Dear ladies and gentlemen,
Dear people of Viļaka,
United Latvia emerged from the shared fate of all Latvian lands. The fulfilment of the dream of founding fathers to have our own state means that our Latgale, Vidzeme, Zemgale and Kurzeme must always be united.
We had to win the independence of united Latvia ourselves. 100 years ago, our ancestors had to fight the War of Independence to defend our right to our own state. They fought for it with guns in their hands.
Liberation of Latgale put an end to the War of Independence. We restored control over Latgale and reached the Eastern border of our state. We had won our state. We continued with establishment of government structures and further development of state. We had only 20 more years for that before the occupation. Then came 50 years of occupation before building of our own state resumed, and we have been building it for the past 30 years.
Today, I would like to specifically highlight the historic importance of unshakeable sense of Latvian identity and belonging to united Latvia our fellow Latgalians had shown.
Shared fate of united lands historically inhabited by Latvians and the Latvian nation was declared in Rēzekne during the Congress of Latgale where Latgalian public and political figures demonstrated that they are the staunchest supporters and advocates of the concept of our statehood.
Latgalian Partisan Regiment is recognised for its significant role in the War of Independence. War which evolved into struggle for Latvia. War initiated by small partisan units that came together and lead the liberation of Northern Latgale. Latgalian partisans who have been immortalised in Arvīds Egle mural on one of the walls of Riga Castle Festival Hall.
Our victory would not have been possible without crucial and vital support provided by our friends and allies.
Estonian troops fought side by side with Latvian soldiers and partisans to free the Northern Latgale from enemy force. Whereas Poland played a decisive role in liberating Daugavpils. Polish force helped Latvians overcome the Soviet Russia.
I am happy that Polish and Estonian ambassadors are here today. Their presence shows that we are brothers in arms for already 100 years and will continue to be brothers in arms under the NATO. As NATO member states, we collectively defend Estonia, Poland, Latvia, the whole Europe and NATO members in the West.
Today we are honouring our War of Independence heroes, our Bearslayers who fought for united and independent state of Latvia.
Circumstances surrounding the liberation of Latgale in January of 1920 were difficult. Weather conditions were harsh. Deep snow, roads blocked by snow, almost undriveable, extreme cold. Despite heavy fighting and harsh weather conditions, Latvian soldiers made headway and gradually pushed the enemy out – one Latgalian town and village at a time.
Let us honour and commemorate all those patriotic Latvians who fought for Latvia and made the ultimate sacrifice for Latvia by giving their lives for it. Let us follow in their footsteps and do our best to make united and independent Latvia safe, secure and prosperous. Let us do what we can to build a comfortable and pleasant state for ourselves – a developed modern European state, a part of Western world.
Let me once again thank Estonia and Poland for helping Latvia achieve statehood by winning the War of Independence. Working together for a safer future.