Thousands of Poles living in Lithuania and guests from the Macierz assembled today in the heart of Vilnius to celebrate the Polish Diaspora and Poles Abroad Day with a ceremonial march.
After a three-year break, a march celebrating the Polish Diaspora and Poles Abroad Day came back onto Vilnian streets. A few thousand of Poles from such areas in Lithuania as the Vilnius and Kaunas regions, Druskininkai, Visaginas, Samogitia, and seaside Klaipėda assembled in the centre of Vilnius on Saturday in order to celebrate the pride in their nationality together.
The celebratory parade set out from the Seimas building right after the midday to pray together participating in a mass at the Gate of Dawn.
“The whole community of Poles from Lithuania gathered in one place. It’s a very moving event,” Tadeusz Aszkielaniec, the elder of Juodšiliai near Vilnius, comments on the march.
Eight thousand Lithuanian Poles march in the parade. Among them are representatives of divisions of the Association of Poles in Lithuania (ZPL), which is the organiser of the parade, countrymen working in many Polish social organisations, representatives of the Electoral Action of Poles in Lithuania (AWPL), pupils and teachers from Polish schools, students, scouts, combatants. Folk ensembles parade in Polish national costumes.
As Bernadetta Mikulewicz from Kalabariškės stresses, participation in the march means a lot to her. “Poles are Lithuania’s native residents. We were born here. Here is our homeland. We make effort and work for the good of Lithuania. Hence I’m very glad and participating with pleasure in this wonderful celebration, in which our entire Polish family is taking part. I’m very pleased that so many of our countrymen from Lithuania and the Macierz [trans. Educational Society] have assembled here,” claims the resident of Kalabariškės, a village located near Vilnius.
The paraders are accompanied by dancers and the National Brass Band “Trimitas.”
Irena Duchowska, Chairman of the Association of Kėdainiai Poles and “Lauda” Branch of the ZPL, marches at the front of the group of Poles from the Kaunas region. When interviewed by our portal, she said that today, among a few thousand of Lithuanian Poles, she was overwhelmed with a special sense of patriotism, openheartedness, and belonging. As she pointed out, such parades are much needed, because “we must show others that we exist and there are lots of us.”
Among the people who parade at the front are leaders of Polish social organisations in Lithuania, AWPL Members of Parliament, representatives of the Polish embassy in Lithuania, as well as representatives of the Polish authorities and Polish diaspora organisations from all around the world.
By participating in the celebratory parade, Lithuanian Poles want to show that they do and can stay together, that they are solidary and aware of their strength and unity. They manifest to the whole world the presence of a Polish minority in Lithuania and their Polish nationality.
Anna Zarzecka has come to Vilnius to take part in the celebratory parade of Polishness from the north of Lithuania – Šiauliai. She is the only representative of Poles living in this city. “I’m taking part in the march not for the first time. When the state of my health enables me to do so, I try to participate in it each time it takes place,” says Anna. Wiping a tear running down her cheek, she says she is alone. Her husband, with whom she used to come often to Polish communities in Vilnius and Liaudė, has already died. She bemoans that, although Poles are still in Šiauliai, they do not want to flaunt their Polish nationality much.
“I’m taking part in the march for the first time, and I’m glad that I can be here and that there are so many of us,” Justyna Falkiewicz, a student at St. Urszula Ledóchowska Secondary School in Juodšiliai, shares the impression she has.
Kornelia Jalińska from the ensemble “Turgielanka” points out that she feels great joy when seeing Poles from all corners of Lithuania, marching side by side around her. As Head of the Reception Hall in Turgeliai Danuta Michałowska adds, “Turgielanka” unites also children from Lithuanian families, who came to the Saturday march as well and “they are here today, which is very important to us.”
At 3 p.m., after a common prayer, concerts of Polish local ensembles and our special guest from Poland, Golec uOrkiestra, will begin in the Town Hall Square.
Through the ceremonial march, Poles want to celebrate not only the Polish Diaspora and Poles Abroad Day, but also the 225th anniversary of the 3rd May Constitution and a historical event which gave rise to the Polish state, the 1050th anniversary of the Baptism of Poland.
Tłumaczenie by Karolina Katarzyńska w ramach praktyk w Europejskiej Fundacji Praw Człowieka, www.efhr.eu. Translated by Karolina Katarzyńska within the framework of a traineeship programme of the European Foundation of Human Rights, www.efhr.eu.