“Turkanized” Poles in Lithuania: from K. J. Sidorkiewicz’s book “My Vilnius Region and My Kresy”

Krzysztof Jeremi Sidorkiewicz © Asmeninio archyvo nuotr.

At Vilnius’ bookshops, the House of Polish Culture, and “Elephas” can be purchased Krzysztof Jeremi Sidorkiewicz’s book “Moja Wileńszczyzna i moje Kresy” (en. “My Vilnius Region and My Kresy”) which comprises articles and commentaries written originally for the press in Lithuania and Poland.
In 1984, the Bulgarian communist regime announced the commencement of the “rebirth process,” that is a linguistic-cultural crusade against the Turkish minority. It was officially being proclaimed that there were no national minorities in Bulgaria, and the Turks who had been living there for hundreds of years were merely “Turkanized” Bulgarians. Such “Turkanized” people had their  forenames and surnames officially changed, with their old documents being destroyed, especially property deeds, birth and death certificates, judicial decisions, and even medical records, which contained the original Turkish spelling of surnames. Minority schools were being closed and Muslim Mosques and cemeteries demolished. When in the summer of 1989 the Turks were allowed to leave Bulgaria, a great exodus of the representatives of this minority to Turkey followed, which encompassed roughly 370 thousand people. In January 2012, after 22 years of intensive efforts of a party representing the Turkish minority, the Movement for Rights and Freedoms, the Bulgarian government adopted a resolution which condemns forced assimilation and exile perpetrated on the Turkish people.

In the last days, the leader of EAPL, Waldemar Tomaszewski, discussing the conditions of a potential accession of this party to the government coalition that is being now created, stated that the spelling of surnames “is not, however, a political problem, as it to a greater extent concerns the issue of human rights” and thus “if it is not a political problem, then, of course, we will not discuss it on the political level.” The Turkish minority in Bulgaria constitutes from 8% to 10% of the country’s total population. The Turks have been living in this region for hundred of years. The situation of Poles in Lithuania in terms of number, as well as history, is rather similar. If the quoted Tomaszewski’s statement was to be a harbinger of EAPL’s definitive withdrawal from the further promotion of issue of the spelling of surnames, it would be a huge mistake, simply an unforgivable one. If the Turkish minority in Bulgaria managed to attain their end in the course of strenuous and harsh efforts, so should Poles not give up on their demands for the execution of the fundamental right of human rights, being the right to the original spelling of surnames.

“Kurier Wileński” on November 3rd 2012

About the author

I fell in love with this city, its picturesque location, its wonderful architecture, in its numerous traces of the Polish culture, as well as Russian, Jewish, Tartar, and Karaim. The multiculturalism of the Vilnius culture was visible with the naked eye, tangible. During my first visits in Lithuania, I wrote articles mainly for magazines from Bydgoszcz. After a dozen years, I established a permanent contact with the editors of “Kurier Wileński.” I started to delve more and more deeply into the topic of everyday life of Polish minority in Lithuania, into its significant cultural and political problems. Over time, the confrontation with the Lithuanian nationalists intensified.  I knew that one has to help compatriots in their need as much as possible. Compatriots with whom I felt connected to by means of the family ties. The book constitutes a collection of my articles on topics related to Kresy, predominantly to the Vilnius region, published between 1993-2014. The greater majority of the articles published in “Kurier Wileński” constitute short editorial commentaries. Perhaps, some of the readers will feel a bit tired of the repetition of the topic and overload of political and historical accents. Perhaps, there will be also accusations that I am partial when describing the Polish-Lithuanian relations, that I evince too little empathy towards Lithuanians. I do not want, however, to conduct an exegesis of my own texts, to further explain why I wrote in such a way, and not in another, as it would look too pretentious. The texts should defend themselves. The readers will tell the best if they do defend themselves.

Source: http://pl.delfi.lt/aktualia/litwa/poturczeni-polacy-na-litwie-z-ksiazki-moja-wilenszczyzna-i-moje-kresy-k-j-sidorkiewicza.d?id=68019160

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

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