- June 28, 2013
People of culture, teachers, politicians, social activists, and, obviously, journalists. Few of us ever wonder what unites all the above, apart from their Polishness and a community of interests in support for Polishness.
But there is one more uniting bond between them. Namely, a lot of Poles of this professional background started or continued their careers in the only Polish daily in Lithuania. In print since 1953, Czerwony Sztandar (the Red Banner), later Kurier Wileński (the Courier of Vilnius), has acted as an educational centre that has produced many people who are now working in various other professions. It has been a breeding ground for Polish intelligentsia, artists, social activists, and politicians, not to mention journalists. It has also been a carrier of the printed word, realising its informational and culture-producing mission among the Polish community,
Henryk Mażul, Romuald Mieczkowski, Helena Ostrowska, Janina Lisiewicz, and Jarosław Wołkonowksi are just a few of the many names of Vilnius journalists, (nowadays working also as artists, poets, and scholars), who started or continued their careers as the editorial staff of the Polish daily. Today every Polish-language newspaper in Lithuania employs at least one journalist who has once worked for the daily.
Zygmunt Żdanowicz, the former editor-in-chief of Kurier Wileński (1998-2003), has been running the Wileńszczyzna weekly for years now. Irena Mikulewicz, a long-time journalist at Kurier Wileński, is also working for the weekly. Aleksandra Akińczo and Basia Sosno are now working as editorial staff in the Polish “Znad Wilii” Radio. Lucyna Schiller (Dowdo) and Paweł Kobak are writing for the new portal l24.lt. Some of our journalists have worked as editorial staff of Wilnoteka.lt.
The above examples demonstrate that the Polish daily has played a very important role in shaping not only the public opinion of the Polish society, but also in educating and shaping personalities of those who, by profession, are held responsible for the views of the public.
Zbignev Balcevič, the editor of Kurier Wileński (1988-1995) and the signatory of the Act of Independence of Lithuania has chosen to be a politician. He was once also an administrative official of the Powiat (District) of Vilnius. Michal Mackevič, today an MP, a long-time chairman of the Association of Poles in Lithuania, and the publisher of the Magazyn Wileński weekly, started his career in journalism in the Polish daily.
“It lasted only 6 years, and yet, I had an impression that I had been working for Kurier Wileński for a half of my life,” he wrote in his Kronika na gorąco pisana. Czerwony Sztandar – Kurier Wileński 1953-2003 (literally, A chronicle written on the spot. The Red Banner – The Courier of Vilnius 1953-2003), edited by Jan Senkevič and published in celebration of the 50th anniversary of the activity of Kurier Wileński. In his work, Mackevič defends the Polish daily against those who reproach him for his “Red” past: “Today, when the old times are gone, what I hear from some malicious people is that it was a communist and therefore enemy newspaper and that party members worked there. It is strange that it does not evoke in me any feelings of protest. This is because I know better. Behind the Iron Curtain, we belonged as if to the opposing camp. Doomed to live ‘on our own.’ When necessary, we defended ourselves as much as we could, as we do now. But people in the West have the right not to understand our ways as well as they do not have to know how we feel. Any attempts to explain ourselves would be futile. Everyone has had a life they have! They have defiled it or not. We know best.”
Zbigniew Maciejewski, formerly a journalist of Czerwony Sztandar, at present a politician of the Electoral Action of Poles in Lithuania and the director of the Saint Rapolas Kalinauskas junior high in Nemėžis, a village in the Vilnius city municipality, reminisces that the work in the newspaper was based on the principle “let’s do our stuff.” Therefore, the party got articles edited and translated by authors who did not belong to the editorial staff, whereas the readers, who could read the newspaper and who perfectly understood the texts, received articles written by the other authors.
“The fact that nowadays the Polish community in the Vilnius Region has real power, which the supporters of a mono-ethnic state in Lithuania cannot disregard, is to be owed to the people who underwent training in Czerwony Sztandar-Kurier Wileński. That is beyond question,” Maciejewski wrote in his memoirs.
It is also beyond question that, today, Kurier Wileński still has to defend the Polish society against the supporters of “a mono-ethnic state,” but this time its editors are not alone as they are accompanied by other Polish papers that employ the former editors and journalists of the Polish daily in Lithuania. Still the only one.
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.