Frontline “document” for president of LithuaniaVinnytsia volunteers presented Dalia Grybauskaite with a Ukrainian-Lithuanian flag that bears autographs of ATO soldiers
Vinnytsia volunteers have made a three-meter flag of two states Ukraine and Lithuania. They have been carrying this banner to many hotspots in the battle area for almost a year. The military wrote almost all the autographs in trenches and dugouts, using the equipment or even the knee or the back as a support. The volunteers think the most significant inscription belongs to Hero of Ukraine Vasyl Bozhko – the 23-year-old officer took the tank gunner’s place in a battle and hit three enemy tanks.
“It is not just an initiative of volunteers. We have thus fulfilled the promise we gave to our ATO soldiers. It is they who requested us to make a battle flag for the president of Lithuania because she boldly came out against the nuclear-missile-armed Putin. We decided to make a joint Ukrainian-Lithuanian flag as a sign of gratitude and gathered on it the autographs of those who are defending this country from militants,” says Anatolii Slivinskyi, head of the All-Ukrainian Association of ATO Participants and Volunteers. “The Embassy of Lithuania in Ukraine came to know about our initiative, and, thanks to the efforts of many people, we met Ms. Grybauskaite. She is an extraordinary person, the great leader of a small country. The first striking thing was that she allowed us to speak Ukrainian and apologized for speaking in the aggressor’s language. We were pleased very much to hear that. Ms. President said several times that she was aware of Ukraine’s importance for peace in Europe. But for our state, Russia would have gone further. This is why Lithuania supports Ukraine politically, humanitarianly, and morally. This sincere conversation left nobody indifferent. We presented Ms. President with the volunteer’s award Iron Cross [a decoration during the 1917-21 Ukrainian Liberation War. – Author] in token of gratitude and for defending European values, freedom, democracy, and independence of her country.”
“AN OLD MILITARY TRADITION”
Oleh Dmytriichuk, ATO veteran, chief sector specialist at the State Service for War Veterans and ATO Participants of the Central Region, says that when he was signing the flag, he did not think he would have an opportunity to personally hand over this banner to Dalia Grybauskaite a year later.
“Handing in the national flag as a token of valor and patriotism is the sign of our time,” Dmytriichuk affirms. “This tradition emerged during the Donbas hostilities and became widespread. It is true that a flag with the autographs of our comrades-in-arms is the most precious gift to us, ATO participants. I was incredibly excited before the meeting. I replayed several times in my memory what I was supposed to say. But, frankly speaking, I just wanted to thank for the guys – those who are now in the battle area and those who were or are receiving medical care in Lithuania. Ms. Grybauskaite is a strong European leader, a historical friend of Ukraine, and an extremely charismatic lady.”
“WE MUST PRESSURE OCCUPIERS AND THE AGGRESSOR TOGETHER”
The volunteers also presented the president of Lithuania with another emotion-filled document – the list of POWs from various regions of Ukraine compiled by NGO Berehynia activists. When they came to know about the visit of Vinnytsia volunteers to Lithuania, they prepared an address to Lithuania’s president and asked volunteer Valentyna Velhan to hand over to Ms. Grybauskaite the appeal of the mothers whose sons are in captivity now. Most of them were taken prisoner when coming out of the Ilovaisk pocket. The president accepted the address and placed the matter under her control.
“The exchange [of POWs] has slowed down lately. The Minsk Accords do not work. This is why the parents and relatives of hostages are seeking other ways, turning to international organizations, and ‘catching’ diplomats. This produces results, and we must pressure occupiers and the aggressor together – only then will we manage to get our sons back home,” Velhan says. “When we told Ms. Grybauskaite about this problem, she pointed out: ‘First of all, you, volunteers, must not sell yourselves or lose hope!’ With this faith and support in hand, we won’t do a bad turn.”
“YOU ARE TEACHING US PATRIOTISM AND LOVE FOR YOUR COUNTRY”
Ms. Grybauskaite noted in the conversation with the Ukrainians that Lithuania had furnished our state with 1.2 million-euro-worth humanitarian aid since the military aggression in the Donbas began. Lithuania strongly supports Ukraine on the international arena and helps it fight corruption and carry out important reforms in the legal sphere, the economy, and the public sector.
“Ukraine’s soldiers and volunteers are defending the freedom and future of their country. These Ukrainians show an example of courage, public activism, and self-denying service to the Fatherland to all of Lithuania and Europe. You are teaching us patriotism and love for your country,” the president of Lithuania said in conclusion. “But, in addition to the foreign enemy, Ukraine also has a powerful domestic enemy which only successful reforms can overcome. It is difficult but necessary to carry them out even in wartime. Certain, albeit modest, results are noticeable – the European Parliament has approved the cancellation of visa requirements for Ukrainian citizens. But it is important not to stop on the path of reforms but to do your utmost for the creation of a transparent state. You should defend your freedom every day and every minute.”
The flag the Ukrainians presented to Dalia Grybauskaite will “live” at the Lithuanian presidential administration’s museum. The head of the Lithuanian state was satisfied with the meeting. The proof of this is at least the fact that, although, by protocol, the Ukrainian volunteers had 30 minutes to speak to Ms. President, the meeting took much more time. The reason is that Ms. Grybauskaite wished to hear the truth about the war, the situation in the rear and in Ukraine as a whole from ordinary Ukrainians. Even Ukraine’s Ambassador to Lithuania, Volodymyr Yatsynkivskyi, who accompanied the delegation, was surprised that Ms. President turned a protocol meeting with Ukrainian guests into an easy talk over a cup of coffee that lasted for almost an hour.