• April 19, 2013
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Poles do not know their contemporary Lithuanians and vice versa


Poles go to Lithuania very rarely, whereas Lithuanians visit Poland for shopping mostly – the statements are according to the opinion survey presented in Warsaw during the conference “Truths-false information-interpretations”.

The former President of Lithuania Valdas Adamkus, as well as politicians and experts, took part in the conference: Jan Widacki – the former Ambassador to Lithuania in Vilnius, Vladas Sirutavicius – PhD in history at Vilnius University, Tomasz Nałęcz – the foreign affairs advisor to the President of Republic of Poland. The meeting put together many respectful people and members of the audience. There will be repetition of the event in a week time, but in Vilnius this time.

The former President Valdas Adamkus is regarded as a friend in Poland, although the Polish minority situation in Lithuania had not positively changed during his presidency. Adamkus emphasized the services of Prof. Bronisław Geremek for both of the countries, and stressed out, that there is an agreement concerning Vilnius and called for recognition of the new political programme of the new Lithuanian government related to the Poles in Lithuania.

Irresponsible politics

” I think, that the present situation between us was determined by the irresponsible politicians, and politicians of both countries are equally guilty. Some Polish experts claim, that Poland is a hostage to the Polish leaders in Lithuania. May be that is so, but some of the Lithuanian politicians are none the less guilty. The last four years can not be called the years of unused opportunities, unfortunately. There can not be a break between the nations and countries relationship, after all. When you are through changing you are through” – said Adamkus.

„Both countries declare that they are ready to sort out the minority problems. It is worth to reflect on the new Lithuanian government programme. It is about the fundamental issues and I hope that it shall set up the best conditions for all Lithuanian citizens to cherish their mother tongue, culture and national consciousness”.

As for the opinion poll results, Adamkus said during his lecture: „It may be that our countries and people’s relationship is so shaky – as the poll opinion results show – because we did not get to know each other very well. Many misunderstandings are brought about by lack of knowledge and incomprehension. The data presented by the conference organizers show that only 5% Poles got to know Lithuania better, because they had visited our country. Their trips are limited to the visiting Gate of Dawn [Auśros Vartai] and other places important for Polish history in Vilnius, unfortunately. And the Lithuanian people’s trips to Poland end up in the shopping malls; only enthusiasts or professionals in their respectful fields work towards recognition of the other country’s culture. So it is important to work with young people, to encourage them to communicate to each other not only in English or in Russian, but in other languages as well – the former President said. He complained, that both countries are separated by the infrastructure barrier: ” My suggestion to built a fast train line from Vilnius to Warsaw, so that the trip from one city to another would take few hours only, was not treated seriously.  The projects Rail Baltica and Via Baltica have stopped not only because of the environmental issues in Rospuda Valley, but because of deterioration of our relatioship. We could make more use of our common geopolitical situation to get the benefits for both countries, if we join the European Union infrastructure sooner” – claimed Adamkus.

Widacki: Poles do not have the personal experience

Jan Widacki – the Ambassador of Republic of Poland in Vilnius in the years 1992-1996, commenting on the opinion poll results, rhetorically asked, what an average Pole knew about Lithuania : „We Poles know something about Jogaila, the Union of Lublin, not necessarily understanding that the Union is considered as not very beneficial for Lithuania; some of us may know about Barbara Radziwiłł and Longinus Podbipięta from the school reading as well. Not many Poles are visiting Lithuania, therefore they do not know people and country personally” – the former ambassador said.

Widacki was recalling Polish-Lithuanian negotiations resulted in Friendship Treaty. He noticed that the problem with name spelling of the Poles living in Lithuania has been resurfacing from time to time, and both parties were at fault. “The Polish – Lithuanian Friendship Treaty constituted, that the minority nations could use their names the way they sound in their mother tongue, whereas spelling should be resolved within the separate agreement. The Lithuanian party got the idea into their heads, that the problem [of spelling names] is their problem, whereas it is quite simple – both parties did not produce any proposal of name spelling to be agreed. This is an obligation of Friendship Treaty not implemented until now” – said Widacki

The results of Electoral Action of Poles in Lithuania – APWL – is the result of Lithuanian politicians errors

There were political issues discussed as well. Lithuanian experts debated the last win of Electoral Action of Poles in Lithuania – APWL.

„It is very good, that APWL cooperated with Russians. It has never happened in the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, Rus and Samogitia before, and it is because of the errors of Lithuanian politicians. The President of USA John Kennedy once said, that you could not corner your opponent, because when you did that he would became unpredictable. And we had cornered our Lithuanian Poles, therefore they found their leader somewhere else (it is about AWPL). This is simply the result of our 18 years of political errors, that cornered Poles. No one worked on the Polish electorate in Lithuania” – added Rimvydas Valatka, the chief editor of newspaper „15min”.

Dr Vladas Sirutavičius from the History Institute of Vilnius University, counselor of Council of Europe – the Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities:

„I have spoken many times with the Lithuanian politicians and told them, that they accused AWPL of many things, but did not try to get in touch  with them, to get a message across. I did not receive any rational explanation why this was happening”.

