• September 2, 2011
  • 283

Polish schools in Lithuania have begun the protest.

Thousands of people descended in front of the Presidential Palace to protect Polish school.

Why am I here? My parents sent me to Polish school with hope that like my parents, their parents, my grandparents I will receive my education in Polish. And now not knowing why, authorities have decided that the school will be Lithuanian. I think that they want to fail us at the exams from Lithuanian language and to make it impossible for us to get to the university. This is not fair!’ — said to „Kurier” Waldemar Mażul, a student from the school in Suderwa near the Vilnius Region, who came for the protest in front of the Presidential Palace with his colleagues.

On Friday on the appeal of the Polish Schools Parents’ Forum in Lithuania and school’s protesting committees around 5 thousand students of Polish schools, their parents and the representatives of Polish community gathered at the Simonas Daukantas square to protest against this discriminatory Act of Education.

Students from Russian schools not only from Vilnius but also from Kłajpedy and Wisagini joined to the protesting Poles. The rally gave rise to the protest of students of ethnic minorities’ schools. As ‘Kurier’ found out, on Friday around 90% of students did not come to Polish schools in Lithuania. 10% of those who came to school, were the students from the beginning grades. As the administrations of the schools explain — ‘ Schools are not  protesting. Students and their parents are’.

photo: Kurier Wilenski

The protest embraced around 70 out of 100 schools in Lithuania, in which the language of instruction is Polish.

Dariusz Żybort has never thought that he will have to perform in the rally.

As Dariusz Żybort, a representative of the Polish Schools Parents’ Forum in Lithuania,  said to ‘Kurier’ — ‘It is hard to say how long the strike will take. The final decision in this case will be made by the protesting committees. But what will be the decision like, it depends on the decision of Lithuanian authorities. Whether they will try a dialogue with us or not’.

A chairman of the Elective Action of Poles in Lithuania, a member to the European Parliament Waldemar Tomaszewski turned to the people who were gathered in front of the Presidential Palace and said that he came here not as a politician, but as a parent.

‘The decision of accepting this act was a political decision of Lithuanian authorities and we are also going to fight for our rights armed with political methods. If the authorities do not want to hear us, then next time here there will be not five but ten thousand of protesting people’ — announced Waldemar Tomaszewski.

Thanks to the actions of Lithuanian authorities, the matters concerning Polish Education became a political matter and involved lots of people who have been staying away from politics until now.

‘Never ever in my life have I thought that I will be in a rally, I am not a politician, I do not belong to any political party, but the situation is so serious that as a parent I cannot standing and waiting doing nothing’ — said from the platform Dariusz Żybort, a dentist.

Students from Polish schools believe that Lithuanian authorities will hear their voices. Photograph of Marian Paluszkiewicz

As students from Polish schools, who were the majority of the rally — ‘We just felt like a people from the second category. Lithuanian authorities accept this act, at the same time favouring the students from Lithuanian schools’.

Renata Pačienskaitė is a student of the 11th grade of the Polish Secondary School under the name of Szymon Konarski in Vilnius. She came here with her friends to — as she says — ‘protect independence’. The 11th grade students are those who found themselves in the first fire line. In two years from now they will be sitting the unified with Lithuanian schools exam from Lithuanian language. For 10 years they have been learning Lithuanian language according to the programmes and course books prepared for Polish schools which were different from Lithuanian programmes. ‘This is all very simple. During the enrolment to the university, the points from the Matura exam are taken into consideration. And now to catch up with the differences from Lithuanian schools we will have to sacrifice a lot of time to Lithuanian language, neglecting at the same time other subjects. It is not hard to imagine how it will influence our results of the exams.’ — says the 11th grade student.

„We will continue protesting” — say Polish children in Lithuania. Photograph of Marian Paluszkiewicz

To the argument of the Minister of Education that the reform is conducted for the sake of the students to make it easier for them to master Lithuanian language, which will make an easy start in the adult life, she answers: ‘Those, who are doing this, do not know what the realities are. We know Lithuanian language enough. I am also a student of the music school, where everything is instructed in Lithuanian language. My friends there are also Lithuanians and I have no problems at learning, at the presence in the classes, but it is not the same as sitting an exam, for which there are 12 years of preparation and not 2’ — says Renata Pačienskaitė.

In front of the protesting people there also performer the leaders of Polish community in Lithuania — the director of the Polish Committee in Lithuania Michał Mackiewicz, members for Lithuanian Parliament from AWPL Jarosław Narkiewicz and Leonard Talmont, the vice-minister of the Vilnius Region Jan Mincewicz. There were also the representatives of other national minorities — Belarusian and Russian.

Lithuanian nationalists were calling Poles to ‘find a Lithuanian in themselves’ Photograph of Marian Paluszkiewicz.

In the resolution accepted during the rally, the protesting people demanded from Lithuanian authorities: resigning from the unified exam from Lithuanian language, bringing the Polish exam back on the list of compulsory exams on the Matura exam, resigning from the discriminatory parity of preserving Lithuanian school at the expense of Polish one.

The rally took place without any incidents. However, nearby the Presidential Palace there was a group with the insulting posters.  ‘You who live here, find Lithuanian in yourself’ 1920 — Żeligowski, 2011 — Tomaszewski?”. However, the protesting Poles did not let themselves to be provoked.


Tłumaczenie Joanna Jatczyk w ramach praktyk w Europejskiej Fundacji Praw Człowieka, www.efhr.eu Translated by Joanna Jatczyk within the framework of a traineeship programme of the European Foundation of Human Rights, www.efhr.eu

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