European of the Year 2022 in Lithuania is Jonas Ohman – for longstanding support of the Ukrainian people fighting for their own and our freedom
European of the Year 2022 award ceremony / Photo: Gabrielius Jauniškis
For the second year in the row, in order to honour those who have contributed the most to promoting the values of the European Union in Lithuania, the European Movement Lithuania, in partnership with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Lithuania and the Representation of the European Commission in Lithuania, organised the European of the Year Awards 2022.
As the recipient of the most votes from visitors to the Lithuanian national broadcasting portal LRT.lt, the European of the Year 2022 title was granted to Jonas Ohman, Founder of the civic initiative “Blue/Yellow”.
Jonas Ohman is a Swedish-born human rights activist, filmmaker, writer, translator and journalist, who has lived in Lithuania for more than 30 years. After the outbreak of the Russian war in Ukraine in 2014, he founded the Vilnius-based Blue/Yellow together with his partners in Lithuania. Since then, the initiative has been supporting Ukraine’s armed resistance by providing Ukrainian soldiers and volunteers with non-lethal equipment, in order to help them in their heroic fight for European values against Russian aggression.
Since 24 February 2022, Blue/Yellow has been the focal point of Lithuania’s desire to help the Ukrainian people. Due to the initiative’s well-developed structure and its long-standing trustworthy activities, Blue/Yellow collected over EUR 20 million in donations from the Lithuanian people in less than a month after Russia started its war of aggression.
“The activities of Jonas Ohman and his Blue/Yellow team have involved long-term, European cooperation, contributing to the strengthening of the European spirit during the time of the brutal Russian war in Europe. They are supporting our common fight for the most important values of the European Union – freedom, democracy and respect for every human being. That is the symbolism of these awards and it shows how important the fundamental values of the European Union are to Lithuanians,” said Gaja Šavelė, Chair of the Board of the European Movement Lithuania.
As 2022 is the European Year of Youth, a special award titled “Young European of the Year” was established to shine a light on the importance of young people’s role in building the future of Europe. The title was granted to Roberta Beleckaitė, a volunteer at the Panevėžys Youth Day Centre, for having a “heart the size of Europe, which makes us remember that everyone is unique and special”. According to her colleagues, Roberta has become the soul of the community of young people with intellectual disabilities who visit the centre every day, owing to her warmth, initiative and energy. Her work is helping to change the stereotypes of society and remind us that we are all unique and special.
From left to right:
Laura Tatarėlytė (Executive Director of the EM Lithuania), Jonas Ohman (European of the Year 2022), Roberta Beleckaitė (Young European of the Year 2022), Gaja Šavelė (Chair of the Board of the European Movement Lithuania). Photo: Gabrielius Jauniškis.
Both Europeans of the Year 2022 received a sculpture created by the Ukrainian sculptor Valeriy Pyrohov in Kharkiv in 2018, which were brought to Vilnius from Kyiv by volunteers.
In the final stage of European of the Year 2022, readers of the LRT.lt portal could choose from the five candidates in each category selected by the Competition Selection Commission. During the first stage of the competition, members of the public were invited to nominate their candidates and almost 60 nominations were received from all over Lithuania.
The awards were presented on the 8th of May, on the occasion of the Europe Day event organised by the Delegation of the European Commission in Lithuania in Kaunas, the European Capital of Culture. Partners of the European of the Year awards were the Lithuanian Council of Youth Organisations (LiJOT) and Lithuanian Railways.