• June 29, 2012
  • 287

Radio by the Neris: so Polish, so homely…

Fot. Marian Paluszkiewicz

On Sunday July 1, it will be exactly 20 years since listeners inLithuaniacould for the first time hear the Polish language and the music of Polish artists on their radios. Until this day, Znad Wilii (“By the Neris”) remains the only Polish radio station inLithuania. Over the years, it has become recognizable and opinion-making.

Znad Wilii is going to celebrate the jubilee, truly substantial for a radio station, together with their listeners. On the anniversary, on July 1, the radio is inviting all to the Open Door Day. This Sunday, between10 amand1 pm, everyone is invited to the radio’s headquarters.

As the organizers are announcing, the listeners will have the chance to see how the radio looks like and how the journalists work, and also to take part in the birthday programme. Recollections of former employees, contests and various attractions will be on the air, as well as cake for everyone.

On1 July 1992, the first signal of the first Polish commercial radio station in post-warVilniusresounded in the ether. Jarosław Kamiński, currently the deputy mayor ofVilniusappointed on behalf of the Electoral Action of Poles in Lithuania (AWPL), who was at the time responsible for technical and music matters, recalls that the signal lasted for several seconds. It was a fragment of a song by an Austrian Band, “Yellow”. The radio still didn’t have its own jingle, and this one had been sent by their Polish colleagues. The first words were spoken by Krzysztof Roniker, a technician of Radio S fromWarsaw. It was supposed to be a test broadcast, but it went into the ether as if it’d been intentional. Mr Roniker, who had helped to launch Radio Znad Wilii, said something, more or less, like this: “Ladies and Gentlemen, don’t be mistaken, you’re listening to a Polish radio from Vilnius, which is called Znad Wilii”. Next, Leonard Tupko, who would later host, among other things, music programmes, including “Na wileńską nutę” (“To theVilniusnote”), spoke to the listeners in his characteristic voice. This is how the station’s founders describe its beginnings in a publication devoted to the radio.

The idea for the station came from its founder, Česlav Okinčic, a man famous inLithuaniaand outside it: lawyer, politician, signatory to the Act of the Re-Establishment of the State of Lithuania, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of theRepublicofLithuania, social advisor to the Prime Minister of Lithuania.

In a short time he was able to gather good journalists and instil in them love for the radio. He was helped at the time by Irena Wojciechowska, chairman’s right hand until this day, and Walery Tankiewicz, later the station’s first director.

At first the station was broadcasting for 12 hours at a time, but then it received the licence for 24-hour broadcast. It’s been broadcasting within the 100 km radius fromVilniusfrom the beginning.

Mirosław Juchniewicz, the current director general of the station, has been with the radio from the very first day, first as a producer, then a presenter, until he finally got promoted to the position of director general. He recalls that at the beginning the main obstacles were the lack of equipment and qualifications.

 “All of this had to be completed quickly. At the time we were helped by our partners fromPoland: Polskie Radio (Polish Radio), Radio RMF FM, Radio Zet. They invited us to various workshops. Different stations backed us up with programmes and the sound design,” Juchniewicz says about those times. But he soon adds that back then it used to be easier to grow, as there was little competition on the market.

“There were roughly four private stations inLithuania. The market could be divided and everyone had their listeners. Now it’s more difficult, as there are over 30 stations inVilniusalone. Besides, emigration has done its part. According to the Department of Statistics, about 40,000 Poles have emigrated fromLithuaniain the recent years. And those who have left are usually young, active people. Our listeners. The realities have changed not to our advantage: the competition is growing, the numbers of inhabitants are falling, and the advertising market is getting smaller. We need to adjust to these realities,” says the director general.

 “The adjustment is helped by the fact that we are a small company, which allows for quick decision-making, appropriate for a given situation, when sudden changes occur on the job market or in taxation,” he emphasizes. During the 20 years the radio has been constantly changing. Everything was computerized and automated. The beginnings, when there were cassettes, have long passed. Currently, as the director says, it’s far easier to function technically than it was years ago. From the very start, the radio was intended for a target group of 25 to 45-year-olds. According to the director, these are the primary listeners with interest in advertising. As for the format, the radio broadcasts in the so-called European format: 50 percent Polish music, 50 percent its Western counterpart. The news is also divided along similar lines. Some of the blocks concern the local news, others – world news. Probably many listeners still remember when the news was read in three languages, Polish, Lithuanian and Russian. Today they are exclusively in Polish, although there are also some broadcasts in Belarusian.

