1. Who have you worked with that has most inspired your career and how?
My career was inspired by my maternal grandfather, who was deported to Siberia and tortured in a labour camp, and other members of my mother’s family, who were deported simply for being teachers. I always considered it my duty to do everything I could to right historical injustices.
I also had the honour of working with Vytautas Landsbergis, the leader of the Reform Movement of Lithuania. He invited me to work as a press secretary for the Homeland Union political group in the Lithuanian Parliament when I was still a paediatrician. After his invitation, the real school of politics began.
2. Is there anything you have achieved or done that would surprise people?
My journey into politics started in 1990 when I was elected to the Supreme Council of the Lithuanian Republic. I had a historic chance to vote for the restoration of the independence of Lithuania on 11 March 1990 and witnessed the collapse of the Soviet Union.
I was also the first woman appointed as defence minister of the Lithuanian Republic and the first woman in history to serve as President of the Nato Parliamentary Assembly.
3. What do you do in your free time to relax and unwind?
When I am not flying to Brussels or Strasbourg, I love being in my hometown of Tiltagaliai, near Panevėžys, where I take care of my mother and spend time with my family. I also love gardening and reading.
4. What is one item would you save from your house if it was on fire?
My cat Princess – I love her dearly.
5. What was the most inspirational and influential book you have read and why?
The most influential book I have read is President of the Fallen by Nijolės Gaškaitytės-Žemaitienės. It tells the true story of Jonas Žemaitis (1902-1954), who united and led the anti-Soviet armed resistance movement and thus acted as Lithuania’s underground president. After being captured in 1953, he was tortured and executed in Moscow in 1954. His body was burned and there is no burial place for him. During the Soviet occupation these facts were unknown, and it was shocking to learn the truth from this biography.