• Klaipeda University
  • 12 January 2023

French Footprints in the History of Klaipėda Region to be Perpetuated by a Commemorative Plaque on KU campus

On Sunday 15 January, the 100th anniversary of the annexation of Klaipėda Region to Lithuania will be celebrated at the Klaipėda University campus.

At 16:30, the general public is invited to attend the unveiling ceremony of a commemorative plaque, to remind everybody that in 1920-1923, the French Army's 21st Infantry Rifle Battalion was stationed in the then Klaipėda barracks. This military unit carried out a mission in Klaipėda Region on behalf of the great Allied powers for three years, from February 1920 to February 1923. The French Embassy in Lithuania took the initiative to commemorate the French footprints in Klaipėda's changeable history.

"From 1920 to 1923, when Klaipėda was annexed to Lithuania, it was ruled by the French. This period is a common episode in the history of the Lithuanian and French nations. Today, both in France and Lithuania, this moment in the history of our countries has almost disappeared from memory. By preserving and cherishing this memory, we will be able to better understand the fates of our countries and the close ties that have endured the twists and turns of history and made us and the European Union what we are today," said Lieutenant- Colonel Frederic Lemoine, Defence Attaché of France in Lithuania,

A granite plaque has been placed on the building of the KU Aula and the Institute of Baltic History and Archaeology. It will testify to the historical fact in Lithuanian and French. The plaque was created by sculptor Gintautas Jonkus from Klaipėda. Not only will a keen observer see the silhouette of a French soldier's helmet, but he will also see the emblem of the 21st French Infantry Rifle Battalion with a mischievous imp on it, recreated in accordance with historical sources. 

The unveiling ceremony of the commemorative plaque is to be attended by the Ambassador of France to Lithuania Mrs Alix Everard and the Defence Attaché Frederic Lemoine, both resident in Lithuania, as well as by other distinguished members of the country and the city community.

After the outdoor ceremony, the audience will be invited to the KU Stasys Vaitekūnas Aula. The exhibition The French in Klaipėda 1920-1923, prepared in collaboration with the History Museum of Lithuania Minor, will be opened at 5 pm. The exhibition will run until 29 January.

KU initiatives dedicated to the commemoration of the Year of Klaipėda Region:

  • Launch of a documentary book The Year 1923: Klaipėda's Annexation to Lithuania. Participants and their Testimonies,  jointly prepared by the Institute of Baltic History and Archaeology and History Museum of Lithuania Minor, in Klaipėda on 2 February 2023  and in the Book Fair in Vilnius on 24 February; 
  • On 25-27 May 2023, an international scientific conference The 1923 Annexation of Klaipėda Region to Lithuania: Its International Significance and Long-Term Impact in the Context of European Border-Zone  Micro-Regions will be held in Vilnius and Klaipėda.

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