foreign territories. And just like these ancient orders sought sympathies for their violent endeavours in the powerful Rome, telling false stories of the Baltic nations, their descendants now try to use false science to convince the civilised world that the Lithuanian people lived neither in Klaipėda region, nor on the seaside altogether. Lies take you far, but will not take you back. Being well-versed in the meaning of this Lithuanian saying, we have to fight the lies with truth and, in the light of the true knowledge, show the civilised world that the Lithuanian nation has lived on this coast from the ancient times and that it is we, but not them – the seekers of territories – the real heirs to this land.

People of Klaipėda region and other Lithuanians! Read the ancient writings and be convinced that the knowledge spread about you today smears your good name – you are no newcomers, but the deeply-rooted children of your lands. Just like your brother Herkus Monte from Natangia bravely defended the freedom of your land from the Order, so must you defend your autonomy, given to you by Lithuania, from the seekers of territories. Watch for their cunning attempts to dig under your foundations. The entire Lithuania will help you with your material and spiritual well-being. Just stay faithful, as you have always been, in friendship with the entire Lithuanian nation.

May this special and magnificent day become our promise and oath to the Lord, taken in witness of the eternal waves and foams of the sea, humming an honourable hymn to those, who do not fear, but love it – may this be our oath to demonstrate that we can not only admire it, but also sacrifice our lives. As I have already noted, what we have is less than a hundred kilometres of the sea shore, thus, the less we have, the more we must cherish it. And what other way to do so is than our diligent work? By the joint effort of our nation we will build the prosperity of the seaside citizens so that everyone is rich with wealth and the enlightened national consciousness. May everyone, who can, rush to work for the good of the seaside.

We will be able to defend our right to the sea as long as we are strong on the shore, as long as our hard work and support to our leaders brings us forward in the race of the nations, and as long as we can improve and strengthen the life of the entire region. However, rejoicing about the sea and being proud of Klaipėda region, we should not leave Vilnius behind. After all, our people of the same blood, spirit and history as our entire nation, live in Vilnius region as well. Thus, making a promise to the sea, we have both Vilnius and Klaipėda. Our Klaipėda with its seaside and our Vilnius. The entire seaside is sprinkled with our ancestors’ blood. We will never forget this, following their footsteps, we will never despair in difficult times and thus we will win. This crowd of people, that have gathered from all over Lithuania, is not merely a sign of curiosity to witness the sea, but also the greatest determination to work and live in a way for the entire Lithuania to establish in the sea. Our sea. We will never give it away to anyone. This promise of ours must be held true. May the Day of the Sea remind it to everyone. *

*Presidential speech of Antanas Smetona. Lietuwos Keleiwis, 14 August 1934 No. 186, p. 1.

On 26 May 2019, Gitanas Nausėda has been elected as the President of the Republic of Lithuania for a term of five years.

Congratulations to His Excellency the President! We wish him strength and wisdom.

 

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