- February 1, 2013
PRESS REVIEW: About strange monsters
In the past weeks Poles in Lithuania have been active, they were organising more or less controversial actions and they scandalised a bit. Lithuanian media accepted it calmly or actually… Passed it all over in silence.
The most important event is the decision of the Administrative Court of the Vilnius District on bilingual street name notices in the Šalčininkai region. The media seem to be bored with the topic, which was exhausted a few years ago. Apart from short information about the decision of the Court, few newspapers bothered to publish comments of the people most involved – representatives of the Šalčininkai region or the government representative from the Vilnius district, who was the plaintiff in the case.
Stanislovas Buškevičius brought in some liveliness. He is the deputy-mayor of Kaunas, the leader of the National party “Young Lithuania”and not a very popular politician, who, apparently, would like to become recognised in the society. He has issued a statement, addressed to the mayor of the Šalčininkai region, in which he proposes to help in the process of taking the notices down.
“From the press information, it appears that the Šalčininkai region Self-Government does not have the financial means, required to realise the decision of the Court. Understanding the difficult financial situation of the region, members of the Young Lithuania party offer their voluntary and free help. Using our own means and powers, we will take down the notices written in a non-official language.” – BNS agency and Lithuanian internet sites quoted Buškevičius.
Meanwhile, the journalist Karolis Jovaišas, in a featured article on delfi.lt called for arranging the “Polish legal nihilism” somehow.
“Why Lithuanian authorities agree to such insolent and cynical behaviour? Is it not clear that nihilism on the field of the law and lack of respect for Court decisions harm the foundations of statehood? And if there are real, but not named officially, reason for tolerating the behaviour of Poles, then why the authorities does not fulfil the demands of the national minority?”– Asked Karolis Jovaišas in his commentary „Poles do not obey the law. What is the attitude of D. Grybauskaitė?”.
The featured article, at the first glance critical towards Poles, indeed reveals a very sober point of view. After long considerations whether Poles in Lithuania are no one else than Polonised Lithuanians (“it’s not about how many of the Poles in Lithuania are denationalised Lithuanians, but about the fact that they see themselves as Poles, they think like Poles and it is a great naivety to try to turn them back into Lithuanian identity” – Jovaišas sums up) the author arrives at a logical conclusion, which can be surprising for a Polish reader, who may be discouraged by the tone of the publication.
“The act that forbids inscriptions written in the Polish language is neither good nor bad in itself, it is simply binding. But there comes the moment of the truth! Can an act that has no reflection in the reality and exists only as a written paper, be regarded as “binding”? Can it be seen as an ignored and despised act? (…) Would it not be wiser, choosing from two bad things – the Polish legal nihilism and fulfilling the demands of the Polish minority – to choose the lesser of two evils? Even more so, since the fears that any concessions made for Poles will only make their separatist demands stronger are absurdly naïve?” – writes Jovaišas.
The author proposes that president Grybauskaitė should take the matter in her hands, initiating proper corrections in the act, which would make the Polish inscriptions legal.
Andrius Bačiulis in the „Veidas” weekly magazine also writes that the problems related to names of streets and the spelling of last names must be solved. In his featured article “In a few weeks we will make peace with Poland?” the author analyses the future of the relations between the two states. In his opinion, we can count for an improvement.
“The fact that the improvement started to appear only three months after (after president Dalia Grybauskaitė refused to take part in the celebrations of the Polish Independence Day – author’s note) and that Warsaw shows more initiative to make the relations better, is really good news”. Below he adds, however, that “without solving the issue of Polish last names spelling, Warsaw will not engage into any serious conversation on purely economic topics. It has become a fundamental issue in Poland and a matter of prestige of the state, and no politician – neither pragmatic Donald Tusk nor reserved Bronisław Komorowski – will make compromise in this field.”
And the normal relation between Poland and Lithuanian should be based not only on spelling of last names but also on the common energetic business – A. Bačiulis reminds.
When some journalists look into the future, others look for motivations for reconciliation in the past. Ramūnas Bogdanas on delfi.pl touches poetic tones in his article „1863 uprising: shed blood connects us with Poles”.