Nałęcz: This is because of the electoral threshold

Tomasz Nałęcz, the foreign affairs advisor to the President of Republic of Poland Bronisław Komorowski, considered, that the Polish-Russian alliance is the effect of the electoral threshold, which is just the same for national minorities in Lithuania, as for all-Poland parties [in Poland]. „The Lithuanian  electoral system encouraged Poles to get into alliance with Russians, if not to say, that it forced them into the alliance. The national minorities in Poland do not have to get into any strange electoral alliances, since there is no 5% electoral threshold for them”.

Institute of Public Affairs published a report based on the complex research of a common profile of Poles and Lithuanians as the whole and both national minorities in their host countries. The report titled „Next to each other. Poles and Lithuanians mutual perceiving”. The report came into existence in cooperation with Bronisław Geremek Foundation based on four opinion polls carried out in Poland and Lithuania, as well as among the Polish minority in Lithuania and Lithuanian minority in Poland.

Poles do not know contemporary Lithuania and vice versa Lithuanians do not know contemporary Poland

It appears that every second Lithuanian (50 proc.) was at least once in Poland, but only every fifth of them has got a family, acquaintances or business partners in Poland (22 proc.). What is more, the authors of the report claim, that as much as 70% of ethnic Lithuanians do not know Polish language, and only every fifth of them understands very simple written text. Only 5% among them admitted, that they speak Polish fluently.

The research shows a very sad truth, only 9% of Poles visited Lithuania, 7% out of them have got their family, or any of acquaintances, there.

It is interesting that almost half of Poles like the Lithuanians (44%), whereas only every forth of the Lithuanian is friendly towards Poles. Polish products are highly valued in Lithuania, fortunately – Lithuanians consider them attractive (68 %) and cheap (87 %); the same can not be said about Poles, who are trying cepelinai or didžkukuliai when they come to Vilnius only. Moreover Lithuanians rate Polish economy high – the report says.

„The report shows the very sad truth that Poles know very little about contemporary Lithuania ” – says Ivona, a student of foreign trade policy at one of the Warsaw universities. „For Poles Lithuania means only Adam Mickiewicz, Słowacki, or Piłsudski. The Polish excursions to Lithuania limit their activities to visiting Vilnius and Trakai; and to get to know so-called Polish Lithuanian history. There is no time to get to know the contemporary Lithuania, and the Lithuanians living there, using the old Baltic language, and their history after 1945″ – she adds, but again she says that Lithuanians knowledge about Poland is equally low, since Lithuanians go to Poland mainly for shopping.

Who is better boss: Pole or  Russian?

When analyzing the potential family or business relationships between both nations, one can come to very interesting conclusions, especially concerning Lithuania. More than three quarters of Poles are not against a Lithuanian as their son-in-law, or daughter-in-law; but the acceptance of mix marriages with a Pole within their own family in Lithuania is little lower. In general Lithuanians accept Poles as tourists (91%), partners (85%) and friends (82%). Their acceptance of Russians is little higher, although the biggest difference appears when you ask a question: „Do you accept Pole/Russian as a boss?” – 78% among Lithuanians asked, answered YES for a Russian boss, yet for Polish boss – only 66%.

„The Russian factor is a bit worrying, but we should not be surprised, since Russia is simply more attractive in Lithuania. There are 16 TV and radio channels in Russian language plus another one dedicated exclusively to Baltic countries. The Russian businessmen sponsor the Russian stars concerts in Vilnius. Poles do nothing in that respect, the Polish companies as well” – judges Maria Przełomiec, TVP journalist hosting the program named “Studio East” [„Studio Wschód”].

The minorities in both countries do not feel discriminated

The polls tell us, that respecting the Polish minority rights issue in Lithuania is dividing people at both countries at large. There is no agreement about it between the interested parties as well as among ethnic Poles at large. 54% Lithuanians consider that Poles in Lithuania are suited to their society, and although the number is bigger than half of the population, it is still not a very high acceptance. Whereas the same Lithuanian people see their national minority in Poland discriminated, although the interested party does not agree with the assessment. As much as 76 % of the members of Lithuanian minority in Poland – asked in the poll if they felt discriminated, answered they did not feel discriminated in any way.

Poles in Lithuania are divided with regards to the question whether their rights are respected in Lithuania (44% – yes; 40% – no, 15% – do not know). There is an opinion in Poland that the Polish minority rights are not respected in Lithuania.

Are we important partners to each other?

It is interesting that neither Poles, nor Lithuanians recognize their neighbour as an important partner in the international relationship; and two times more Lithuanians consider Russia as such, not Poland. Moreover, almost half of Lithuanian nation considers Poland as not very important in Europe, whereas half of Poles thinks, that Lithuanian importance is as low. The results of another interesting poll, at the end: 62% of Poles and 55% of Lithuanians think that they are similar to each other in behaving and characters. Is that so? Let me disagree.

Source: http://pl.delfi.lt/aktualia/polska/polacy-nie-znaja-wspolczesnych-litwinow-i-odwrotnie.d?id=61189059

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

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