• June 12, 2013
  • 218

“We” versus “you.” Reflections on President Grybauskaitė’s speech

fot. wilnoteka.lt

The difference of 818 hours of the Lithuanian language class within the space of 12 years of education divides Lithuanian and non-Lithuanian high school graduates, although they both take the same exam, officially admitted office workers from Lithuania’s Ministry of Education and Science, who have always considered the Polish school system in Lithuania to be God’s wrath. Despite that, however, President Dalia Grybauskaitė states, speaking in a loud tone from the platform in the Sejmas, that it is “the Lithuanian language that is becoming a hostage.” 

Extreme stress and fatigue are natural consequences of high school finals. Both of them can be observed every year. However, this year the awfully disoriented high school graduates from schools of national minorities could only arouse others’ sympathy and sorrow. Everything boils down exclusively to the exam in Lithuanian because failing it (only this one subject) stands in the way of obtaining a certificate of secondary education. When one slips up a little, the chances of being admitted to their dream university are either slim or none. Therefore, future philologists, doctors, economists, engineers, or even cosmonauts had to “cram” for Lithuanian. In the meantime, the screws are being put on; last year the pass mark in the exam in Lithuanian was 25 per cent, whereas this year it has increased to 30 per cent.

Still, however, it is not enough for high school graduates to check their scores in the exam in Lithuanian. They also need to know how many points they scored in Maths, Physics, and other subjects. There was not enough time for studying other subjects as it was common knowledge that Lithuanian would become THE MOST IMPORTANT subject during this year’s high school finals.

Dalia Grybauskaitė is not a president of all citizens for she defines a clear-cut boundary: I-you, we-you. It is a boundary that is both dangerous and inhumane!

Even Lithuanian observers noticed the peculiarity of the President’s speech. In the pages of 15min.lt Andrius Šuminas, an expert in social communication, emphasizes President Grybauskaitė’s tendencies to tack around the notions of “I” and “we.” “Whenever the President boasts of the country’s achievements and positive changes, she speaks in the first person singular. But when she talks about corruption and social ills that have to be fought, she immediately starts speaking in the first person plural,” he says.

“The controversial exam in Lithuanian results in further demands, which in turn divide the society,” roared President Grybauskaitė in her speech. Thus, “we” and “you.” But has the Polish minority in Lithuania launched any new postulates? No. The restitution of land (which no one ever mentions now), the spelling of surnames, bilingual street name plates (not even town name plates), and the maintenance of a full-time Polish school system. This is not even boring. This is incredibly wearisome that the aforementioned issues have been invariably brought up for 20 years now. The promises of fulfilling the demands were included in the Polish-Lithuanian treaty. Then various Lithuanian politicians have promised – a million times – to solve the “unimportant” issues. They have made promises, but today it turns out that it is “the demands that divide the society.”

If Dalia Grybauskaitė was a president of all citizens, boasting that “every one in five citizens of the country is university educated,” she would bear in mind the data from the last census, which clearly demonstrates that Polish people still remain the least educated community in Lithuania. They are next to the last, just before Roma people. This is not the fault of Polish people in Lithuania, but the painful consequence of the past, mass deportation, and post-war repatriation of several thousand Poles. In order to compensate for the losses, Lithuania needs tens, if not hundreds, of years. Polish people and, equally, the present Lithuanian authorities, and, perhaps predominantly, the Lithuanian President, are responsible for the current state of affairs. The recent slip of the tongue of one of the deputy ministers of the current government was meaningful; she said that all decisions concerning the school system stem from the fact that “Lithuanians still cannot forgive Poles higher numbers of admissions to university.” The announcement of an office worker during last year’s fourth meeting of the Polish-Lithuanian National Minority Education Committee in Poland and Lithuania, held in the Polish town of Augustów, was no less clear. Vaiva Vaicekauskienė, an education expert at the Ministry of Education and Science, directly referred to one of Polish mothers from Lithuania present at the meeting: “Do you want your daughter to be a dentist? Do you want her to graduate from a free university? I want mine too!”. “Stay away from here and go to Poland, it’s not far from here,” said the hot-blooded office worker to another parent.

“In the meantime, Lithuanian schools beyond the Lithuanian border are being closed down,” said indignantly President Grybauskaitė in her speech. This is neither tacking around nor a slip of the tongue. This is a lie in the President’s throat. A Petras from somewhere around Jonava or a Jonas from Klišabalė may not know that schools in the Sejny Region are being closed down on application by Lithuanian councillors. There are not enough students there same as there are not enough students in the cities of Kaišiadorys, Jonava, Birštonas, as well as in other places in Lithuania. Schools in the VilniusDistrictMunicipality and the ŠalčininkaiDistrictMunicipality are being closed down (merged) for the same reason. There is a difference between exaggerating the standards in order to ruin schools and closing down schools because have not met the standards for years. When I was in Poland’s Ministry of Digitization and Administration, I personally heard about a regulation which says that, if students from the schools of national minorities that have been closed down are not provided with other possibilities of studying in their native tongues (either in local schools or other schools in which their native tongues are the languages of instruction and to which they are transported with a local school bus), the Ministry is obliged to take immediate action (intervene) and ORDER the right authorities to organise Lithuanian classes at any school. It is often heard from the members of self-governments in Lithuania that they would give a lot to have such self-government, both financial and legal, tools, which are necessary for local autonomy (and schools) in Lithuania.

