I reacted to the voting of Vilnian local councillors about the accreditation for the Lelewel school with great disappointment. The biggest, and, what’s worse, an unpleasant shock for me was the fact that due to equal distribution of votes the final one belonged to the Mayor Remigijus Šimašius. And he made his decision. Which was unfavourable for the Polish school.
It was the same man who, during the electoral campaign, unequivocally championed a cause of multiculturalism of the capital city of Lithuania. He called for the right to full, original spelling of Polish names as well as names of localities and streets. He was using my idea of the “żółw” action. It was meant to promote the image of a tortoise (“żółw”), an animal whose Polish name consists of letters “forbidden” in Lithuania. I welcomed that support of the action, and even extracting it during the electoral campaign. I became even more content when he won the elections. Because he was the first Lithuanian politician who championed a cause of the rights of national minorities in Lithuania so unequivocally and favourably, and won the elections. I considered it the first sign of politicians’ taking interest in the matters of these minorities.
Multiculturalism is not only spelling of names, or signs with street names. It is also, or maybe even mainly, the rights to education in mother tongues. Limiting that system of education has nothing to do with multiculturalism. It is its negation. And refusal of accreditation of the Lelewel school as a gymnasium should be perceived as such an activity. Because it means there was a gymnasium, but there will not be one anymore.
What is more, it is difficult to ignore that double standards are being applied. Some Lithuanian schools in Vilnius found themselves in a situation similar to that of the Lelewel school. The local government made a positive decision about their cases. Sometimes even unanimously. It was only the matter of the Polish school that there was a distribution of votes. And it is Mr Šimašius who made it end up as a disadvantage for the Polish school. Although he could respond favourably to the Ministry of Education’s request on not making the decision just yet. It is obvious that the Ministry carried out research on whether giving a temporary three-year-long licence to schools which have not become accredited years is possible. We will see if this is going to happen or not. But then, was that unfavourable decision necessary? In my opinion, it was not.
The Mayor would not lose anything by abstaining from the vote. He would be consistent when it comes to pre-election declarations if he was for accreditation. However, he decided to be against it. It is then difficult not to think that everything before the elections was just another propaganda aiming at gaining the votes of Polish constituents and other national minorities inhabiting Vilnius. I am writing this with resentment. Right before the elections, the current Mayor of Vilnius distributed and wore a badge saying: “I am for żółw”. Right now, in such a situation, there is not much left to do but to write: “Żółw is against Šimašius!”.
PS: I thought it would be improper to publish this text before I give Mr Mayor a chance to relate to it. Thus, I sent it to him in the first place, waiting for a speedy answer. The answer came almost immediately, which I think was very impressive. Here it is: “Thank You for sending that. I just want to refute, I did not vote after everyone but simultaneously (with other councillors – author’s note). And when it comes to the “żółw” and Polish Vilnians – I hope I will manage to convince You (meaning me – author’s note) into changing Your mind. Good luck. PS. By the way, before the elections, in the Polish Discussion Club, I was talking about my stance.”
As for now, I do not feel convinced.
Tłumaczenie by Anna Plebanek w ramach praktyk w Europejskiej Fundacji Praw Człowieka, www.efhr.eu. Translated by Anna Plebanek within the framework of a traineeship programme of the European Foundation of Human Rights, www.efhr.eu.