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Embassy of Finland
K. Kalinausko g. 24
LT-03107 VILNIUS
LITHUANIA
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Embassy of Lithuania
Pohjoisranta 4 A 15
00170 HELSINKI
FINLAND
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Halina Kobeckaitė, Ambassador of the Republic of Lithuania to the Republic of Finland in 2007-2011, and Tarja Halonen, President of the Republic of Finland

A 100 years ago, two states, Lithuania and Finland, started their diplomatic relations with a good will and hope. Since 1990, when Lithuania restored its independence, these relations were renewed after 50 years of gap. So for the last 30 years we are again going together on the same European path. Congratulations to all of us who contributed to the success of this remarkable journey!

During a celebration of any anniversary we are used to look back and overview the work done, count the achievements. While reviewing the 100 years of the diplomatic relations between Lithuania and Finland, we can name many people that were involved in creating and strengthening these connections as well as facilitating relations among all Baltic Sea countries.

When taking up my duties as Ambassador of Lithuania to Finland, I felt lucky. I knew I’d find here a lot of my friends from previous activities. Also I had a pleasure rediscovering many people that were for some time already actively involved in promoting Lithuania. My old friend, writer and translator Mrs. Ulla-Liissa Heino I knew since 1991 when she invited me to participate in the creation of the Cultural Foundation of the Lithuanian - Finnish Association, later called “Donelaitis Seura”. Other good friends also contributed a lot, especially for the Lithuanian culture - the member of this Association Honorary Consul Mr. Aulis Tinnilä, also writer Mrs. Kirsti Siraste, who was linked with Vilnius through her ancestors, and so she established a special prize for Polish poets in Vilnius and organized conferences Palta-Balta for the intellectuals from countries around the Baltic Sea. Helsinki University prof. Mr. Tapani Harviainen was the first guest in my house in Vilnius immediately after the main meeting of Sąjūdis in 1988, and in the following years he was very active in supporting turcology studies in Vilnius and publishing the books on this subject. Physician Mr. Leo Kovarskis and his wife Isabelė were teaching Lithuanian language for kids of the community. Mr. Martti Blasnialis whom I met in Helsinki during my first visit here back in 1991, later learned from me the details about his lost family and so finally found his relatives in Lithuania.

These people create lively bridges to public relations and public diplomacy activities pursued by the others, also faithfully developing links between our countries. Once I was introduced to prof. Hannu Niemi and learned about his grandfather prof. August Niemi, who was invited to Lithuania in 1920 and delivered the program of national education for our then newly restored state. I discovered also a very interesting Finnish writer Henry Parland (1908-1930), who was a nephew of a very well-known professor of aesthetics in Lithuania Mr. Vosylius Sezemanas, and who has spent two last years of his life in Kaunas. There he created his unfinished but very modern for that time novel “To Pieces”, that was translated to Lithuanian and printed in 2011 (“Sudužo”).

Moving deeper and back to the history, we come across Catherina Jagellonica (Kotryna Jogailaitė). Originally, a Lithuanian princess - her grand grandfather Jogaila or Jagiello was a Lithuanian Duke who became the King of Poland and started the Jagellonian dynasty - she is a well-known personality in Finland. Her son, King Sigismund Vaza III left a deep track in the history of Lithuania, Poland and Sweden. We have found her and her husband‘s footprints not only in Turku, but also in Pori. The state visit of the President of the Republic of Lithuania H.E. Valdas Adamkus was a perfect occasion to pay tribute to our common history. By the initiative of our Embassy, during his state visit H.E. Valdas Adamkus donated to the Mayor of Turku Mr. Mikko Pukkinen a modern portrait of Catherine Jagellonica created by a young Lithuanian artist Dainius Trumpis. This painting is placed now in the Castle museum. Also, the Lithuanian embassy in Finland, supported by brilliant Lithuanian and Finnish historians and researchers, under my leadership organized a seminar in Turku on 15 April 2009 titled “Catherine Jagellonica and Baltic cooperation - a modern view”. This seminar was dedicated to the historical relations between Finland and Lithuania, between all countries around the Baltic Sea since the ancient times. The Baltic Sea was always a route for interaction and trade. The states and nations in this region were influenced not only by national, ethnic culture but also by their interconnections and in some way by regional identity.