“Relations between Poland and Lithuania in the course of the history are full of ups and downs, of brotherhood and anger. In no period of time we will find neutrality. We are like the two banks of a river, connected by the passing ages. From the opposite bank, the river looks differently, but still it is the one river, and thanks to it we are who we are.”
January uprising caused some other echoed messages to appear in the media. On the 150th anniversary of the January uprising, the media informed about the artistic exhibition of works of Artur Grottger, organised by the Polish Institute in cooperation with the Lithuanian Art Museum. The Lithuanian PM Algirdas Butkevičius and the Polish Ambassador in Vilnius Janusz Skolimowski participated in the opening of the exhibition. Newspapers were full of nice phrases, like “the January uprising of 1863 means a lot for both, Lithuania and Poland.”
“Splendid past must inspire new works. I hope that soon, in Warsaw, I will be able to speak to the PM Donal dTusj about the future of our relations. Lack of a future would mean betraying the spirit of the uprising” – newspapers quoted the words of the head of the Lithuanian government. Everything was official, correct and inspiring.
Meanwhile the real life was happening somewhere else! Unsanctioned by the city authorities march, white–red flags flying on the wind, daring action of the Lithuanian police: mobilisation of seven squad cars and arresting the organiser, who, escorted to the police station in the flashlight, was as happy as a calm. Farai program (documental thriller program about work of the police, shown by one of Lithuanian TV stations) would appreciate shots like those.
Obviously, it’s all about the “For our freedom and your freedom” march, organised by the priest Dariusz Stańczyk and scouts, in a partisan spirit, which means without the permission to organise a mass audience event. Lithuanian reporters must have missed the chance – only “Wilnoteka” has the exclusive material. The day after the events, they were described as a sign of the highest heroism, compared to the bravery of the people who participated in the January uprising. But only local Polish media offered these descriptions. No great headlines in Lithuanian press.
Similar silence fell after another example of Polish patriotism – a concert decided to the uprising. Musical groups were introduced by the organisers (The Association of the Polish Scouts “Vilnius Patriotic Youth”) as performers of “contemporary Polish music”. It’s just a detail that some of them, like “Irydion”, have in their repertoire songs about “Jewish weed”. They did not play these in Vilnius and they sang only “songs related to identity and nationality” – as “Kuriew Wileński” says, using the words of a person who listened to the concert eagerly.
Lithuanian media ignored this topic, and apparently had no idea that the concert actually took place. Only delfi.pl repeated the news after their colleagues from pl.delfi. They mention, among other news, information about the leader of the “Zjednoczony Ursynów” group, who, from the stage in the Polish Culture House spoke about his hopes that soon “Vilnius, Lviv and Grodno will be Polish, not foreign”. The tone was balanced – actually, only facts were collected, without any comment or evaluation whatsoever.
Maybe Lithuanian reporters and journalists have found a deep understanding and tolerance for actions of the Polish minority in Lithuania? Other examples of the journalistic activity in Lithuania show that some reporters still believe that a nice, small provocation is not bad.
Diena.pl website has published an astonishing text, in which it analysed the content of the poster, issued by the Vilnius Region Self-Government as an invitation for Shrovetide in Dūkštas. The journalists grew suspicious because of the following announcement: “(…) during the event you will see crazy Gypsies, Jews, beggars, witches, fairies, crawling snakes, bears, waken up by the noise and music. Jumping goats will show you their horns, there will also appear other strange monsters, so be quick and cunning, ready for any possible surprises.”
Diena.pl summed up the content of the poster in the following way: “The information spread by the Self-Government warns against «strange monsters». On the list of these, there are also representatives of some national minorities and animals.”
“Laugh and sin”, as Wincuk Bałbatunszczyk would say. He also appeared on the poster, but not on the list of the strange monsters.
The Self-Government reacted by issuing a press statement, in which it included a short lecture on the Shrovetide characters.
“We emphasize, that dressing up as a character during Shrovetide does not mean ridiculing the character or his or her nationality. The aim is to remain unrecognised.” – went the official explanation of the Self-Government.
A true comedy. Or rather, true Shrovetide.
Tłumaczenie Emilia Zawieracz w ramach praktyk w Europejskiej Fundacji Praw Człowieka, www.efhr.eu. Translated by Emilia Zawieracz within the framework of a traineeship programme of the European Foundation of Human Rights, www.efhr.eu.