- September 1, 2011
The open letter to the Minister of Education of the Republic of Lithuania, Gintaras Steponavičius
On 30th August 2011 we received a letter from you addressed to my daughter, Natalia. Beside her name on the envelop,e it was also written “to dear parents”. I am the mother of Natalia. Today my daughter will become a student of the second grade of the school in Vilnius with Polish as the language of instruction. She did not understand much from your letter and being absorbed with the preparations for the new school year, she assigned the duty of replying to your letter to me.
Dear Minister! I have read your letter repeatedly and I have to admit that its meaning and the content are also not clear to me. With your permission, I would like to start from the less important matters.
You are not a private person and you write to us – parents of children from Polish schools (or Russian, Belorussian, German and Jewish, as you mentioned in the letter – I am not convinced about this) as an official, a member of the government. In situations similar to this, several rules should be observed: if the number of the outgoing document is not included, which is the norm in the office management, then at least the date should be written, according to the elementary principles of epistolography. In the letter I could not find either of these features. It undermines the importance of the letter and it disorients the receivers and archivists and more or less grateful posterity . Why?
The next issue is more essential, because it involves the language. This time it is not Lithuanian, which you “kindly recommend” to learn, but the language of the letter. Dear Minister, I have to notice that you destroy all noble – in your opinion – intentions of this epistle by its linguistic shape. Calling yourself the minister of the resort of bilingual education and “caring” so much for the education of Poles in Lithuania, you should employ at least one educated Polish scholar. Otherwise, the effect is much weaker than it was planned to be.
I have to omit series of absurdities and stylistic mistakes of the letter to save the space here. You probably have assistants, as well as linguistic advisors whose level of education should be equal with the level of the department of education. I hope that at least linguistic advisors for Lithuanian language will be better educated and they will not need the “strengthened schooling of Lithuanian language”, which was obligatorily offered to our children.
It is time to get down to your statements, which even the worst translator would not be able to distort. In the second paragraph you wrote “Ten years ago the act on standardization of the programme and A-level exams from Lithuanian language at all schools” was passed in legislative acts and political programmes. Dear Minister! In 2001 no bill of this sort was released. A bill is a legislative act passed by the parliament. At that time, the Lithuanian parliament did not pass any bills. Political programmess, planned by each party, could even include the Lithuanian colonisation of Mars. Today (in the second paragraph) you claim that you are “willing to explain that the decision taken by the present government of the Republic of Lithuania was not spontaneous, that is the invention of the present government” (again stylistic mistake!) It completely does not convince me that it is not your government that is responsible for the obvious educational restrictions towards the Poles in Lithuania You are in the government, here and now, and you are the only person who is responsible for the unnecessary impediment of teaching of my daughter.
Dear Minister! I graduated from Sz. Konarski School in Vilnius several years ago. At that time, the government emphasised Polish schooling not that intensively, at least we, the students, did not experience it so painfully. Without any additional obligatorily schooling offered to our children, I won the contest from Lithuanian language in the last grade among all the students in Lithuania from non-Lithuanian schools. Neither at school nor now I see any “obstacles in the way of choosing a path of life and career”. My 7-year-old daughter Natalia, to whom you addressed the letter, can already freely communicate with her peers in Polish, Lithuanian and Russian. She has quite a rich vocabulary in English, however she has not been in the linguistic environment of this kind so far. I ensure you that she does not need any additional care from your, dear Minister. However, she regrets that in the amended school programme, she will be deprived of lessons and resources from the student basket for different subjects and extra classes. The one who deprives her of it is you, Mr Minister.
Therefore I am asking you – what was the reason for writing this letter and what did you like to achieve through this? I can provide you with hundreds of quotations from scientific and journalistic opinions of the number of Lithuanian activists and national politicians from the perestroyka period and Sąjūdisu (if it is necessary, your business predecessor Zigmas Zinkevičius will appear here in the forefront) to prove that sticking to our native language is one of the most important values in our national life. Both in Lithuanians’ and ours, of Poles. What is the reason for you to recall some invented allowances from introducing restrictions by yourself, what is the reason for you to ensure us and promise? When we lose the language of our fathers, we lose our identity.What you introduce here is clear and undisputedly oriented on “lithuanisation” to a lesser extent and“depolonisation “of the Polish community in Lithuania to a greater extent.
Masses of Lithuanians are running away abroad every month. Statistically, 3 million citizens of Lithuania are a part of the political myth by the order of Mrs President or by the chorus of the basketball anthem. By “lithuanizing” Polish children do you want to, together with your government, at least partly compensate for the demographic losses? Dear Minister! You are the member of the present government and today you are – collegiately, as every in every democratic system – liable for the state. I “kindly recommend” you and your government to care for your compatriots and to save them from escaping Lithuania as if it was a plague-ridden country.
I would also appreciate if the people concerned: students, parents, teachers, have the possibility to care for them about the quality of knowledge concerning Lithuanian language, as well as the rest of school subjects (not formally, but practically). In the present situation they were not asked about their preferences, but even their open and massive protests against “making them happy by force” were completely ignored.
Tłumaczenie: Karolina Krześniak (w ramach praktyk w Europejskiej Fundacji Praw Człowieka, www.efhr.eu) Translated by Karolina Krześniak (within the framework of a traineeship programme of the European Foundation of Human Rights, www.efhr.eu)