- January 30, 2014
Polish organizations in Lithuania: a democratic state respects the voice of national minorities
The editorial staff of our portal has reached the content of the statement of Polish social organizations in Lithuania, in which they express their concern over the aggravating – according to them – situation of national minorities in Lithuania, and declare their support for Waldemar Tomaszewski, a member of the European Parliament, the chairman of the Electoral Action of Poles in Lithuania, and for “his efforts for the sake of improvement of the situation of national minorities in Lithuania”. We present the whole statement below:
“Actions aimed at depleting the rights of minorities in every possible sphere of public life have been recently intensifying in Lithuania. Primarily, it concerns the education in one’s mother tongue, the return of land, the spelling of names, and the possibility of using one’s mother tongue. Laws and regulations adopted by successive governments do not improve the national minorities’ situation, they are aimed to the contrary – they are oriented towards actions undertaken by the stronger, who are always right. There is no argument strong enough to convince the government about the fact that national minorities are fighting for their just rights and, in fact, for normality in public life. All orders are top-down decisions, and do not take into account the national minorities’ stance. Obvious examples of such actions are:
– the Act on Education, adopted despite the national minorities’ protest, which took the form of 60 thousand signatures, addressed to the highest Lithuanian authorities;
– the unification of the final high school exam (matura exam) in Lithuanian, both for national minorities’ schools and national schools, ignoring about 840 hours of difference in curricula;
– the cancelation of concessions in the matura exam in Lithuanian, under the administrative court’s ruling;
– the deletion of the exam in Polish from the list of compulsory subjects in the matura examination;
– the depletion in the number of the native languge teaching hours;
– the imposition of draconian financial penalties for bilingual signboards with street names (in Lithuanian and Polish) placed on private houses;
– the notorious delay in adopting the Law on National Minorities.
The image of a Pole as a disloyal citizen of Lithuania, disrupting the “idyllic happiness” of the country, is commonly created. It seems that all the spheres of life in Lithuania would be perfect, were it not for national minorities, especially the Poles. Nothing further from the truth – only a state able to hear and solve the problems of those belonging to minorities can aspire to be called a democratic state, which observes rights and obligations imposed not only by the Constitution of the Republic of Lithuania, but also by the international agreements signed and ratified by our country, which – by doing so – committed itself to complying with them.
In this situation, we were astounded and even anxious to hear President D. Grybauskaitė’s categorical statement in the European Parliament, in reply to the MEP, chairman of the Electoral Action of Poles in Lithuania W. Tomaszewski’s speech. In her answer, President accused him of disloyalty to Lithuania, and even of caring only about his private business.
President of the Republic of Lithuania’s claims in the European Parliament, concerning the international organizations’ lack of objections to Lithuania on the subject of national minorities, are departures from the truth. A range of international organizations produced remarks regarding the situation of national minorities in Lithuania, pointing to the existing defects and the need to rectify them. This is particularly visible in the report on the education of national minorities, submitted by Knut Vollebaek, the High Commissioner on National Minorities of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe.
We, the representatives of Polish social organizations in Lithuania, lend our support to the MEP, chairman of the EAPL, W. Tomaszewski, in his efforts for the improvement of the situation of national minorities in Lithuania, as well as to the protest of the EAPL deputies from 13 January 2014.
To conceal problems cannot be called an achievement, to uncover them is an art, and the same goes for the willingness to talk openly and the readiness to introduce changes which our country, Lithuania, needs. W. Tomaszewski’s attitude is exactly what attests to his great care for the fate of all the fellow inhabitants of Lithuania. This fact will not be overshadowed by the ubiquitous persecution, nor by insults thrown at Poles in the Internet and in the press – truth always prevails. So, in the name of truth we call to resolve the problems bothering national minorities and, above all, to adopt the Law on National Minorities as a matter of urgency, as this law will help to regulate the majority of issues connected with the functioning of national minorities in Lithuania” – we read in the statement issued on 27th January 2014.
The text has been signed by 33 representatives of Polish social organizations in Lithuania:
Association of Poles in Lithuania, Chairman Michał Mackiewicz
Association of Teachers of Polish Schools in Lithuania ‘Macierz Szkolna’, Chairman Józef Kwiatkowski
Polish Cultural Centre of Stanisław Moniuszko in Lithuania, Chairwoman Apolonia Skakowska
Republican Association of Polish Writers, Chairman Aleksander Sokołowski
Association of Engineers and Technicians in Vilnius, Chairman Jan Andrzejewski
Youth Organization ‘New Wave’, Chairman Jarosław Wojciechowicz
Forum of Parents of Polish Schools in Vilnius district, Chairman Jarosław Tomaszun
Catholic Association of Poles in Lithuania, Chairwoman Paulina Mielko
Union of Polish Lawyers in Lithuania, Chairman Grzegorz Sakson
Patriotic Club ‘Vilnius Wolf’, Chairman Arnold Piotrowicz
The House of Polish Culture in Vilnius, Director Artur Ludkowski
Public Utility Company ‘Kresy’, Director Sławomir Subotowicz
Polish theatre ‘Studio’, Director Lilia Kiejzik
Foundation of Polish Culture of J. Montwiłł in Lithuania, Director Henryk Sosnowski
Association of Polish Engineers and Technicians in Lithuania, Chairman Jerzy Mozyro
Entrepreneurs Club on Vilnius Region, Chairman Marian Wojtkiewicz
Association of Polish Veterans in Lithuania, Vice- Chairman Edward Klonowski
Polish Medical Association, Vice- Chairman Dariusz Żybort
Foundation Supporting Polish Education ‘Samostanowienie’, Chairman Stanisław Pieszko
Charitable Assistance Fund ‘Faith, Hope, Solidarity’, Director Edyta Szyszko
Forum of Parents of Polish Schools in Šalčininkai district, Chairwoman Renata Cytacka
Polish Scouting Association in Lithuania, Chairman Adam Błaszkiewicz
Polish Club of Theatre Arts, Chairman Edward Kiejzik
Creative Union of Polish Artists in Lithuania ‘Elipsa’, Chairman Władysław Ławrynowicz
Polish University of the Third Age in Vilnius, Director Ryszard Kuźmo
Sports Club ‘Polonia’ in Vilnius, Chairman Stefan Kimso
Association of Social Initiatives, Vice-Chairman Władyław Wojnicz
Polish Theatre in Vilnius, Director Irena Litwinowicz
Polish Section of the Vilnius Community of Political Prisoners and Exiles, Chairwoman Janina Gieczewska
Veterans Club of Armia Krajowa, Chairman Wacław Pacyno
Vilnius Charitable Society, Chairwoman Julia Baniukiewicz
Strike Committees of Polish Schools in Lithuania, Coordinator Albert Narwojsz
Association of Polish Scientists in Lithuania, Vice-Chairwoman Barbara Dwilewicz.
Tłumaczenie by Agata Weronika Chrobak w ramach praktyk w Europejskiej Fundacji Praw Człowieka, www.efhr.eu. Translated by Agata Weronika Chrobak within the framework of a traineeship programme of the European Foundation of Human Rights, www.efhr.eu.