- January 31, 2014
Polish must become an official language in Vilnius Region – for our own good
One of the demands that has been propounded by the Polish minority in Lithuania since the state gained its independence, is to introduce Polish as an official language in Vilnius Region. Establishment of a right of this sort was assumed in Polish-Lithuanian Treaty and other international obligations accepted by Lithuania. Some, however, do not understand what it is for.
It is obvious that Poles did not come to Lithuania as a result of migration flows, neither financial, nor political; they were always here, at home, contributing to the region’s history. Therefore, our moral right is to let Polish language be used on the land where Polish culture, regularly sprinkled with blood and sweat, has been flourishing for years. European traditions of national minorities protection assume solutions of this sort as well, since they function practically in the whole of Europe – from Sweden and Finland to Spain, Italy or Croatia.
Moral and legal arguments, however, do not always make a point, although economic reasons, which are the most valid arguments, especially if we want to do politics based on business, not emotions, also appeal to this solution.
Nevertheless, the truth is that Polish seems to be useless in Lithuania today. It is not necessary while taking a national exam, enrolling on a university, as well as nobody requires its comprehension during a recruitment process; without few exceptions, knowing Polish is not even considered to be a merit. The worker of Lithuanian Railways can face a cut of his salary for speaking Polish at work; when one of the self-governments stated in its advertisement that it would be welcomed if a candidate knew Polish, a scandal broke.
As a consequence of – among other things – this situation, the students of Polish schools in Lithuania are not motivated to learn their mother tongue, do not invest their time in reading Polish literature (one of the richest one all over the world!) and, when they are not in their schools, do not get in touch with correct Polish. This is why they forget how to use their mother tongue, in favour of an artificial mixture of borrowings from Russian movies, Lithuanian advertisments and English songs broadcast in Polish radio stations.
Recognition of Polish language as an official one would certainly promote it, also in schools. Knowing Polish would become necessary, so would its learning. Schools would be made to invest more in teaching the language, teachers of Polish and Polish studies would become needful and the Poles of Vilnus would be much more competitive against the migrants, not knowing local official language – it would therefore curb the influx of people from other parts of Lithuania (by these means these parts could also benefit, since they lose much of their inhabitants in favour of Vilnius).
What is more, it should be noted that Vilnius Region would become more attractive for potential investors from Poland, as it would not have to bear costs of document translations. Analogically, the entrepreneurs from Lithuania that are able to keep records in Polish would have their investments and searching for partners in Poland simplified. We can only dream about such economic profits now. Nevertheless, it can be easily observed, for example in South Tyrol in the north of Italy, that this sort of economic cooperation brings profits that allow for more than only to bear costs of bilingual administration.
This is why every mindful inhabitant of Vilnius, caring for his region’s good, should not only support, but also actively demand the introduction of Polish as an official language in the whole Vilnius Region as fast as possible. And the example of multilingual Switzerland illustrates that such a solution makes indigenous national languages even stronger.
Tłumaczenie by Szymon Wnuk w ramach praktyk w Europejskiej Fundacji Praw Człowieka, www.efhr.eu. Translated by Szymon Wnuk within the framework of a traineeship programme of the European Foundation of Human Rights, www.efhr.eu.