- September 28, 2012
Wakar: Polish youth is not different than their Lithuanian friends. (Supplement: choice of respondents)
“Political choices of the young Poles in Lithuania are generally divided between the Electoral Action of Poles in Lithuania (AWPL) and the Labour Party. It is a surprise that there were a few young Poles who voted for the nationalistic party Young Lithuania” said Marcin Wakar during the “Lithuanian Poles or Poles in Lithuania” conference.
“Identity changes with time. To grab the core of the changes, it seems especially important to do research about the representatives of the younger generations that soon will be deciding about the future of the nation. Social policy, educational policy and other parts of social life depend on the results of such studies. Moreover, the results can shape traditions and influence various marketing strategies”- with these words Marcin Wakar, PhD, from the Scientific Research Centre of Wojciech Kętrzyński in Olsztyn began his presentation.
In the researcher’s opinion, the youth can be divided into pupils, university students and those young people who already have a job. His scientific interest focuses on university students, since it is the group that is supposed to create the future elite of Polish minority in Lithuania. He is interested in political choices of young people, their participation in cultural life and attitude to Lithuanians. To analyse it all he questioned a hundred of students of Polish nationality.
Participation in political life
The first group of questions was about the parliamentarian election of 2008. The researcher said “The vast majority of responders (47%) voted for the Electoral Action of Poles in Lithuania (AWPL), created in 1994. In the latest election AWPL received 4.79% of votes and for the first time in history it got close to the threshold of 5% that is needed to get into the parliament. In single-member constituencies for the first time it has received three seats instead of two, and they belonged to Waldemar Tomaszewski (Vilnius- Šalčininkai), Michał Mackiewicz (Sirvintos-Vilnius) and Jarosław Narkiweicz (Vilnius- Trakai). To get the fourth seat in Naujoji Vilnia district, the party needed a few votes.”
The Labour Party (Darbo Partija) established by Wiktor Uspaskich, a millionaire born in Russia, was also popular among the respondents. 4% of them voted for it. Surprisingly, 2% of the questioned students said they voted for a marginal, national-conservative group Young Lithuania (Jaunoji Lietuva).
Only one respondent voted for the Liberal and Centre Union (Liberalų ir centro sąjunga). The Social Democratic Party of Lithuania had the same result in this survey.
“The second question was about being a member of a political party. Two respondents said they had membership cards. One of them belonged to AWLP; the other one, to the Labour Party”- Mr Wakar commented on the survey results.
Participation in cultural life
“Vilnius is the cultural centre of Lithuania. The most important theatres, galleries and the National Philharmonic are there. It is there that the most important festivals in the country take place. Students have access to a broad range of cultural events. Culture has always played an important role in people’s life, and whether we can use it or not shows our esthetical sensitivity and mental horizons.”- this is how Mr Wakar began the commentary on the second group of questions.
The students were asked four questions: When was the last time that you were in a theatre? When was the last time that you were on a classical music concert? When was the last time you were on an opening of a gallery exhibition? When was the last time that you read a belles-lettres book? The possible answers to all the questions were as follows: a) last month, b) in the last six months, c) last year or earlier.
For the first question, only 14 % of the students choose answer a. Vast majority (63%) in a theatre was last year or earlier. In the past six months 32% of the questioned students saw a theatrical play.
It was similarly with classical music concerts. 20% of respondents said they went to one last month. In the last six months- 19% and in the last year or earlier- as much as 63%.
Painting, graphics and sculpture are even less popular than the theatre and classical music. In the past year or earlier, 68% of respondents visited an opening of an exhibition. Only 10% of them admired visual arts in the last month. In the past six months, counting back from the date of the survey, 22% of the respondents visited galleries.
Reading of belles-lettres books looks much better. According to the survey it is the most favourite form of cultural entertainment of students. In the month before the survey, as much as 46% of students read such books. Answers b and c were chosen by 27% of students, each.
“Results like these are not an isolated case. Similar ones were recorded in Cracow. Undoubtedly, the problem connected with access to culture is money. When the choice is: a supper or going to theatre, the second option, for obvious reasons, loses. Nowadays, it is difficult to tell whether it is an irreversible process. To stop it, we need an attractive educational program, which would make the young people ready and willing to participate in cultural life.”- summed up the scholar.
The third group of questions was about partnership.
“Because of the age of the respondents, only one of them is married. As it is commonly known, young people often are in informal relationships.”-said Mr Wakar.
