16th of February 1918. 20 members of Council of Lithuania sign a document. It announces the restoration of independent state of Lithuania, severing all governing connections with other countries, and proclaiming that newly re-established state will be regulated by democratic principles.

 

Little did they know that after 100 years, another world war, after country and its parts being ruled by several nations, Lithuanians will be celebrating this date as one of the most important in their history.

 

The Act of February 16th united people who were fighting for free and independent Lithuania. And today we are celebrating it as our day of Independence and a 100th birthday of our modern democratic country.

 

We appreciate this freedom. Living in Lithuania or abroad, studying or working, you never forget where you come from. And you feel immensely proud of your roots when you share them with others. And that’s what we as ESNers do quite well.

 

When most people think about ESN, they think about volunteers taking care of international students. Organization encouraging mobility. But it’s more than that.

 

We explain incoming international students why we eat 12 dishes on Christmas Eve and tell them that not a bunny, but the Easter granny brings us chocolates on the most important spring holiday. We explain why our most unique national soup is pink. We encourage them (or politely insist) to try our other national dishes. Today we will be telling about our history and perhaps for the nth time explaining why we have not one but two independence days.

 

As ESN Lithuania volunteers, we constantly represent Lithuania in international events. Be it bringing some Lithuanian food to Euro dinners, speaking about their home universities and towns during their own exchange studies, presenting country and its culture in mobility fairs, flag parades, mobility conferences or other events all over Europe and beyond. And we will continue to do so.

 

We are proud of our country. We are grateful for its freedom. And we are extremely happy to say “Su gimtadieniu, Lietuva” today.

 

Written by Laura Klusaitė

Photos by Evelina Kurtinaitytė from AGM Warsaw