Mr. Speaker, I wish to honor Lithuania's Independence Day, which occurred on February 16th . This is the 83rd Anniversary of this historic event.
The Republic of Lithuania declared independence on February 16, 1918. The Lithuanian people enjoyed a 22 year period of self-rule and freedom before the occupation of the Soviet Union in 1940. Their traumatic times did not end there. In 1941, Nazi Germany invaded and 90% of Lithuania's 250,000 Jews were killed. The Soviets regained control over the area in 1944, resulting in a 46 year occupation, during which 700,000 Lithuanians were either deported to Siberia, forced into exile, imprisoned or shot.
Throughout all of their struggles, the Lithuanian people never gave up on their dream of independence. In 1990, they were the first Baltic State to secede from the Soviet Union and declare independence. After a hard fought struggle with the former Soviet empire, Lithuania finally regained independence.
I offer my congratulations on the stability of the country as a republic with a strong hold on democracy and a growing economy. I wish the Republic of Lithuania the best as they work for full integration into the world community, NATO and the European Union.
The people of Lithuania are proud and courageous, and I salute their faithfulness, endurance and patriotism. I extend my warmest wishes to the Republic of Lithuania as they celebrate another year of freedom.
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