The seminar on Catherina Jagellonica was also showcasing our common cultural heritage and sending these messages to the broader Europe. According to the former Finnish minister of Culture Mr. Stefan Wallin, “Mare Nostrum has always united the nations around the Baltic Sea, and their history and development have been shaped by cultural exchanges”. Testifying the very old relations between the Baltic Sea countries and nations, and underlying new possibilities for travel and information spread, we apparently still might have a gap in knowing each other, our historical past and culture, traditions and habits. It means that future generations of diplomats still have a lot to do.

On that same year, Lithuania was celebrating the Millennium anniversary of its name. That year our capital Vilnius became the European capital of culture. In July 2009, Lithuania started its presidency in the Baltic Sea States Council and promoted the main objective of the Council - security, stability and welfare in the region. During that time our Embassy organized a big exhibition dedicated to the Millennium of mentioning the Lithuanian name, also the exhibition “Travelling letters” in Lahti, the exhibition of posters done by prof. Juozas Galkus, the exhibitions of Lithuanian graphic art and glassworks, the exhibition dedicated to the anniversary of “Baltic chain”, a concert commemorating our famous composer and artist M. K. Čiurlionis, concerts of Lithuanian choir, pianists, conductors, theatre performances of directors Eimuntas Nekrošius and Aidas Giniotis and many other cultural events. In all these activities, the Embassy developed a very good cooperation with responsible people of the various institutions in Helsinki and in other cities as well as with the Lithuanian community.

I was happy for not only the above-mentioned events but also thanks to the strengthened official relations between our two countries and as result - many highest-level visits. Everybody in diplomacy knows how important they are. Once a very experienced diplomat told me that ambassador‘s job success is measured by the amount of state and official level visits to the country. According to him, at least one visit of this kind is already a big achievement... Just for statistics, I would mention that during my term and only in 2009 H.E. Valdas Adamkus and newly elected President H.E. Dalia Grybauskaitė paid visits to Finland, as well as President of the Republic of Finland H.E. Tarja Halonen - to Lithuania. And in 2010 H.E. Dalia Grybauskaitė visited Finland twice and H.E. Tarja Halonen Lithuania once. During my service in Finland, there were also 4 visits of Prime ministers and 3 visits of the ministers of Foreign affairs organized. We were receiving also the officials from other ministries for political consultations, consultations on security, energy and education issues, on the promotion of cultural heritage, on communication and so on. It was really a very active period and none of the events would have been successful without an excellent job of my team - diplomats of our embassy Ms. Eglė Bloznelienė, Ms. Sandra Brikaitė, Mr. Rimantas Kungys, Ms. Agnė Andriekutė and my partner Vladas Vaitkevičius.

During the official visit of the Prime Minister Andrius Kubilius to Finland in 2009, a memorial plate for the general consul of Lithuania in Helsinki Dr. Ragnar Ōller (1893-1960) was opened. He was active here in Interwar period till the 1940 and introduced our country to Finland though he worked alone. Thanks to his personal engagement, Lithuania became more familiar to Finns. If a person is doing something with knowledge, big passion and love, he can do a lot. Dr. Ōller was such a person. He closes his memories, written in the 60s of the 20th century, with quite a pessimistic sentence: “The work of Consulate was stopped, the iron curtain was dropped, and relations between Finland and Lithuania were broken down for unlimited times.”

Fortunately times have changed, and seeing how much was done during the last 30 years in the relations between our two countries, between all states around the Baltic sea and Europe in general, we can expect Dr. Ōller would be satisfied.

I am happy having joined a big family of Lithuanian diplomats who contributed to creating such a friendly atmosphere between our countries and to placing the Independent Lithuania back to where it belonged on the geographical and political map of Europe.