Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf’s upcoming trip to Lithuania and Poland has several stated goals, not least of which are visiting Pennsylvania National Guard troops stationed in the two countries and honoring the victims of the 2018 Tree of Life shooting at sites tied to the Holocaust.
The governor also cited opportunities for improving business relations and cultural exchanges as he shared his plans during a news conference Friday afternoon.
“This includes meeting with the Lithuanian president, President [Gitanas] Nausėda, and speaking to members of the American Chamber of Commerce in Lithuania,” Wolf said. “I'll be touring sites of cultural significance like the Lithuanian Museum of Occupations and Freedom Fights. I'll be meeting with the Lithuanian Minister of Agriculture, representatives of Lithuanian businesses, as well as talking to many other key business and political leaders in Lithuania.”
The trip is set to begin Sunday and last for eight days, including travel. Wolf said he would be paying for his own travel expenses and taking three staff members along.
The lion’s share of Friday’s news conference was devoted to Wolf’s planned interactions with about 600 Pennsylvania National Guard troops in the two nations. He’ll be accompanied by National Guard Maj. Gen. Anthony Carrelli, who spoke Friday about the importance of the state’s relationship with Lithuania, one of the “Baltic Republics” along with Estonia and Latvia that formerly were among the constituent nations that made up the Soviet Union.
“When Lithuania became an independent nation in 1991, these partnerships came into effect – it was an idea through the National Guard system to pair National Guard states with newly freed and newly independent countries,” Carrelli said. “And we were paired with Lithuania, just because of the Lithuanian cultural tie between Lithuania and Pennsylvania. You know, a great number of Lithuanian Americans live right here in Pennsylvania. And it's been a great relationship.”
Wolf’s stop in Poland comes just a short time after a planned trip to the nation by President Donald Trump was abruptly canceled in advance of Hurricane Dorian. Vice President Mike Pence made the trip instead.
The governor said that he would be visiting Holocaust sites in each nation, including the infamous Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp, where he intends to add the names of the 11 victims of the Pittsburgh Tree of Life synagogue shooting to the books maintained there.
“What I'm hoping for is that this act will bring some solace to the survivors and it will remind them that we Pennsylvanians will never forget their loved ones,” Wolf said.