So much for Poland from the President’s address. All citizens in Lithuania already know: “We have become convinced that cooperation through NB6 cooperation format (three Baltic countries and three Scandinavian countries) and NB8 cooperation format (three Baltic countries and five Scandinavian countries) with the common values uniting Baltic and Scandinavian countries helps to defend the interests of our citizens.” On top of that, every citizen could also learn that the corroboration of the common values and common defense of interests is, among others, the new IKEA outlet that soon opens in Vilnius, for the first time in Lithuania. It is a pity that Mrs President did not give us the outlet’s address.

President Grybauskaitė’s Lithuanian is excellent and flawless, as confirmed Lithuanian linguists, noticing only 4-5 minor linguistic mistakes in her speech. However, Mrs Grybauskaitė is by no means good at geography. Mrs President evidently does not know that going north off Lithuania one goes through the North Pole and can reach the North Cape (Nordkapp in Norwegian), both of which are beautiful spots. But one should look for the road to Germany and France elsewhere…

What if Mrs President had just wanted to show her affection to her numerous diaspora in Norway? According to the statistics, Lithuanians are the second or third largest group of immigrants in Norway. They are not one of the “17,000 people who came back to Lithuania in 2012.”

The Lithuanian President neither hears the arguments of Lithuanian Poles nor the arguments of “her” citizens. Not so long ago, Stano, one of famous Lithuanian musicians, wrote an open letter to the President, in which he gave expression to his disquiet over the emigration situation in Lithuania. He mentioned a very meaningful example. Namely, in Norway every half year, a new community of Lithuanian residents of the size of the Lithuanian town resort Palanga comes into being. Stano went further in his analysis: “If all Lithuanians in Norway set up a town, it would have the size of Šiauliai (translator’s note: the fourth largest city in Lithuania). If Lithuanian immigrants in Ireland set up a town, it would be another Kaunas. If Lithuanians in England set up their town, it would be a city even greater than Vilnius! These people say openly that they have nothing to come back to. But it is not them that President Grybauskaitė wants to encourage to learn Lithuanian. She does not want to help them either. She concentrates on “converting” bad local Poles and wagging her finger at them. After all, only in Lithuania foreign “free concerts drown out Lithuanian songs”…

“You, Lithuanian Poles, are oversensitive, you react inadequately to the situation,” say Lithuanians or, more frequently, the so-called “friends” from Poland. To sum up, I would rather quote the words of Lithuanian observers as well as Lithuanian commentators of the Tuesday speech delivered by President Grybauskaitė.

“The defense of Lithuanian identity is fair and justified, but I have not noticed any measures taken by the President that would integrate national minorities with the Lithuanian state. When Dalia Grybauskaitė talked about the Lithuanian nation and its achievements, it seemed that she was talking about Lithuanians as an ethnic whole, not as a social whole,” says the psychologist Juris Beltė in the pages of Lietuvos rytas. “Her referring to the times of newly regained independence (editorial note: in 1918) and to the need of another mission of ‘Aušrininkai’ (editorial note: independence activists from the turn of the 19th and the 20th centuries, related with the radical-patriotic-national newspaper known as Aušra) proves that. No one can feel a sense of pride of Lithuanian citizens in their common efforts. ‘Nationality’ is the only one that is emphasized. But today Europe only benefits from multiculturalism. Such countries are more competitive,” says Juris Beltė.

“President Grybauskaitė wanted to present herself, in the context of Belarus, as an advocate of the policy of constructive neighbourhood. But we are, all the same, neighbours of Poland, Latvia, and Russia. Mrs President did not say a word about relations with these countries,” stressed Lauras Bielinis, a political scientist.

“The fourth address was exceptionally anti-Polish, occasionally nationalistic and thus pseudopatriotic, considering the President’s biography. Dalia Grybauskaitė has chosen to incite ethnic emotions at all costs, thereby activating her electorate. This is very dangerous for Lithuania as a European country. Nationalisms and phobias have contributed to Lithuania’s regression for a long time now,” said Rimvydas Valatka, one of the most famous Lithuanian observers, in an audition broadcast by the national public radio LRT and then cited by lrt.lt.

Nothing more, nothing less.

Source: http://www.wilnoteka.lt/pl/artykul/quotmyquot-quotwyquot-refleksje-po-oredziu-prezydent-litwy

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

Related post

A plaque in memory of Józef Mackiewicz was unveiled in the Literatų Street

On the initiative of the Polish Institute, a plaque dedicated to Józef Mackiewicz – a writer,…

Ordonówna affects next generations of Poles

One of the most anticipated proposals that the Polish Theatre “Studio” has recently presented to the…

“Vilnius my love” – outdoor photography exhibition by Jerzy Karpowicz

On Konstantinas Sirvydas Square in Vilnius you can see an exhibition of photographs by the prominent…