- July 9, 2012
Polish street signs still a problem
Polish street signs do not allow to rest easy neither Lithuanian media nor government officials, who are prepared to combat every Polish word in Wilno area as though the independence of the country was on the line.
‘It’s a very convenient red herring for both the journalists and the politicians, particularly as we enter the pre-election period. Rather than have a factual debate on serious topics such as guiding the country through economical crisis or preventing mass emigration we will witness many discussions on street signs or Polish Card,’ tells “Kurier” Renata Cyacka, secretary of the Administrative Council of Vilinus district.
Cytacka is, in fact, a “heroine” of local news regarding the alleged “slight” against the national language; the official of Vilinus district, living in Jaszuny (Soleczniki district), “decorated” her house with a plate stating that it is located on “Michał Baliński Street.” According to LNK TV network who was “the first” to “find out” Cytacka supposedly violated the State Language Law which states that names of the streets should be written in Lithuanian.
‘Again, the law does not state that the names have to be written exclusively in national language. On the other hand, Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities, which Lithuania has signed, permits the members of ethnic minorities to write the traditional local names, names of the streets, and other names of public locations in their own language,’ explains Renata Cytacka. She thinks that placing a plate with Polish name of a street is her private affair since it was made according to her family’s specifications and financed by them rather than follow an established national standard.
‘And before we put up the plate we’d asked all the neighbours if it won’t bother them. They approved of our decision se we put it up,’ explained Renata Cytacka. She also points out that using Michał Baliński’s Polish name on the sign should not insult anybody, since the famous historian used it throughout all his life. His name is also written in Polish on Baliński family vault at the local cemetery in Jaszuny, where Baliński’s Palace is also located.
Cytacka maintains that she is a loyal Lithuanian citizen and does not intend to break the law. ‘If only somebody could prove that I’m breaking the law at all and which one – the Language Law or the Framework Convention; otherwise this topic will keep coming back ad infinitum,’ says Cytacka. It is not the first time that a Polish street sign at the Cytacki family’s house has been of interest to the Lithuanian media and authorities. So far however nobody has initiated official proceeding to prove that a law has been broken; certainly not MP Paulius Saudaragas who over a year ago brought the representatives of Lithuanian diaspora to Jaszuny and showed them Cytacki family’s house as an example of blatant law-breaking by local Poles. He took several photos of Polish street sign and published them on his webpage.
‘If MP Saudaragas thought we were breaking the law he should have reported it to the authorities. He didn’t however so either he broke the law himself or he isn’t confident in his case,’ notes Cytacka and repeats that she looks forward to a proper legal evaluation of her private initiative to cut all further speculation short. The neighbours of Cytackis are also fed up with regular visits from the media looking for Polish names in Wilno area. The say half-jokingly that it’s high time that their own properties received some of the attention and threaten to put up signs in Polish as well. More seriously they say they will do it to show solidarity with their neighbours.
Meanwhile the head of State Language Inspection, Donatas Smalinskas, thinks that there should be no Polish street signs at all and every sign on private property should be consulted with local authorities and approved by them. The representatives of Soleczniki district administration announced that they will examine the situation and decide whether or not a breach of law has occured.
Tłumaczenie Andrzej Rola w ramach praktyk w Europejskiej Fundacji Praw Człowieka, www.efhr.eu. Translated by Andrzej Rola within the framework of a traineeship programme of the European Foundation of Human Rights, www.efhr.eu.