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With illness and death taking away our dear friend and companion, we have to be swift and give an important testimony to our Sugihara foundation: Diplomats for Life history. In the Flemish region of the late Freddy Opsomer, his biography will firstly be bound with his maturity as a journalist and an entrepreneur, his work, achievements and dreams. His beautiful family: wife Marie Christine, 5 children that are already grown — Naomi, Aviva, Nitza, Elana and Jonathan — will undoubtedly preserve a portrait of a humble, emphatic and gregarious husband and father for the future generations to come. Now, from the bottom of our hearts, whilst expressing our deepest condolences to the wife and children of Freddy Opsomer, we have to say a couple of important sentences, about the things, that must be remembered.


My first aquantenship with the journalist and envoy of the Belgian business mission in Kaunas began in the 4th or 5th year of Lithuanian independence. I remember as we sat in the cosy restaurant of hotel Minotel in Muitinės street and talked about the connections between Lithuania and the Flemish region, Kaunas and Antwerpen, about the new challenges that faces Europe with the restoration of new lands. It was a time, when the majority of western businessmen saw an opportunity of investments and quick profit in the post-Soviet states. There were many things in the receding past: from genuine effort to help get out of the soviet swamp to light cynicism of profit, whilst taking part in privatization and races between new business in the fallen economy of our country. Even in our first discussion, Freddy didn't shy away to criticize the later ones, he was emphatic to Lithuania, alongside of his colleague from the Flemish community he talked many about the similarities of our lands, the advantages of cooperation, and how important to them was Lithuania's journey to the family of free nations.


The interest of Freddy Opsomer's entrepreneurship, which is linked to Belgium railways and the free economic zone of Kaunas, was a difficult concept to grasp for a person of academia. Nevertheless, the lack of understanding was compensated by a great expert and my dear friend Ramūnas Garbaravičius. Precisely our trio, almost peers and very like-minded, whilst sitting at the same table have begun the conversation of the importance of entrepreneurs maintaining a meaningful relationship with the landmarks of civil society. It is important to note, that Freddy Opsomer was the first one to note the international significance of Kaunas and Sugihara at the beginning of the second world war and the dawn of February 16th Republic. To him it came naturally. He like a missionary to the Belgian civil society and cultural associations, has pushed this idea towards the common good. He was yet to experience the Lithuanian bureaucracy in this sphere, thus he thought that like in his native Antwerpen, free and committed citizens can establish an association or a foundation, whilst drafting a contract on a bars napkin and opening a bank account. During that time in Lithuania, and even more so now things are different.


The Sugihara foundation — Diplomats for Life has made the list of legal voluntary organizations after two irritating years of Lithuanian bureaucracy. However, during that time we have received important lessons from Freddy, we understood that being a part of the West does not lie in the protocols of the government, but it lies in the way the free society lives. Thus, the most important expression of our respect would be the encouragement, which we received to be like the people from the West, for whom it is not enough to simply talk how things should be and what should the government do. And most importantly it was Freddy Opsomer to whom the idea of establishment and the name of Sugihara- Diplomats for Life- Foundation belongs to. Even if later on, the distance, busyness and illness did not allow him to be more active in the environment of the foundation, the story of the beginning was, is and is going to be an eternal fact.


Whilst saying goodbye to the late Freddy, all of us should repeat the words of agreements spoken decades ago. And words are meant to be kept as an oath, even if you are daily facing the countering words and actions. To continue that, of what Freddy Opsomer believed in, and act like he will forever be a part of us is our great duty and the expression of respect for the deceased.


 

Egidijus Aleksandravičius

Establisher of Sugihara- Diplomats for Life- Foundation