- August 23, 2011
The Union of Poles in Lithuania disapproved the act of vandalism of the tables with the names of villages in the region of Puńsk, nearby the Lithuanian-Polish border.
Michał Mackiewicz, the president of ZPL (Association of Poles in Lithuania) and a member of the parliament of Lithuania, believes that the act of blurring of the Lithuanian subtitles using paint is not only an act of lawlessness, but it also harms the Polish minority in Lithuania, which has been fighting for the right to use the Polish names of the streets and places in the Vilnius.
— In Poland, the national minorities, including the Lithuanian, have always had a guaranteed right to use bilingual plaques with the names of towns and streets. And so it should be in the civilised world. Poles in Lithuania, unfortunately, must continue to fight for such rights for themselves and they are being punished by paying fines for bilingual signs. Thus, the events in Puńsk are not only illegal, but they are also harmful to the Polish cause in the Vilnius region – said in “Kurier” the president of ZPL — Michał Mackiewicz. He also noted that, although the raid against the Lithuanian inscriptions in the municipality of Puńsk can not be justified in any way, however, the idea per se was not that bad. Something good actually came out of it. , As the events in Puńsk were widely covered across the Lithuanian media, the public opinion in Lithuania finally learned that the national minorities in Poland have the right to use their language in topographical names and they fully benefit from this law.
— Previously, the majority of Lithuanians had no idea about this and the events in Puńsk constituted even bigger surprise for them. because now suing that Lithuanians in Poland are double arrays, for which the Poles in Lithuania are prosecuted and punished — noted the President of the Union of Poles in Lithuania.
On Tuesday, the Polish Foreign Ministry condemned the hooliganism in the community of Puńsk, which called “an unacceptable act of vandalism, which not only constituted a violation of the Polish law, but was also detrimental to the generally accepted standards in democratic countries.”
“The Ministry of Foreign Affairs condemns the rowdy prank, shadowing with paint of the Lithuanian names in the municipality of Puńsk municipality, inhabited largely by Polish citizens belonging to the Lithuanian minority” — said in a statement MFA Spokesman. The Ministry also confirms that the competent authorities shall take an action to find those responsible and repair the damage.
Traditionally, the Foreign Minister of Poland, Radosław Sikorski made a comment on Twitter.
Sikorski noted that “minorities have the right to bilingual names.”
Also, the Lithuanian Prime Minister, Andrius Kubilius condemned the act of vandalism in Puńsk on Tuesday. He called it a drastic case of ethnic strife kindling.
28 bilingual Polish-Lithuanian plaques with names of towns in the municipality of Puńsk were destroyed on the Sunday night. Lithuanian names were painted with white and red paint resembling the Polish national colors. Lithuanian words were also smeared with graffiti on the monument commemorating the centenary of the first theatrical performance in the Lithuanian language. The word “phalanx” appeared on the pillar of the stone monument along with the symbol of the national-radical organisations (the arm with a sword), which worked in Poland before the World War II and in the last few years gained followers in the contemporary Poland.
According to the mayor Vytautas Punsk Liškauskasa, the vandalism against the Lithuanian inscriptions was an organised action. While commenting on the matter for the Lithuanian media, Liškauskas remarked that the whole incident is the result of irresponsible and hostile statements about the Lithuanians made by Polish politicians,who deny the presence of national minorities in Poland.
— Someone listened and that is the result of it — says Liškauskas. Mayor says that there is no doubt that the vandalism is an act committed by the “Falange”, whose name appeared on the monument. We do not know what the representatives of the “Falange” think about it, because, unfortunately, on Tuesday up to the closure of this issue, we could not get a hold of either the president or the spokesperson of the organisation.
Meanwhile, the police tracks down possible perpetrators of the attack on Lithuanian subtitles. It also appointed a special commission of inquiry, which attempts to clarify the matter.
— It is necessary, because you can not afford to live in the municipality of Puńsk when Lithuanians feel threatened. We can not allow such acts of hooliganism to be repeated again — said to”Gazeta Wyborcza” (newspaper) Maciej Żywnoj (voivod of Podlasie).
The voivod met with the mayor of the municipality of Puńsk, with whom he agreed on what can and should be done for the safety of all residents. The police did not comment on this matter.
It is estimated that about several thousand Lithuanians live in Poland. most of them in Sejny county in Podlaskie. However, during the census carried out in 2002, only 5.8 thousand people declared their belonging to Lithuanian nationality. ,The largest concentrations are in Lithuanian municipalities of Sejny and Puńsk. All boards with names of the places are there in two languages — Polish and Lithuanian.
Tłumaczenie Michał Sodowski w ramach praktyk w Europejskiej Fundacji Praw Człowieka, www.efhr.eu Translated by Michał Sodowski within the framework of a traineeship programme of the European Foundation of Human Rights, www.efhr.eu
Korekta Małgorzata Juchniewicz w ramach praktyk w Europejskiej Fundacji Praw Człowieka, www.efhr.eu