Photos: Gov. Wolf Arrives in Poland after Visiting PA Troops, Honoring Tree of Life Victims in Lithuania

September 12, 2019

Harrisburg, PA – Governor Tom Wolf crossed over from Lithuania to Poland this morning, beginning the second leg of his journey to visit with Pennsylvania National Guard (PNG) troops, and meet with business and government leaders. Next, in Poland, the governor will visit more than 500 PNG troops and the Auschwitz-Birkenau Memorial, where he will again honor the victims of the Tree of Life synagogue attack.

Photos for media use from the governor’s trip are posted to his Flickr account.

“The partnership built over the last 26 years between Pennsylvania and Lithuania is culturally and strategically important,” said Gov. Wolf. “It was rewarding to talk with our troops who have spent months preparing for their training here, as well as Lithuanian soldiers who have visited Pennsylvania through the exchange. Our guard members care deeply about their Lithuanian counterparts and our shared strategic priorities, and it is important for our ability to build strong business, political and cultural relationships with the country.”

Gov. Wolf became the first American governor to visit the base in Pabrade Training Area, in Lithuania, where thousands of PNG troops train alongside the Lithuanian armed forces as part of Pennsylvania’s 26-year military partnership with Lithuania. Earlier today, the governor watched several military demonstrations, including ordnance explosions, then joined soldiers for an on-base lunch of traditional Lithuanian food.

The PNG troops who participate in the partnership rotate through two-week visits to Lithuania, where they engage in training exercises. Lithuanian troops also make two-week visits to PNG headquarters at Fort Indiantown Gap. Most of the PNG members who participate in the program have full-time jobs and families in Pennsylvania, and many have been deployed to conflict areas abroad or domestically to assist with storms other emergencies.

“I’m grateful for the opportunity to thank our troops for their sacrifice and for their willingness to step up and assist with emergencies across Pennsylvania,” said Gov. Wolf. “I also asked them for feedback on what we, as leaders, can be doing to help them in return. I encouraged them to make use of the Pennsylvania GI Bill, which I signed into law earlier this year. Many of these troops have young families or plan to have families down the road. The GI Bill will ease the burden of paying for higher education. Taking one worry from these troops is the least we can do to thank them for their service.”

The governor also visited the Paneriai Memorial and Museum, which sits on the site of the Ponary massacre, a Holocaust atrocity in which an estimated 70,000 Jews, 20,000 Poles and 10,000 others were murdered. He laid a wreath sent by the Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh at the base of a memorial dedicated to the Jewish victims and signed the names of the 11 victims of the October 2018 antisemitic attack on the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh in the memorial’s guest book.

“The memorial sits within a quiet, peaceful forest but the large stone pits where people were killed, and bodies were burned, are haunting reminders of the horrors that took place,” Gov. Wolf said. “While traveling in Lithuania, we saw neighborhoods that had been designated Jewish ghettos during World War II. While these neighborhoods are rebuilt and modern, the history of the Holocaust is not lost. It reminds you that hate can exist anywhere, and we must remain vigilant in eradicating it, always.”

Gov. Wolf also met with numerous business and political leaders during his first two days in Lithuania, including one business owner who surprised him by asking him to sign a toy Jeep. The governor sought to encourage Lithuanian business owners to expand to Pennsylvania, which would create jobs and build customer bases beneficial to both countries. He also provided advice on strategies to boost the economy in both rural areas and cities.

“Lithuania shares many characteristics with Pennsylvania, including our strong agriculture industries and our positions as gateways to larger regions,” said Gov. Wolf. “We want our economic relationships here to be as strong as our military partnership.”

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