On January 11 the international tribute run called "On the path of life and death" was held as a living tradition to honor the defenders of Lithuania's freedom and in memory of the tragic events that took place 29 years ago. The tribute run is organized to express respect and gratefulness to the 13 January 1991 victims. The event was attended by Minister of National Defence Raimundas Karoblis, representatives of the Ministry of National Defence, Lithuanian Armed Forces, and NATO allies - they paid respects to the freedom defenders at Antakalnis Cemetery and greeted participants of the event at the foot of the Vilnius TV Tower.
A special spirit of unity and patriotism connected participants of the traditional international tribute run, "Path of Life and Death" was attended by 8,165, a record number of runners from 23 counties, this year. More than 80 people also took part in analogous runs in 11 foreign countries.
"I am grateful to be able to join this special event which is of great importance to our brave host nation. That was challenging physically but the reasons of the event make up for everything," members of the NATO enhance Forward Presence Battalion Battle Group, German Lt Col Jörg Becker said after the event.
Approximately 8,165 people of different ages and walks of life, residents and guests of Vilnius, ran the 9 km distance on the streets of Vilnius from Antakalnis (Karių kapų str.) to Karoliniškės iki Karoliniškių (Sausio 13-osios str.) to honour the Lithuanian freedom defenders. The route in the streets of Vilnius is run every year by members of different authorities, organisations, education establishments, or sports clubs from Lithuania and abroad. They were accompanied by the military, police, firefighters, state border guard, prosecutors, riflemen, scouts, pupils and students, seniors and regular runners, wearing the Lithuanian tricolor or forget-me-not badges, some even accompanied by their four-legged runners.
A big gang of personnel of the U.S. Embassy in Lithuania took part, as well as allied soldiers deployed in Lithuania, members of the NATO enhanced Forward Presence Battalion from several European countries.
First participants to reach the finish line received commemorative medals from and were congratulated by Minister of National Defence Raimundas Karoblis.
The largest crowd of Lithuanian Armed Forces representatives, more than 3 thousand troops, came from the Lithuanian Armed Forces. According to tradition, Iron Will statuette awards were presented to Land Force soldiers for best physical fitness results in their age groups.
"Our Armed Forces have significantly improved over the 30 years. We have new modern equipment and weaponry, and what's most important, we have strong and motivated soldiers," Commander of the Lithuanian Land Force Brig Gen Raimundas Vaikšnoras said.
The tribute run was co-organized by the Ministry of National Defence, Lithuanian Armed Forces, and the Lithuanian Running Club. Contributors to the vent area the Seimas of the Republic of Lithuania, Ministry of Education, Science an Sport, Ministry of Culture, JSC Lithuanian Radio and Television Centre, Vilnius City Council, Lithuanian Olympic Committee, Vilnius County Police Department, LKA Travelers' Club public body.
The Lithuanian Running Club invites the participants who did not collect their commemorative medals to contact via www.lbma.lt.
Also, roughly 800 runners joined the event from around the world, they ran in 11 countries - Afghanistan, Denmark, Spain, Italy, U.S., UK, Mali, Netherlands, Finland, Switzerland, and Germany.
When the independence of Lithuania was re-established and the path of freedom needed to be defended, the events of January 13 claimed lives of Loreta Asanavičiūtė, Virginijus Druskis, Darius Gerbutavičius, Rolandas Jankauskas, Rimantas Juknevičius, Alvydas Kanapinskas, Algimantas Petras Kavoliukas, Vytautas Koncevičius, Vidas Maciulevičius, Titas Masiulis, Stasys Mačiulskas, Alvydas Matulka, Apolinaras Juozas Povilaitis, Ignas Šimulionis, Vytautas Vaitkus.
Photo credits: Alfredas Pliadis, Cpl M. Lysenko