- September 8, 2011
A. Kubilius: These are the words we have been waiting for.
“It won’t work” – that is what I thought after a conversation I had with Andrius Kubilius, the Lithuanian Prime Minister, 20 years after establishing diplomatic relations between Poland and Lithuania;, at the same time one day after Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk’s visit, when the establishment of Commission on Education was announced. I thought: “Good Sir, I’ll better be wrong!”
The quality remains the same.
Why did Mr. Tusk come to Lithuania? We will probably never find out, even though we can have a couple of ideas. Why did he say one thing in Połąga, and the other in Vilnius, at the Gate of Dawn is also unknown. As if there were not enough conflicts in Lithuania already. Yet, he gave me some hope. It’s sure. To everyone. To the Lithuanians. To the Poles. Everybody understood it in their own way and what they wanted to understand.
The Lithuanians keep using the same, old slogans and arguments; they lack. This means showing “their guests” one face – smile, handshake, friendly look and a series of promises, and having the second one that is real: clear anger, arrogance and breaking the promises. This is the forecast for the next 20 years. Really sad.
It is also sad that the Prime Minister of Lithuania heard only what he wanted to hear, meaning the acceptance of his actions. Obviously, the acceptance of Polish postulates would be regarded as his failure – something he cannot afford to. However, he can afford to some reflections: “Let us look at this situation and talk about it.” The conflict between the ‘naughty’ Poles heats up emotions. This is what the Prime Minister perceives in his nation as heroism. A liberal, a left-wing supporter or a right-wing supporter – in this situation all Lithuanians will condemn a Pole and will appreciate the Prime Minister. Why? Because he is fighting for Lithuania. All Lithuanians will continuously hear from ‘know-alls’ that the Poles do not want to learn Lithuanian language. But who and when did say so? Which one of the consciously thinking parents? Did anyone even hear out the Polish postulates?
“It is my belief that the experience of the past 20 years allows for a statement that the perspective of our relationship and the role of Poland in this region are clear-cut. Of course, things are happening. We talk about them – sometimes very emotionally – but I think that the yesterday’s visit of the Prime Minister Tusk and the words said by him are of great importance. His statement that local Poles must know not only Polish, but also the state language, Lithuanian, and that the politicians of both sides should not use the Polish-Lithuanian conflicts for their own political goals is what we have been waiting for so long and what hasn’t been said by any Polish leader until today. This is a very important and Europe-like view on the issue of minority groups.”
It seems that Mr. Kubilius either does not hear his guests, or has a very short memory. In the last decade every honourable Polish guest repeated ad nauseam, covering one’s back somehow, that the Poles must be loyal citizens of Lithuania and they should learn Lithuanian. The politicians recited this formula as if it was a prayer, but only now Kubilius heard the words that ‘haven’t been said by any Polish leader’. Who and when? Which Pole have said that he wants to be a disloyal citizen and does not want to learn the state language – Lithuanian? They have repeated it for a long time: Lithuanian state language. They also want to learn Polish, as well as English and even Chinese. But not ONLY Lithuanian in a poor, old-fashioned schools, which lack up-to-date syllabus, interesting and modern handbooks up to 21st century standards; where anxiousness, fear, humiliation, constant changes (unfortunately to worse) and lack of clear-cut perspectives dominate. They don’t want to learn in schools where physics, mathematics and geography are not taught. And the same refers to the development. They don’t want to learn only about the Lithuanian and in Lithuanian language, once again in Lithuanian and about Lithuania. What the society wants is to have a prestigious school which provides good education and an outlook on life without forgetting about the origin, as well as allows for studying in Lithuania, Poland, Europe and all over the world. They want a prestigious Polish school with Lithuanian language on a very high level. But if we build prestigious schools with such an enthusiasm as the Polish-Lithuanian strategic partnership, called by the Prime Minister “in a developmental and strategic character”, they will not be created soon, and will finish just like this ‘strategic partnership.’
“(…) which will allow for an objective assessment of the law.” Drawing a conclusion from this speech, especially from the statement by the Prime Minister in Połąga, I would say that the working group’s goal is to convince the Polish side to the rightness and greatness of the bill. I am curious if the Prime Minister or anyone in the government knows the Polish postulates, as nobody wanted to hear them out. Forum of parents from the Polish school in Lithuania exists for half a year. It is neither a secret social movement, nor a radical one. They have been sending letters, propositions, petitions, requests (at one point signed by 60 thousand people) to various governing bodies, e.g.to the Ministry of Education, to the Parliament or to the government. Not once (!) were the representatives of the Forum (the parents) invited to talk and to present their arguments. They were not invited to any kind of a dialogue. However, the manifestation has been described with harsh words and epithets. Additionally, they have been described as the Polish chauvinists who do not want to make their children learn Lithuanian, the V column that destroys the country, a handful of people manipulated by few radical politicians. What a convenient and concise thesis. And so untrue.
“We heard that alright, but I feel like we are not heard. I would like to remind you that the Polish education outside Poland has the best conditions here, in Lithuania. 100 out of 160 Polish schools are in Lithuania. I would like to remind you that, through implementing the law this year, we accepted the petitions for raising the student’s basket and reduced the number of students needed to create new classes in schools. The Matura exam from Lithuanian will be also introduced carefully. I believe that it will be appreciated by the students who should listen to Tusk’s words about learning not only Polish, but also Lithuanian.”
Mr. Kubilius, you are repeating again. It is about the Lithuanian again and again. Ad nauseam. So we will also repeat once again: “we do want to learn Lithuanian language, we really want to learn Lithuanian language, we want to learn Lithuanian language very much”. But not only Lithuanian language. We also want to learn Polish, English and other languages. Ivanauskaitė in Lithuanian, but Miłosz in Polish (new curriculums will includes learning about Miłosz and Konwicki in Lithuanian also in Polish schools.) Dostojewski – in Russian. We want to learn physics, mathematics and history. We want to stay in touch with Poland, Europe and the world. We do not want to be enclosed in a single country, plunging into the atmosphere of growing reluctance to one another, unintelligible arguments and a lack of dialogue.
Photography by Jan Wierbiel
Edited by Rajmund Rozwadowski
Tłumaczenie Mateusz Nowakowski w ramach praktyk w Europejskiej Fundacji Praw Człowieka, www.efhr.eu. Translated by Mateusz Nowakowski within the framework of a traineeship programme of the European Foundation of Human Rights, www.efhr.eu.
Korekta Sylwia Janus w ramach praktyk w Europejskiej Fundacji Praw Człowieka, www.efhr.eu. Corrected by Sylwia Janus within the framework of a traineeship programme of the European Foundation of Human Rights, www.efhr.eu