St. Christopher Statues Handed out on the Night of Vilnius 699th Birthday

Nuotr. Sauliaus Žiūros

On the celebratory night of Vilnius birthday at the Town Hall, ten prominent citizens were awarded St. Christopher statues in recognition of their ideas and work for the benefit of Vilnius and their efforts towards fostering and promoting the city. More than 50 candidates were nominated for this prestigious city award this year.

‘Each year, the birthday of Vilnius gives the city its new St. Christopher’s heroes. They are the people whose talent and persistence play the biggest role in transforming and developing our city and inspire us to better ourselves. We have 10 new heroes from a wide range of spheres – from music to medicine, from jazz to business. Vilnius is extremely blessed and honoured to have such citizens. Things were hard for Saint Christopher but he still carried his noble burden. Such is the guardian of our city, and our most prominent citizens are just like him,’ – said Remigijus Šimašius, the Mayor.

With the challenging pandemic situation continuing for the second year, Vilnius has never stopped growing, creating, exploring and improving itself.

Prof. Arvydas Janulaitis received the St. Christopher Award for his lifetime achievement in science. In his scientific activity, the Professor contributed to the global development of genetic engineering and laid the foundations for the first biotech companies Fermentas and Biofa (presently known as Sicor Biotech). Under Prof. A. Janulaitis’ guidance, Lithuanian scientists discovered one third of the restrictive enzymes known in the world without which the emergence of genetic engineering would have been impossible. As a lecturer professor at Vilnius University, he trained a generation of world-renowned Lithuanian biotechnologists.

Mindaugas Grabauskas received the Award for his merits in urban development and architecture. The laureate contributed to the development of architectural science and creative activity. The architect’s contribution towards the improvement of the quality of architectural and urban development activity also deserves a mention.  M.Grabauskas is one of the principal authors and managers of the new Master Plan of Vilnius.

Aušra Kurienė received the St. Christopher Award for her merits in education. Together with her colleagues, A.Kurienė implemented the Big Brothers Big Sisters program in Lithuania, a series of prevention and intervention programs for violence against children, social actions, parenting skills training programs, prevention programs for psychological crises in children and adolescents; she is a co-creator of parent hotline. The laureate has teaching assignments in post-graduate studies at Vilnius University, she trains psychotherapists for children and adults, and regularly conducts supervisions for specialists.

Nuotr. Sauliaus Žiūros

Dr. Marija Drėmaitė was awarded the St. Christopher statue for her research into Vilnius culture and architecture. The architectural historian and Vilnius University professor researches the 20th century architecture, urban modernization, industrialization and culture, participates in scientific conferences world-wide, writes books on the topics of her research, gives public lectures.

‘I am credited for coining the phrase ‘talking buildings’. Indeed, buildings do talk to me. But buildings are merely a surface. Behind them are people, ambitions, ideas – thigs that drive and make this city so full of life, so capable of concentrating ideas, things that make us a little proud to be Vilnius citizens. – What will we celebrate today, what will we celebrate a year down the line? I believe the meaning of this anniversary was first encoded in the letter of Gediminas, in the values of proud and free citizens of the city: respect and tolerance for diversity.  These were the values that helped the city rebound after various disasters and create its magic’, – spoke M.Drėmaitė at the Town Hall.

Antanas Gustys was awarded the prize for his contribution to the jazz culture of Vilnius. The founder and tireless organiser of the country’s first festival Vilnius Jazz has trained several generations of Lithuanian jazz enthusiasts and performers. The projects initiated by the festival feature world-famous foreign and Lithuanian jazz masters appearing alongside young performers who often find the stage of the festival to be their stepping stone to successful appearances in international projects and other jazz festivals in Europe.

