On January 21, the rebels of 1863-64 were honored in Vilnius. The ceremony took place at the Rosy cemetery. Belarus was represented by the leader of the democratic forces, Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya, who made a speech:
«President Gitanas Nauseda, President Andrzej Duda, Ambassador Petr Beshta.
Dear friends, every nation has heroic pages in its history, and for us, Belarusians, the uprising of 1863 is one of them.
Our ancestors refused to live under the oppression of the occupiers. They chose dignity over humility. Freedom over slavery. Civilized Europe instead of barbaric empire.
And although the uprising did not end in victory, it witnessed the political birth of the Belarusian nation. And Kastus Kalinouski, who led the uprising on our lands, became a symbol of our common struggle for freedom.
The ceremony at the Rosy cemetery / Pozirk
Today, four nations – Poland, Lithuania, Belarus and Ukraine – are united by the places of his birth, his struggle and martyrdom. One memory of him lives in the name of the regiment that defends Ukraine today.
Our enslaved peoples were united in the uprising. This union for the sake of freedom preceded the future United Europe. Our peoples fought for the free future of the entire continent. But European capitals didn’t understand it. And they did not come to help. Our peoples were enslaved for a long time. The best people were killed. The cause of freedom was defeated.
And today, once again, the fate of freedom, democracy and the right of peoples to self-determination is being decided in our region. And again we stand against the same empire. And once again we must hope for the solidarity of the democratic world.
The same empire is trying to destroy European solidarity with Ukraine and is trying to sow mistrust between our peoples. But they won’t succeed. And the fact that we are all here together is proof of that.
The Russian Empire of that time tried not only to destroy the right of our peoples to independent life, but also their very identity – language, culture, historical memory and European values. “One thing they teach in our schools is to completely turn you into a Muscovy,” Kalinouski exposed the policy of “Russian World”.
Belarusians at the rebels' commemoration / Radio Svaboda
Likewise, Russia is now trying to erase Ukrainian and Belarusian national identity in order to facilitate and justify further aggression. And the pro-Russian regime in Belarus eradicates the Belarusian language and closes the schools of the Polish and Lithuanian minorities.
The regimes of Lukashenka and Putin are trying to destroy the very memory of that uprising. The name of Kastus Kalinouski is being erased from school textbooks.
And a month ago in Lida, they destroyed the inscription on the grave of priest Adam Falkowski. He was executed for reading the manifesto of the uprising and calling his followers to fight.
Tyrants can destroy monuments, rewrite textbooks, torture people in prisons, but they will never succeed in destroying that heroic spirit.
That rebellious spirit lives in millions of Belarusians today. In those who went out on the streets in 2020. In our fearless warriors who defend Ukraine. In our steadfast political prisoners who are being tortured in Lukashenka’s prisons. It lives in our partisans and bloggers. Honest teachers and musicians. Artists and activists.
This spirit lives in our freedom-loving nations. And our duty is to finish the work started by the rebels.
I believe that this time we will succeed. Tyranny will be defeated. I believe that this time the democratic world will not leave our people alone with the aggressor. Ukraine will definitely win. And Belarus will return to the European family, to which it historically belongs.
Жыве Беларусь! Слава Украіні! Niech Żyje Polska! Tegyvuoja Lietuva!» Tsikhanouskaya said.
President of Poland Andrzej Duda, President of Lithuania Gitanas Nauseda and Ambassador of Ukraine Piotr Beshta also took part in the ceremony in Vilnius.