Central and Eastern Europe, International Journalism and PR

Lithuanian hero crashed by a Soviet tank

By Beata Bruggeman-Sekowska

“Doctor, will I live?”

These were the last words of Loreta Asanavičiūtė, a 23 year old Lithuanian freedom defender, who was run over by a Soviet tank on January 13 1991. On this day armoured Soviet forces drove through peaceful crowd which gathered to protect the symbol of Lithuania’s independence – the Vilnius TV Tower and the restored state of Lithuania.

Soviet tanks crushed the victims and shot them to death. 14 innocent people died at a TV tower and more than 500 unarmed civilians were injured. Loreta Asanavičiūtė, the only woman, who was 23-year-old, was run over by a Soviet tank. Her heart beat only a few hours in hospital.

©Honorary Consulate of the Republic of Lithuania in Limburg, Aloys Bruggeman RE RA

At a museum on the ground floor of the tower which is devoted to the freedom fighters you can find the photos of the victims murdered by the communists. Loreta Asanavičiūtė, the only woman, 23-year-old, was run over by a Soviet tank and later died in hospital. The streets around the TV tower are named after the victims. ©communications-unlimited.nl

Loreta Asanavičiūtė was buried Antakalnis cemetery in Vilnius on January 16. Her grave is the only one with a white cross among the Soviet victims, Lithuanian heroes.

©Honorary Consulate of the Republic of Lithuania in Limburg, Aloys Bruggeman RE RA

On the 13th of January, Freedom Defenders’Day is celebrated in Lithuania to commemorate victims of the Soviet military aggression of 1991, to commemorate Loreta Asanavičiūtė and other Lithuanian heroes. The candle, as symbol of the memory, today is lit across Lithuania and by the Lithuanian communities abroad.

Loreta’s life

Loreta Asanavičiūtė was born in 1967. Her mother was Stase Asanavičienė and she had an older borther Bronius and an older sister Renata. Loreta was the youngest in the family.  She studied at Vilnius Finance and Credit Technical School (now Vilnius College Faculty of Economics).  She graduated with a major in accounting in 1990.

To support her family she worked as a seamstress in a tailoring shop. In 1983 she got a job as a knitter in the “Dovana” association, where she worked until the events of January 1991.  

Loreta Asanavičiūtė liked folk music and folklore and she participated in events organized by the anti-communist Sajūdis movement. She also took part in the ‘’Baltic Way’’.

Television tower and crosses which commemorate the victims of brutal Soviet aggression©communications-unlimited.nl

After her death she was remembered by unveiling monuments, plaques and giving streets her name. In 1992 a monument was unveiled at the place of Loreta Asanavičiūtė’s death near the Vilnius TV tower (10 Janusio 13-osios str., Vilnius).  Four years later in 1996 by the decision of the Vilnius City Council, the Vilnius Street (formerly Žvaigždžių St.) near the Television Tower was named after Loreta Asanavičiūtė. In the same year a commemorative plaque was unveiled on the house where Loreta Asanavičiūtė lived (L. Asanavičiūtė st. 4, Vilnius). In  1998 a commemorative plaque was unveiled at Vilnius Spindulis Pro-gymnasium (former Vilnius 47th secondary school), where Loreta Asanavičiūtė studied.  The commemorative plaque was also unveiled at the Faculty of Economics of the Vilnius College (former Vilnius Finance and Credit Technical School), where Loreta Asanavičiūtė studied.  

Loreta Asanavičiūtė was also granted posthumously various awards:

  • in 1991 January 15 by resolution of the Presidium of the Supreme Council of the Republic of Lithuania no. I-952 Loreta Asanavičiūtė was awarded (posthumously) the Order of the Vytis Cross, 1st degree (now the Grand Cross of the Order of the Vytis Cross, the second highest award of the Lithuanian state) for her heroic courage and endurance in defending the freedom and independence of the Republic of Lithuania.
  • in 1992 January 9 – By the decree of the Presidium of the Supreme Council of the Republic of Lithuania, Loreta Asanavičiūtė was (posthumously) awarded the January 13th Commemorative Medal for her courage and sacrifice in defending the freedom and independence of Lithuania in January-September 1991. 
  • in 1998 The Institute of American Biographies awarded Loretai Asanavičiūtė (posthumously) the title of person of the world.  
  • in 1999 The board of the Lithuanian Army Creators Volunteer Union granted Loreta Asanavičiūta (after her death) the status of an honorary member of the Lithuanian Army Creators Volunteer Union and symbolically assigned her to the Vilnius county branch. 
  • in 2005  the volunteer union of creators of the Lithuanian army awarded Loreta Asanavičiūtė (posthumously) with the “We were, we are, we will be” medal. 
  • in 2011 On January 16, commemorating the 20th anniversary of January 13, Loreta Asanavičiūtė was awarded (posthumously) the 1st degree sign-medal “For Services to Vilnius and the Nation”. 

Source: Seimas

Photos: ©Honorary Consul of Lithuania in the Netherlands, ©communications-unlimited.nl.

Author: Beata Bruggeman-Sękowska is an award-winning international journalist, TV correspondent, author, chief editor of international journalism centre, Central and Eastern Europe Centre, president of the European Institute on Communist Oppression and a sworn translator. She was born in Warsaw, Poland and has also Armenian blood and roots in Lvov, which is part of Ukraine. She has been living in Heerlen, the Netherlands since 2005.

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