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#BalticWay30 at the U.S. Capitol
On Friday, August 23, around 500 people joined their hands in a symbolic human chain and re-enacted a unique historical event in front of the U.S Capitol. The original "Baltic Way" took place in the Baltic countries of Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania three decades ago.
Lithuanian- Latvian- Estonian Americans, and friends of the Baltic countries came to celebrate freedom and honor those people who stood in the original Baltic Way. Participants traveled from as far away as Ohio and New York. The event was also attended by Ms. Erika Olson, Director for Nordic, Baltic and Arctic Security Affairs at the State Department; Mr. Gavin Wild, National Security Council Director, Ms. Carol Werner, Lithuanian desk officer, other US Administration officials. House Baltic Caucus co-chair Representative John Shimkus (R-IL) wrote a statement in support of the event that was read by JBANC Managing Director Karl Altau.
“It is a great honor to celebrate this day with the American friends. The role of the U.S. was key in keeping the hope of freedom alive during all 50 years of Soviet occupation,” said charge d’affaires of Lithuanian Embassy Kęstutis Vaškelevičius. „30 years ago all Lithuania was standing in the Baltic Way- Lithuanians, Poles, Ukrainians, Russians, Jews, Karaite, Georgians and other nationalities. It is symbolic and telling that representatives of many of those nationalities are here with us today. United people who believe in freedom can overcome any challenge,” said K.Vaškelevičius.
After the remarks by Estonian Ambassador Jonatan Vseviov, Latvian Charge Arturs Saburovs, VoC’s Executive Director Marion Smith JBANC Managing Director Karl Altau, the song of Baltic sisterhood, Ärgake Baltimaad, Bunda jau Baltija, Atmostas Baltija, was performed by local Lithuanian, Estonian, Latvian singers.
The event was organized by the three Baltic embassies, the Joint Baltic American National Committee (JBANC), and the Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation (VoC).
On August 23, 1989, more than 2 million people, or 25% of the entire population of Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania, joined hands in a chain that spread almost 400 miles, a similar distance as from Washington D.C. to Boston. The people joined hands in a peaceful protest against the Soviet occupation that had begun in 1940. The original Baltic Way was organized to mark the 50th anniversary of the so-called Ribbentrop-Molotov Pact. On August 23, 1939, Nazi Germany’s foreign minister Joachim von Ribbentrop and Soviet Union’s foreign minister Vyacheslav Molotov signed a Nazi-Soviet neutrality Pact. The Pact had a secret protocol added to it, which defined the spheres of influence, leaving the three Baltic countries for Stalin's forcible incorporation into the Soviet empire.
In 2019, the transatlantic community celebrates the 30th anniversaries of the Baltic Way, the freedom revolutions in Europe, as well as the fall of the Berlin Wall.
On this occasion the Baltic Ambassadors wrote an OpEd in the Washington Times: https://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2019/aug/22/when-course-history-moved-toward-freedom/