Solemn St. Christopher Awards on the occasion of the 697th birthday of the city of Vilnius


The prestigious St. Christopher Awards have been presented in the capital on the city’s birthday for the third consecutive year. Those, who have dedicated their ideas, works and projects to Vilnius, have made the name of the city famous in Lithuania and around the world, are entitled to the most honourable awards of Vilnius. Remigijus Šimašius, the Mayor of Vilnius, awarded 10 statues of St. Christopher to residents of Vilnius, whose works have merited the most last year, at the Town Hall tonight. Everyone from Vilnius residents, companies, communities, to science and art representatives were able to nominate candidates for this award.

“A birthday of the city sort of encodes the city for its future life and activity. All of us bring a genetic code with us when we are born. Millions of people who once lived and worked in Vilnius wrote and continue to write a genetic code of Vilnius. I am glad to see that the events that happen every day, millions of such events, change the city, but its gene remains unchanged. The last year was successful, with daring wishes and ambitions becoming a reality: Oscars won in the field of culture, historical secrets of the centuries revealed, record-breaking tourist flows, a unicorn in business and the ever-growing interest in Vilnius – these are our achievements that drive the vigorous Vilnius forward! Thank you, the creators of Vilnius!”, the Mayor of Vilnius Remigijus Šimašius said in his welcome and congratulations speech.

This year Asta Speičytė-Radzevičienė, the founder and the head of the Premature Babies Association “Neišnešiotukas” (English: Preemie), who has brought together the community of premature babies, received the honourable prize for caring for premature babies. For more than 7 years, the Association has been working together to encourage families that have premature babies and organizations, politicians and medical professionals to cooperate with each other. Margarita Radzevičiūtė, the eleven-year-old daughter of Asta Speičytė-Radzevičienė, who could not attend the ceremony, claimed the St. Christopher statue for her mother. Margarita was a preemie herself, and her early birth inspired the creation of the community of premature new-borns in Lithuania.

The researcher of the city of Vilnius and the historian, the writer and the tourist guide Darius Pocevičius won a St. Christopher statue for researching the unnoticed history of Vilnius. The historian wrote four books, two of which are large-scale, highly detailed historical studies on Vilnius. He has held more than 500 sightseeing tours in Vilnius and its surroundings during the period from 2011 till now. The books about Vilnius written by D. Pocevičius are unique in that they tell facts that are not widely known, and provide unexpected insights about Vilnius, other than those presented in textbooks and tourist guide books.

Rugilė Barzdžiukaitė, Vaiva Grainytė and Lina Lapelytė, who made Vilnius famous throughout the world last year, received an award for their Venetian gold. More than 85 000 spectators visited the Lithuanian pavilion at the Venice Art Biennale made famous for its opera-performance “Sun & Sea: Marina” in six months. The Biennale Commission awarded Lithuania for experimental spirit of its pavilion, an unexpected approach to presenting the country, a creative adaptation of the space to the Brechtian opera, and the ingenious interaction with the city of Venice and its residents. This is the first time that Lithuania received such a high-level award.

“Thank you for being the first to throw us a lifebelt when Venice was in a threat of not being able to continue singing. Vilnius is the place where everyone can be heard. This is where the majority of our masterpieces were born. Vilnius is the place that attracts so many people who inspire creativity”, said the artists.

Prof. Alina Pūrienė was awarded for her initiatives in odontology. She initiated a unique one-of-a-kind project “Development of the Model of Provision of Dental Services to Patients with Disabilities”. This project brings together professional dentists and specialists of Naujininkai Outpatient Clinic, Vilnius District Central Outpatient Clinic and Žalgiris Clinic of Vilnius University Hospital. Services are provided to people with the most severe disabilities. Alina Pūrienė has also initiated many other prevention projects and programmes that have successfully been developed in Vilnius.

The coach Kęstutis Šapka was awarded a St. Christopher statue for his sports achievements. K. Šapka is a Lithuanian athlete who specialized in high jump. His jump record of 2.25 m was not broken for 18 years, and remained a national record for a long time. In recent years, the athlete also became the champion of European Athletics Indoor Championships. After retiring from major sports, he became an athletics coach at the Vilnius Olympic Sports Center.

The Lithuania start-up Vinted and its founders Milda Mitkutė, Justas Janauskas and Mantas Mikuckas were awarded for the first unicorn of Vilnius, the achievement, when newly established start-ups grow to more than USD 1 billion-worth companies as a result of their rapid growth and attracted investments. Founded in 2008, today Vinted operates in 11 markets across Europe, including France, Germany, Spain and the Netherlands. The multinational team of the company operates from its headquarters in Vilnius and divisions in Berlin, Prague and Warsaw.

“Full of gratitude to the city of Vilnius – if it was not for Vilnius, Vinted would not have even been born. However, being a single unicorn is very lonely, so we wish for more unicorns to be established in the city,” Milda Mitkutė wished when claiming the award.

Representatives of Danske Bank received an award for their contribution to the Vilnius economy. This is the fifth largest employer in Lithuania in terms of contributions to Sodra, paying the highest salaries. The bank managed to climb up to this position in just 5 years. The bank’s activities in Vilnius catalyse a further and faster economic growth in the region, hiring more than 600 employees in Vilnius every year.

Prof. Dr. Rimantas Jankauskas, Dr. Justina Kozakaitė, Prof. Dr. Tamara Bairašauskaitė, archaeologists Gytis Grižas and Valdas Steponaitis, forensic experts Dr. Giedrius Kisielius and Jūratė Jankauskienė, who identified the remains of participant,ts in the 1863-1864 uprising, were awarded for the revealed secrets of the Revolution of 1863-1864. Remains of commanders of the uprising were found during the archaeological research on Gediminas Hill led by the Lithuanian National Museum in 2017 – 2019. Researchers from different fields collaborated in the research, the historical significance of which has been compared to the discovery of the Lithuanian Independence Act.

“We are proud to live in a city that is sufficient for everyone. To see Lithuanian and Polish troops carry the remains of the rebels to the Rasu Cemetery together was our biggest awards”, said Prof. Rimantas Jankauskas.

The architect and the cultural heritage protection specialist Dr. Prof. Jonas Rimantas Glemža was presented a St. Christopher statue for his merits to Vilnius architectural heritage. He achieved that the Old Town of Vilnius was included in the UNESCO World Heritage List. Prof. Glemža has worked in heritage protection for 61 years, having devoted 22 years of his career to the development of a heritage protection study system in Vilnius, contributing to the training of heritage protection specialists.

Jolanta Tūraitė and Dominykas Koncevičius were awarded for the celebrating city and Christmas trees in the Cathedral Square and the Town Hall Square that have been an incredible success, the decoration of bridges and the creation of Christmas mood in Vilnius, which is not only a enjoyed by Vilnius residents, but also attracts many tourists and guests from Lithuania and all around the world.

“I want to thank all residents of Vilnius who continue to enjoy our work, whose great interest and support for what we do we feel every year”, thanked D. Koncevičius on behalf of the entire team decorating the city.

Thanks to them, Christmas in the capital has become an important record in calendars of many foreign guests. Their decorations surprise, delight and create a truly festive mood in Vilnius.

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