54 of the students answered “yes” to the question “Do you have a partner?”. Because of the character of the study, the next question was especially important: “If you do have a partner or a wife/a husband, is it a mixed relationship from the point of view of nationality? For instance a Pole and a Lithuanian, a Pole and a Russian.”
From the 55 students who have a partner, 13% live in mixed relationships. That makes up 23.7% of all the respondents. 4 of them are in a relationship with a person of Russian origin (7.3% of all with partners) and 9 with someone of Polish nationality (16.4% of all those with partners). The results, on one side, mirror a strong connection with the Polish culture, as it is within its framework where most of the relationships of the respondents were created. On the other side, they show openness towards the national culture of neighbours.
Attitude to people of Lithuanian nationality
In the times of the Lithuanian-Polish conflict that is broadly publicized by the media, it seemed especially important to the author of the survey to look at the attitude of young Poles towards the Lithuanian majority. To make the concluding simpler, the students’ responses were divided into four categories: positive, neutral, moderately negative, definitely negative.
“A considerable number of the respondents (20%) did not answer that question. It may be a proof of the fact that it is a sensitive issue. Generally, the problem looks way more positive than the media show it in both, Lithuania and Poland. Positive attitude towards their Lithuanian neighbours was the most popular among the respondents (37%).”-said doctor Wakar.
The responses were for instance like these: “My attitude to Lithuanians is positive. There aren’t any conflicts.” “I have a lot of respect for Lithuanians, they are like brothers for me.”, “Every person is unique. Lithuanians, just as Poles, are important for me.”
31% of the responses can be seen as neutral. From this group there are a few worth quoting: “They’re normal.”, “I have nothing against Lithuanians, I have never met any that would insult me.”, ”I tolerate Lithuanians, I have no negative feelings towards them.”, “Lithuanians are the same people as I am. They have a good sense of humour, although not all of them.”
The attitude of only eight respondents can be seen as moderately negative. The answers were for example: “Sometimes I feel like a Lithuanian, because I live in Lithuania, but when I’m among Lithuanians- I feel like a stranger. They are nationalistic as a nation.”, “I don’t mind them, although they are a mean nation.”, “It was all good but it’s changed, because the attitude of Lithuanian towards Poles has changed.”, “I have nothing against them, buts sometimes I feel humiliated by them.”
Only four students answered in a way that shows clearly a negative attitude towards Lithuanians. A student of the first year of economics wrote “I am not a nationalist but the present approach of Lithuanians to Poles forces one to hate them.” A student of the second year of IT said: “I don’t like them because they limit the rights of Poles in Lithuania.” The characteristic by a student of the third year of economics is also pejorative: “Boors, they always complain on how bad their life is. They are intolerant towards other people.” Another student of the third year of economics expressed her attitude with these words: “In my opinion it is an aggressive nation. When you walk the streets, you can tell at once which people are Polish and which are Lithuanian.”
“The study shows that the majority of an important social group, students, has a positive or neutral opinion about the Lithuanian majority. It is far from any ethnical conflicts, the existence of which professor Zbigniew Kurcz from the University of Wrocław, Social Sciences Faculty, wanted to proof in his book “Polish minority in Vilnius region” (“Mniejszośc polska na Wileńszczyźnie”)”- summed the researcher up.
“Polish students are not different from the Lithuanian young people, in terms of the values they believe in. The respondents participate in parliamentary elections, but they are not aware how important local government elections are. Among them and their Polish friends, the participation in cultural life becomes more and more limited, but it is reassuring that they still read a lot. The respondents are willing to enter relationships and although they mostly are with people of the same nationality as theirs, they are open towards ethnically mixed ones. They are far from being xenophobic, or starting ethnical conflicts, and most often they are respectful towards their Lithuanian friends.”- concluded Marcin Wakar, PhD, from the Scientific Research Centre of Wojciech Kętrzyński in Olsztyn.
The survey was carried out by questioning a hundred students of Polish nationality who study at universities in Vilnius: The Vilnius University, the Lithuanian Educological University and the Vilnius Department of the University of Białystok. Vast majority of them -73%- studies at the third university, 9% at the first one and 18% at the Lithuanian Educological University. Among the respondents there were students of economics (60%), IT (13%), Polish (18%) and Lithuanian-Polish linguistics (9%). Majority (67%) were women. The oldest participant was born in 1985 and the youngest ones were born in 1993.
Tłumaczenie Emilia Zawieracz w ramach praktyk w Europejskiej Fundacji Praw Człowieka, www.efhr.eu. Translated by Emilia Zawieracz the framework of a traineeship programme of the European Foundation of Human Rights, www.efhr.eu.