The radio has been fulfilling its function of promoting the Polish language, culture and music consistently for 20 years. It carries out various projects, for example with schools and young people. Such programmes, aimed at young people and inviting to collaboration, are “Radiożercy” (“The Radio-eaters”) or “Biblioteka w Plecaku” (“Library in a Backpack”). Znad Wilii is, of course, not only about music and information services. There is no shortage of journalism and fascinating authors’ programmes with very different themes, for example political or economic. Many listeners surely can’t imagine the station without “Salon Polityczny” (“The Political Saloon”), which invites many well-known personalities at home and abroad, and which is hosted by the excellent journalist Renata Widtmann, who has once won the title of the best radio journalist inLithuania.

Themes of education, society, culture and entertainment – the station has something for everyone. “Polska Lista Przebojów” (“The Polish Top Hits”) is the programme with the most longevity on Znad Wilii. That’s not all – for a while it had no counterpart anywhere in the world!

Every week, Renata Butkiewicz invites the audience to “Filmoteka Polska” (“The Polish Film Archive”), a review of the most important events in the world of films, with interviews with filmmakers. Whereas in “Polskie Aktualności Kulturalne” (“Polish Cultural News”), she visits exhibitions, theatres and festivals, and invites guests from the world of culture. “Zwrot Ziemi” („Land Restitution”) the Catholic show “Ziarno Wiary” (“The Seed of Faith”), the listeners’ choice – all these programmes have their audience, too.

At the beginning, the radio was run by a team of 12. During the 20 years, plenty of people have been involved. The fans of the radio surely remember the names of many presenters, even though their voices haven’t been heard on the air for a while. They are Sabina Giełwanowska, Edmund Sztengier, Marek Kowalewski, Małgorzata Olszewska-Trofimowa.

The late Jerzy Surwiło, a prominent journalist and author fromVilnius, who among others things had for many years been the deputy editor of Kurier Wileński, has permanently gone down in the radio’s history. He was the host editor of “Magazyn Kombatancki” (“The Combatants’ Magazine”) from the beginning of 2000 until his last day, in October 2009. Today the core of the station is made up of people who have been here from the very start and who know the radio work from the ground up. Altogether, Znad Wilii has about 20 employees, including 12 people who work directly for the station. It wouldn’t be an exaggeration to say that currently 50 per cent of the team consists of people who have been with the radio from day one.

Aleksandra Akińczo is one of them. She prepares and is responsible for the news service. As she says, she’s been with the radio from the very first day, and actually even before that, since she came when it was still being created. She used to be a reporter and a commentator on the affairs of the parliament, the government and the President’s Office. Currently she manages the news service, which employs reliable people, on whom, as she says, she can always count.

 “The greatest charm of this place is that you come here as if you were coming home, where you can work thoroughly and comfortably. The journalist’s job has no working hours or days. The doors are not closed when you leave. These may be the difficulties of our work, but they are bothersome only until you begin to see its charm,” Akińczo says with conviction.

Krystyna Kamińska agrees. She’s also been with the radio from the start and, like Bożena Lenkiewicz, she works in the news department. “I passed the voice test, which was successful, because I got the job in the news department straightaway. Today I still prepare and present the news. Getting to know new things and passing them on to others are precisely the things that give me huge satisfaction,” Kamińska says.

Apart from that, she also hosts programmes, for example “Stare Wileńskie Ulice” (“The Old Vilnius Streets”), which she admits to liking very much herself, as the subject is close to her heart and she’s always dreamt of a job, where she can constantly learn more.

Barbara Sosno, who’s been working for the radio for 15 years, hosts the morning block “Głos Wileńszczyzny” (“The Voice of the Vilnius Region”), in which she gives the audience the news from the Vilnius Region and the Šalčininkai district. Twice a week, in “Szkoły Polskie na Litwie” (“Polish Schools inLithuania”), she talks about the educational affairs. She started as a reporter and she thinks that every journalist should have this experience – this is the true school of journalism.

“What I really value in this job, is that it gives the opportunity to meet so many people – people from very different communities, interesting personalities. Thanks to that, you see how rich the Vilnius Region is,” she says.

Kamil Zalewski, who’s by the way been born inPoland, has been a radioman for ten years, including eight in Znad Wilii. Before, he used to work in a local station in Suwałki. It is his voice that we hear on the air every morning. He admits that the hardest part of the job for him is… getting up early. “But waking up on the air together with the listeners is the best,” Kamil laughs. As he says, these conversations with the listeners are precisely what he values. “Radio is a great way of life. The job is easy if you’re doing what you like. I like radio and I love what I do,” says Kamil, full of enthusiasm.

Source: http://kurierwilenski.lt/2012/06/29/radio-znad-wilii-takie-polskie-i-takie-swojskie/

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

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