- December 6, 2012
Which is it? 140th? 145th? Or 150th birthday of the Marshal?
On December, 5th the Association of Poles in Lithuania held celebrations to mark 145th birthday of Józef Piłsudski. However, the celebrations, that took place in Zalavas where Piłsudski was born, have no long-standing tradition. Since the dissolution of USSR, great celebration was orchestrated in 1938 and, more recently, five years ago.
Only five years ago; or one should rather say “as much as” considering an attitude of the Lithuanians towards Piłsudski. This is the reason why we decided to rerun one of our archive broadcasts entitled “Albumy Wileńskie” that was originally given five years ago and features a modern Lithuanian view on the Marshal presented by a historian, Alfredas Bumblauskas. Many Lithuanians, including the historians, still regard Piłsudski as a lover of Poland and everything that is Polish. Any attempts to understand and “adopt” him to the culture and history of Lithuania are seen as a heresy, betrayal and cleaning up of his image of “an invader” and “a Polish imperialist”.
The broadcast was run on December, 2007 at the Channel 1 of Lithuanian Television. It stirred up strong controversies, although it seemed that the times when a condemnation of Żeligowski would be subsumed under the Polish-Lithuanian Treaty of 1994 are long gone. However, a lot has changed during only or as much as five years. The Lithuanian intelligence does not accept uncritically the vision of Lithuanian history conjured up during the Interwar period. The interest has been revived in the culture of the gentry and Poland that is no longer seen as the enemy number one. Bumblauskas is not an exception or enfant terrible of the Lithuanian historians. Nonetheless, expanding of the vision of Lithuanian history so that it would comprise more than the issue of ethnicity does not reach a wider audience. It is even boycotted, for instance by conservative teachers in schools.
The theory about “the earlier and later generations of Lithuanians” has not gained an enormous popularity among the Polish community. What is more, some leaders treated it as yet another “mild” try to impose Lithuanian mentality on the Poles. The identity of Poles in Lithuania was shaped in the 20th century. They do not consider themselves to be descendents of Lithuanians. However, the Poles still remain direct successors and linear continuators of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania’s tradition. Unfortunately, both the Poles and Lithuanians tend to ignore that fact.
Who knows? Perhaps in 150 years the Poles will join in the celebration of Piłsudski’s birthday in Zalavas.
Tłumaczenie Karolina Jasińska w ramach praktyk w Europejskiej Fundacji Praw Człowieka, www.efhr.eu. Translated by Karolina Jasińska the framework of a traineeship programme of the European Foundation of Human Rights, www.efhr.eu.