Vilnius University will be honouring 85 former students and academic community members with symbolic ‘Memory Diplomas’ who were expelled from the university due to totalitarian regimes and their local collaborators. As a result, many people lost an ability to continue their academic career, studies or research.
This year, 31 individuals were found as victims of the Soviet mass deportations from the three Baltic states Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia during a Soviet operation called ‘Operation Priboi’. Some victims will be participating at the symbolic ceremony.
Also, 41 Jewish students will be honoured. These students were expelled because of their nationality on 19th of September, 1941 while executing an order from Higher Education Department during the Nazi occupation period.
This year Vilnius University received multiple individual requests from the relatives of expelled academic community members. After careful analysis performed by university’s historians, 7 nominees were confirmed and will receive the diplomas as well. One of them is globally recognized professor Baltrus Šivickis (1882-1968), known for his early observations on genetic research methods that are commonly used even nowadays.
‘This initiative is a recognition of university’s past mistakes and restoration of historical truth. I am proud of our historians’ hard work in searching for information which our predecessors found irrelevant or inconvenient to speak of. Although Diplomas are only a symbolic gesture for the victims, however, we want to ensure that despite the historical circumstances they are and will always be a part of our community”, – Artūras Žukauskas, rector of Vilnius University notes.
University’s initiative ‘Recovering Memory’ is now ongoing for the fourth consecutive year. The main purpose of it is to apologize to community members who have been expelled from the university during the period of prewar and postwar time in Lithuania. This year Vilnius University is inviting other higher education institutions to participate.
‘I am sure that other Lithuanian universities have similar stories too. Therefore, I invite other higher education institutions to join us in this reflection of the past. We must acknowledge the damage caused by the actions of totalitarian regimes and to apologize to those who have been the victims only on the basis of their nationality or work for our country’, - says rector Žukauskas.