Yesterday, February 16th was 100th anniversary of restored Lithuania.
A lot of people who did not take Lithuanian history classes need to be explained why we call it restoration. In my own words from what I learned in history classes, I could say that Lithuania as a concept has been around for than thousand years. However, out history was not a straight path and Lithuanians went through a lot of ups and downs. So, we had Grand Dutch of Lithuania back in a day.
Lithuania was the last European country to convert from paganism to Christianity.
Lithuania was the biggest country in Europe in 15th-16th centuries.
Then, we faces many threats around us, so we made a common-wealth with Poland. It went downhill from there, and Lithuania became part of Russian Empire until 1918. This is where word restoration comes in even though February 16th, 1918 was a day when declaration of Independence was signed. We were a country before.
If you are interested in Lithuanian history, the link is here to find out more.
What do I think about this anniversary?
Sadly, these last 100 years have not been any easier as well. From 1940-1990 were years when Lithuania have controlled by Soviet Union. We had to re-declare our independence again in 1990. As a result of Soviet Union occupation, people have struggled financially ever since. Not surprisingly, a lot of people have fled Lithuania in many time periods from reasons ranging to afraid to be killed (right before Soviet occupation) or financial (once borders opened up in 1990. Yes, you were not able to travel much outside of Soviet Union times).
Not surprising, people are not optimistic about living in Lithuania. I mean, I am not writing this from Lithuania as well. As a result, the independent Lithuania is facing a problem of the brain drain I probably already mentioned before. Even people who do consider to come back (like me, even though I am not sure for long (maybe just a short year-long project) or if I will manage to do it) have to go through many phrases similar to "I don't think it is a good idea, just stay where you are." And they do come from a great place, I completely understand that they wish the best.
However, I think that all of it can be turned around with a lot of hard work. One thing I learned about Lithuanians while living in the United States was that Lithuanians are not only the ones living in the Lithuania and speaking Lithuanian. There are a lot of people who once I tell them I am Lithuania, they keep telling about their Lithuanian roots that date back to very early 1900's. They may not speak Lithuanian or ever consider living there, but maybe one or two might. And people move around a lot, especially in these modern times. What I am trying to say, it's that's up to us to change the country in a way that we want to. If we make a country where people want to live, it will happen. Government and everything else is just an excuse.
I loved how so many people came together to celebrate February 16th and it shows that we can come together and celebrate. So my hope is that we can come together and solve many complex issues in Lithuania, and everywhere else around the world.