‘This is the second time that I am involved in St. Christopher Awards. The first one was back in 2005 when Vladimiras Čekasinas, the patriarch of Lithuanian jazz, was awarded the prize at the motion of Vilnius Jazz festival. Who would have thought that 17 years later I will be awarded that same prize. It is a huge honour – both to myself and to Vilnius Jazz festival that marks its 35th anniversary this year. I hope that with the help of Vilnius, the festival will still be able to go back to where it started – the National Concert Hall, to be constructed on the site of the former Palace of Trade Unions’, – A.Gustys said.

Vilius Aleliūnas was awarded a St. Christopher for promoting healthy lifestyle among the citizens of Vilnius. Thanks to the Executive Director of the Lithuanian Orienteering Federation, permanent orienteering trails have been set up in Vingis Park and Botanical Gardens in Vilnius. Children and adults have access to orienteering teaching aids. His efforts resulted in the organization of a virtual orienteering competition and the development of an orienteering app. The implementation of the 100 km trail around Vilnius is a particularly significant project in the context of the pandemic. For several years now, the trail is enjoyed by many Vilnius citizens whose travels were strongly restricted due to quarantine.

‘Vilnius is a unique, green and sport-loving city. I love it here but what I love even more is seeing the ever-growing numbers of Vilnius citizens and guests of the city enjoying themselves outdoors – doing sports, skiing, jogging, cycling or playing with children. I am pleased to see that in these rather difficult times people have rediscovered something that has been there all along – being outdoors and doing sports’, – said V.Aleliūnas at the Awards.

Mariano Andrade Gonzalez was nominated for his contribution to business development in Vilnius. The General Manager of Moodys’s Lithuania, UAB – the Vilnius branch of Moody’s Corporation international capital markets company – has spent nearly six years in various positions of responsibility in the sphere of business development.  The company under the laureate’s management co-operates with research institutions in Vilnius; for example, in December Moody’s Corporation granted financial support to the Business School of Vilnius University to carry out the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor analysis of the challenges faced by the country’s business sector which have a destabilising effect on the promotion and regulation of entrepreneurship and the setting up of businesses.

Prof. Ligita Jančorienė received the award for her merits in the sphere of healthcare. The Head of Santara Clinic of Infectious Diseases directs all her professional knowledge to acute and chronic viral hepatitis in adults, HIV infection, other viral infections, communicable diseases and their prevention, vaccination and travel medicine.

Physician, professor and scientist Augustina Jankauskienė was awarded a St. Christopher for enhancing the reputation of Vilnius in the eyes of the medical community of the world. Thanks to her efforts, Vilnius hosted a number of international conferences. Vilnius won the right to hold the Annual Conference of the European Society for Paediatric Nephrology in 2023 that will be attended by more than 600 experts and scientists.

A.Jankauskienė shared her thoughts: ‘I admit that this award is very dear to me. I was born in Vilnius, I studied and I work here, Vilnius is home to my children and my grandchildren. I genuinely respect and love this city. I believe that my chance as a scientist to promote Vilnius is a way to advance and give meaning to the dream of Gediminas’.

Robertas Povilaitis was awarded for providing emotional support to children. In 2020 Children’s Hotline took nearly 115 thousand calls from children and youths – that’s more than 2,700 online chats and more than 500 letters. Each year, Children’s Hotline initiates the awareness-raising month WITHOUT BULLYING throughout the country’s kindergartens and schools.

Nuotr. Sauliaus Žiūros

St. Christopher Awards are held since 1998. Award nominations for merits in science, law enforcement, education, culture and arts, historic memory of Vilnius, sports, business, tourism development, charity and architecture are proposed by citizens of Vilnius. Other nominations proposed by citizens of Vilnius are also possible.

The laureates of St. Christopher Awards include professor, habilitated doctor Vytautas Jonas Sirvydis, professor, habilitated doctor Vladas Algirdas Bumelis, fashion designer Juozas Statkevičius, opera singer Asmik Grigorian and many other deserving citizens for their merits to Vilnius.

Photo by Saulius Žiūra:

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