- February 22, 2014
Polish identity is a universal value: Celebrating the 25th anniversary of the Association of Poles in Lithuania
The celebrations of the activity of the Vilnius District Branch of the Association of Poles in Lithuania began with the mass in the church of St. Paul and Peter.Later on, the event participants went for the next part of the celebrations taking place in the nearby Vilnius Palace of Culture, Entertainment and Sport which hall was full to the brim as for the celebrations arrived 900 members of organizations from 54 groups.
Chairwoman of the Vilnius district and the leader of the party Maria Rekść and the headmaster of the secondary school in Zujuny Marek Pszczołowski drew the audience the complicated history of the Association.
In autumn of 1988 there are the first groups of the Association. Until the spring 1989 the number of groups is more than 50 and soon the founding congress takes place that brings to life Vilnius District Branch of the Associations of Poles in Lithuania. The first CEO is Jan Gabriel Mincewicz. From the very beginning the organization faces numerous challenges. It often had to defend the democratically elected governments safeguarding the truth and preserving the Polish identity in the Vilnius region.
The chairman of the Vilnius District Branch of the Association of Poles in Lithuania Waldemar Tomaszewski pointed out that within 25 years the organization achieved many successes among which he mentioned having preserved the Polish schools in the Vilnius region and re-opened of the Polish kindergartens. After the formation of the Branch of Bialystok University in Vilnius the primary postulate of our community was fulfilled – the Polish children were given the opportunity to learn from kindergarten to higher education from kindergarten to higher education. Another important achievement of the organization, according to the MEP, was having won the local government in the Vilnius region. The organization also contributed to the development of the Polish culture in the Vilnius region – a lot of new bands, the sport school, and the art school came into existence there.
„This present Polish identity is not only for Poles. (…) Polish identity is the universal value. Polish identity is written in the Ten Commandments, in our christian faith – it is the love for our neighbor, respect for our parents, and honest life. We are happy that today we carry such a Polish identity not only for Poles, but also for Belarusians, Russians, and even Lithuanians.” – said W. Tomaszewski remembering the success of the Election Campaign of Poles in Lithuania during former elections to the parliament when the party’s list united all the people of good will of various nationalities – Polish as well as Russian, Belarusian, and Lithuanian.
Waldemar Tomaszewski emphasized the importance of maintaining contacts with our compatriots from Belarus and the symbolic expression of this was having invited the band Red Poppies from Minsk which made the event even greater. On stage performed also child and youth folk dance group called “Morning Star” from Niemenczyn.
Polish Ambassador in Vilnius Jaroslaw Czubinski pointed out that this year we have been celebrating not only the 25th anniversary of the Association of Poles in Lithuania.
“I, as a guest here, have to tell that over there, in Poland, we also keep in mind other anniversaries, such as: the 25th anniversary of democratic changes in Europe as it all started in Poland; we keep in mind that 15 years ago Poland entered the North Atlantic Treaty; we keep in mind that 10 years ago we entered the European Union; we remember well that for all these years we have been supporting our Lithuanian partners as friendly states both in their way to NATO, and in the common way to the European Union, and even recently, in 2013, when Lithuania was leading the European presidency. (…); we keep in mind that this year we are going to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the Polish-Lithuanian Treaty, as being the constitution of our relations; we remember all good things unifying us; we remember all the problems having the power to divide us.” – said J. Czubiński and he wished all the best to the members of Vilnius District Branch of the Associations of Poles in Lithuania from the Polish authorities, especially from the minister of foreign affairs Radoslaw Sikorski.
The chairman of Vilnius District Branch of the Association of Poles in Lithuania Michal Mackiewicz said that the Poles in Lithuania “achieved a lot, maybe even more than they could have imagined at the beginning”, thus he thanked everyone for their effort in preserving the Polish identity in the Vilnius region. To thank all, the Board of the Association of Poles in Lithuania awarded the Gold Badge of Merit and Fostering Polish Polishness to fr Jozef Aszkiełowicz, fr Tadeusz Jasinki, the CEO of the Vilnius District Branch of the Associations of Poles in Lithuania Waldemar Tomaszewski, the vice-chairman Stefan Swietlikowski, mrs vice president Maria Rekść, and the first chairman of the Vilnius District Branch of the Associations of Poles in Lithuania Jan Gabriel Mincewicz.
Taking a badge fr dean Jozef Aszkielowicz said that if we preserve the Polish identity, the Church will win. And if there were no Poles, “there would be nobody to go to church”.
Referring to fr dean’s statement the chairman of the council of the Polish People’s Party and the Member of the European Parliament Jaroslaw Kalinowski noted that there is a strong connection between the Polish identity and the Christian faith, telling that during the Polish mass in Brussels churches are overcrowded whereas during the masses in foreign languages usually participates only a handful of local population.
„I am sure that the wealth of the United Europe, constituting the cultural variety, will become the wealth of Lithuania as well. (…) Together we will meet the time that this variety will be seen as the wealth, as the strength in building together the future for the next generations with the mutual respect and understanding.” – said J. Kalinowski pointing out that we have to fight for preserving our identity here with patience.
On stage the poems on the Vilnius love for the homeland and the commitment to the land of our forefathers presented the poet Aleksander Sniezko.
The president of the Polish Community Longin Komolowski stressed the particular importance of Borderlands for Poland. In his opinion, Poland should support its compatriots outside the country, in the Vilnius region as well, although the future in the Borderland depends on the Poles living there. The Association of Poles in Lithuania pursues this mission, as Komolowski believes, with its effort and diligent work creating the future for the next generations.
The first chairman of the the Vilnius District Branch of the Association of Poles in Lithuania Jan Gabriel Mincewicz called for the circumstances in that the organization had been created, pointing out that it always have been accompanied by external difficulties. However, the unity of its members and its charismatic leader, that is the present chairman, caused the achievement of many successes and the strong position of the Poles in the Vilius district.
„The life truth says: Who has a good neighbor has found a treasure. The experience of our centuries-long coexistence in the Vilnius district proves this truth as it is our coexistence that is based on the most significant values: neighbourliness, kindness, hospitality, mutual support, and help. The truth is always on our side even if they disturbed us, harassed us, preached other ideologies, or threatened with courts. The source of our successes is the value that should always be cherished – it’s the unity” – said the chairman of the council of the the Šalčininkai district, giving the gorget with the slogan of the Polish community in Lithuania “In union there is strength” to the chairman of the branch Waldemar Tomaszewski.
At the end W. Tomaszewski gave the gifts to the first chairmen of the Association of Poles in Lithuania groups, that started creating the organizations 25 years ago, and the students from the middle school the name of Stanislaw Moniuszko performed the patriotic staging “The Vilnius Waltz”.
Tłumaczenie by Roksana Kasperek w ramach praktyk w Europejskiej Fundacji Praw Człowieka, www.efhr.eu. Translated by Roksana Kasperek within the framework of a traineeship programme of the European Foundation of Human Rights, www.efhr.eu.