“We strongly encourage to organising meetings and to cooperation of different autonomies and cities. The more events will be organised, the better we get to know each other, the less worries resulting from “not knowing” will occur.”- said the manager of National Minorities Department dr. Vida Montvydaitė.
At the meeting “Lessons of contest. Integration of national minorities- to know and to acknowledge” organised by the Department of National Minorities under the Government of the Republic of Lithuania, historians, experts and representatives of national minorities were discussing. The conversation was about such issues as: what is an obstacle in integration of national minorities, especially Poles living in Lithuania, and about the memory of Gypsy annihilation.
The pretext for the meeting and discussion was a contest organised by the Department for the best thesis by students from Lithuania and from abroad, about the national minorities.
“By organising such competitions we are looking for forms of communication that would be attractive not only for public authorities but also for the world of science”- said the manager of the Department of National Minorities dr. Vida Montvydaitė. There was 20 theses submitted- 14 BA theses, 4 MA theses and 2 PhD theses. Works were written in Polish, Lithuanian, English, and German.
The manager of the Department informed that those theses will be publicised in a special scientific edition.
It is said that works about the Polish national minority raised the greatest discussions. For the MA thesis “Ethnic Democracy: Polish Minority’s Response to the Governance of the Lithuanian State” the bonus was granted to Karolis Dambrauskas. The Commission’s special award was granted to Marija Norkūnaitė for her thesis “Country smaller than its territory: the battle for the country’s national identity in Šalčininkai district.” Both theses refer to issues and problems regarded as current for the Polish minority in Lithuania.
“It’s natural that the most numerous groups are dominating in a civil discourse. But voters’ activity in eastern Lithuania for instance, that is inhabited mostly by the Poles, is very high- it shows their emotional relationship with the country.”- spotted professor of the ISM University of Management and Economics, dr. Irmina Matonytė.
As dr. Vilany Pilinkaitė Sotirovič states, the tension in East Lithuania region really exists. In her opinion “the relations between Poles and Lithuanians in Vilnius Region are not very good because the lack of interest and mutual trust among the inhabitants”. Dr. Vilany Pilinkaitė Sotirovič reminded that the results of sociological research of this region shows that over 80% of Poles living there identifies with the inhabited territory and with Lithuanian Country.
Professor Henryk Malewski added that the tension about the Polish minority could have reduced accepting of some bills. “If I were a Lithuanian, I would say to Poles- let them to write their surnames in Polish. How many people would actually care about that? Maybe a 100 or 200 thousand. This takes a lot of time and is expensive, and if someone has his/her own company, then it will take even more time in order to register them in a new owner’s name. It is an artificial problem.”- said professor Malewski.
Professor Malewski stressed that there are some stereotypes that interrupt the process of constructing the positive dialogue: “One of them is that the Poles want to distrain Vilnius and almost whole Lithuania, but at the same time almost 90% inhabitants of Wroclaw for example have never been to Lithuania and they supported very actively Lithuanian process to aim for the independence. Of course, media also contributed to creating those stereotypes: after exposing of some processes, the opinion about Polish people was (no offense) a little bit better comparing to that about the Gypsies.”- added historian, professor Henryk Malewski.
Tłumaczenie by Agnieszka Bladowska w ramach praktyk w Europejskiej Fundacji Praw Człowieka, www.efhr.eu. Translated by Agnieszka Bladowska within the framework of a traineeship programme of the European Foundation of Human Rights, www.efhr.eu.