After Vilnius opened Taiwan's de facto embassy last week, Lithuanians living in Taipei say they have noticed signs of gratitude from the people there.
“We are very pleased and hope that Lithuania and Taiwan will be able to cooperate more closely in various areas,” said Aušra Andriuškaitė, chairwoman of the Lithuanian community in Taiwan.
The island nation's representation in Vilnius has been a source of tensions between Vilnius and Beijing, which regards Taiwan as part of China.
“The friendship between Lithuania and Taiwan is special because Lithuania has not been scared by Chinese pressure and decided to use the name ‘Taiwan’. The Taiwanese people hope that other countries will follow Lithuania’s example,” she added.
According to Irena Marazaitė-Lin, who has been living in Taiwan for almost 18 years, Lithuanians can understand the Taiwanese society.
“Lithuania and Taiwan are democracies that have large, not-so-friendly neighbours. Lithuanians are aware of how the Taiwanese people feel,” she said.
“When we fought for our independence, the support of brave countries that recognised Lithuania as a sovereign country was crucial,” Marazaitė-Lin added.
According to the woman, the representation’s opening in Vilnius was a significant event in Taiwan, and people were happy to see the island’s flag raised in Lithuania.
“The Taiwanese flag has often caused problems at events in other countries, as China usually demands the flag to be taken down immediately. So, when they see their flag in Vilnius, the Taiwanese people are moved,” Marazaitė-Lin said.
According to Lithuanians in Taiwan, locals are extremely interested in the Baltic state.
“Many Taiwanese tell us that they would like to visit Lithuania as soon as the pandemic ends. […] They see Lithuania as a small but courageous country that is not afraid of intimidation,” said the chairwoman of the Lithuanian community in Taiwan, Andriuškaitė.
“One taxi driver, when he found out that I was Lithuanian, refused to charge me for the trip,” she added. “Others ask how they could donate money to Lithuanian organisations or which Lithuanian products they could buy in Taiwan.”
According to Andriuškaitė, she was used to explaining to Taiwanese where the small Baltic country was located but now “everyone knows where Lithuania is”.
Marazaitė-Lin also said that people in Taiwan often give her gifts when they find out that she is from Lithuania.
“People express their gratitude, and it touches me,” she said.