The Uśmiech nursery-kindergarten anniversary

Teresa Worobiej

Bright eyes, smiling faces, self-confidence, joy, and enthusiasm – today, June 12, was a very special day for the children of the Uśmiech (“a smile”) nursery-kindergarten: the kindergarten turned 70. 

The children probably find it hard to imagine what is like to be 70, since even their grandparents are usually younger than that, yet they managed to quite amusingly present the events from throughout the Uśmiech’s history. “Thousands of children have attended our kindergarten. They have sung 3,500 songs. They have used 10 ton of paint and 2 ton of Plasticine, drunk gallons of milk, and lost thousands of baby teeth” – that is what the history of the Uśmiech looks like for four- and five-year-olds from the “Ants” group which performed with their teacher, Sister Laura. 

For “Bees,” the oldest group, however, that was the last day at the Uśmiech. They are going to enter the first year of elementary school in September. But today, they are still children of the kindergarten, so they received their first actual diplomas, and had fun at a dance among friends whom they might now see much rarer. 

Uśmiech is an extraordinary kindergarten – the former students often visit their old teachers, and sometimes they even bring their own children. This time among the performers were Gabriela and Brothers Seraphim and Joseph. Students of the affiliated Joachim Lelewel Secondary School in Vilnius sang, and their kindergarten colleagues performed folk dances. Wiktor Dulko performed a few songs. Bożena Sokolińska, the music teacher at the Uśmiech, was one of the first students in the Polish group. 

Many honoured guests attended the anniversary party. Members of the Electoral Action of Poles in Lithuania’s political group in the Seimas brought their wishes. The deputy elder of the group Wanda Krawczonok, bringing diplomas and thanks from the elder of the group Rita Tamašūnienė, reminded how a few year ago the kindergarten was at the edge of being closed. Thanks to the efforts of people who cared about the Uśmiech – parents, teachers, politicians – the kindergarten is now more popular than ever. “The leader of the Electoral Action of Poles in Lithuania was set against the possibility of a Polish educational establishment beign shut down,” W. Krawczonok said.

“During the previous EAPL’s tenure in the local government, we briefly joined the ruling coalition in Vilnius, but that’s how we managed to save the Uśmiech,” Deputy Speaker of the Seimas Jarosław Narkiewicz said. Józef Kwiatkowski, member of the Seimas and the president of Stowarzyszenie Nauczycieli Szkół Polskich na Litwie „Macierz Szkolna” (Teacher of Polish Schools in Lithuania Association) thanked the teacher for raising young generations. The members of the Seimas gave diplomas to the kindergarten director Olga Bielasz, the employees, and parents involved in the development of the Uśmiech. The children received a basket of sweets.

Iwona Frączek, Senior Counsellor of the Consular Section of the Embassy of the Republic of Poland in Vilnius, sent her thanks to the teachers and the director, along with gifts for the children. The vice-minister of education Edyta Tamošiunaitė came to congratulate. The representatives of the local government in Vilnius, headed by the vice-mayor Jarosław Kamiński, gave the kindergarten the coat of arms of Vilnius along with diplomas. Artur Ludkowski, a city council member and the head of Dom Kultury Polskiej w Wilnie (Polish Culture Centre in Vilnius), made a financial contribution for current needs of the kindergarten.

Teresa Worobiej

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The Uśmiech nursery-kindergarten is located near the Rasos Cemetery, at the 23 P. Višinskio Street; one can come there through the Balstogės Street as well. As the director of the kindergarten Olga Bielasz said, the archival sources claim that before the WWII the kindergarten was located at the Balstogės Street, from which it moved to a mansion that was over a hundred years old. Uśmiech treats the date as its start. At first, there were only Russian groups at the kindergarten; the Polish ones were established in 1989. The rooms on the third floor were used by a French private school. Because of a small number of students, the Uśmiech faced shutdown. To protect the kindergarten from that and the French school taking it over, Kindergarten’s Defence Committee was created in 2006. Thanks to its efforts, Uśmiech acquired the whole building and expanded. From a few dozen children in the early 2000s, to 120 children who are currently divided into six groups. In 2009, Uśmiech gained a nursery-kindergarten status. Since 2007, Olga Bielasz has served as a director of the Uśmiech; she and eleven teachers and specialists in various fields create a child-friendly kindergarten.

Source: http://l24.lt/pl/oswiata/item/35184-jubileusz-zlobka-przedszkola-usmiech

Tłumaczenie by Michał M. Kowalski w ramach praktyk w Europejskiej Fundacji Praw Człowieka, www.efhr.eu. Translated by Michał M. Kowalski within the framework of a traineeship programme of the European Foundation of Human Rights, www.efhr.eu.

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