- June 28, 2013
60 years of service to Poles in Lithuania
On June 28, 2013, Kurier Wileński, a Polish daily set up on July 1, 1953, by the name of Czerwony Sztandar, published its 17,164th issue. The more than 17,000 issues of the daily, released day after day throughout the last sixty years, are a chronicle of the lives of Poles in Lithuania in the decades of the post-war era. Today’s issue is a jubilee edition.
We and you have gone together through a long and difficult way. “We” are the several generations of Polish journalists and members of the editing staff. “You” are the several generations of our readers. What has this way looked like? How can one measure it? Certainly, by considering and counting up the innumerable everyday sorrows and rejoicings, worries and emotions, hopes and fears.
This year we are celebrating our sixth jubilee. Every one of the previous jubilee anniversaries was different. However, they still had something in common. Namely, always, no matter what the circumstances were, the affairs and interests of our Fellow Countrymen and Readers were – and still are – the most important for us.
It was a foregone conclusion that a newspaper set up just after the war in order to sovietize disobedient Poles in Lithuania would become, together with Polish schools and the folk group “Wilia” (“the Neris river” in Lithuanian), one of the three legal pillars of Polishness in Lithuania in the Soviet period.
During the long decades of its activity, the daily was the only institution which could officially defend Polish interests in Lithuania. Undoubtedly, the most important achievement of Czerwony Sztandar (the Red Banner) and its readers, teachers, and parents in the Soviet period was coming away unscathed from the fight for maintaining Polish schools in Lithuania. It should be stated openly that, if we had not been able to defend the Polish school, Polishness in the Vilnius Region today would look like the one in Liaudė. Not only did Czerwony Sztandar defend Polish schools against their being closed down, but it also replaced coursebooks. A lot of Poles without access to Polish primers learnt to read thanks to the Polish paper.
Another victory in the history of the newspaper’s activity in those ruthless times was the defense of the RasosCemetery in the city of Vilnius. The publications of our journalists and the interventions of a small group of Vilnius people were both able to defend the necropolis which was so much important to the Polish nation against the plans of the communist authorities to build a motorway in its place.
Today, in the free and independent Lithuania, there are politicians, including those from the upper echelons of power, who reproach us, Poles in Lithuania, with being disloyal citizens.
The jubilee of Kurier Wileński (the Courier of Vilnius) is therefore an occasion to remind the politicians that in the period of the toughest fight for Lithuania’s independence, when others were just passive observers of the unfolding events from the windows of the Communist’s party tertiary-level school in Vilnius, Kurier Wileński, ignoring the rising wave of Polonophobia (anti-Polish sentiment), rose in the defense of the independence of Lithuania. For this attitude the editing staff of the Polish daily was victimised by the Soviet authorities. The paper nonetheless assumed an uncompromising position in its fight for our and your freedom.
We have always believed that the maintenance of the sense of national identity among Poles in Lithuania is not a manifestation of disloyalty towards the state to which we belong as its citizens. The independent state of Lithuania, for which Kurier Wileński also fought in the post-war period, should be free of any manifestations of nationalism and xenophobia.
Unfortunately, today, under the new circumstances, the paper should still continue its fight for Polishness of Poles in Lithuania. However, thanks to freedom and democracy, this time we are not lonely in this fight. There are Polish organisations with thousands of members that were set up also thanks to the support of Kurier Wileński. New Polish media were set up, in the majority of which our friends from the editing staff are employed.
It is the most important that we have the support of the Polish state. In the times of the Soviet rule Poles in Lithuania could only dream about it. Also, the editing staff of Kurier Wileński is extremely grateful to the Republic of Poland for the political and financial support of our editing effort.
That the paper extricated itself from the tough conditions of free market economy we owe to the support of our publishers, the Klonowski family.
However, the most important people for Kurier Wileński are you – our Readers.
On the day of the 60th anniversary of the paper’s activity we want to thank all of our readers, the former and current journalists, employees of the editor’s office, and freelance authors for the 60 years of being together. Thank you!
Editors of Kurier Wileński
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.