Only Lithuanian street signs

Fot. Marian Paluszkiewicz

Lithuanian and some Polish-language media report with satisfaction the capitulation of so called Polish local governments in the case of the removal of signs with Polish street names from private premises. The first was Šalčininkai District Municipality and this week it is Vilnius District Municipality.

The press reports that local government administration removed Polish street names from Polish houses in Vilnius Region. It was confirmed in a public statement by Government Representative in Vilnius County Audrius Skaistys thanks to whom the issue of street signs was brought to court. He also stated that he is ready to withdraw the suit and debt enforcement collection proceedings that are to punish by huge fines the directors of local governments of the regions for not removing Polish street signs as the court ordered.

The second party presented evidence that it fully followed the decision of the court. We were going around Šalčininkai District Municipality all day and it has to be said that the order of the court was executed,” said Government Representative to journalists after the recent court session regarding Polish street signs in Šalčininkai District Municipality. He thinks that the decision of the administration of Šalčininkai District Municipality expresses the understanding of the fact that it is not worth arguing where there are obvious violations.

You do not have to be a great lawyer to understand that those street signs are against the act,” said Skaistys. On Monday, the 13th of October, the same situation happened in court in the case of street signs in Vilnius Region. The court session was postponed to let Government Representative see also personally that in Vilnius Region the administration removed Polish street names. Nevertheless, the newspaper „Kurier Wileński” checked that street signs with Polish names are still within domestic premises in Šalčininkai District Municipality and in Vilnius Region. The director of the administration of Šalčininkai District Municipality Józef Rybak also confirms this fact and he hopes that the holders of those domestic premises will not remove the signs. We asked about this issue the owner of maybe the most famous Polish street sign in Lithuania. Renata Cytacka is the former Minister of Energy and Lithuanian media often commented on the Polish sign on her house in Jašiūnai in Šalčininkai District Municipality.

The Polish sign still hangs on the wall next to the Lithuanian one and I do not intend to remove it,” Renata Cytacka assured us. In her opinion, Polish signs on private houses are not against any act. Moreover, they are in accordance with Convention for the Protection of National Minorities. It seems that some inhabitants of Jašiūnai had enough of the witch hunt against Polish street signs because yesterday we did not find any signs with Polish street names that had been within their private premises. Recently, there have also been appearing new Polish signs and in Šalčininkėliai one of house owners put a Russian street name on a house. Renata Cytacka thinks that inhabitants are not a party in the dispute between local goverments and Government Representative about street names.

Although I asked many times, nobody presented evidence that my sign breaks the law. It is up to me what and in what language I want to put on my house. I do it for my own money,” says Renata Cytacka. It seems that this understanding that there is no point in arguing about the case in which you are not right and searching for violations where there are not any of them led to the unexpected finish of the this issue. The materials of the case show that the administration of local governments presented evidentiary material which are photographs of street posts with signs with the names of streets only in national language in accordance with legal restrictions. The governmental provision concerning the case that had been in force until 2011 changed the ordinance of the Interior Minister that regulates giving streets names and their signage. It says that a street sign has to be placed at the beginning and at the end of a street and it can be also at a point between them (for example at a crossroad). The street sign in national language is placed at a free-standing street pole that stands at the above mentioned points of signage.

The institution that is responsible for executing this ordinance is the administration of the local government. In the light of this ordinance, the name of a street is the name on the sign at a free-standing pole. It means that signs within private premises are not actually even the object of legal restrictions concerning the names of streets. This argument was used in court by the administration of Vilnius Region but then Government Representative did not agree for such interpretation of the law and demanded intervention in the private premises.

It is hard to say if this Government Representative’s change of attitude results from the understanding of legal arguments or is the attempt to cover up the issue because of the situation,” says Renata Cytacka. She notices that the spectacular “capitulation” of local governments in the case of Polish street signs (or the understanding of groundless demands to them) happened at the time of the mission of the expert on national minorities of the legal agency of Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) Veronika Kristkova in Lithuania and the upcoming session of Polish-Lithuanian Parliamentary Assembly which for the Polish party, depends on the goodwill gesture of the Lithuanian authorities to Polish minority.

Time will show if the change of the position of the government regarding Polish street signs is permanent or just for a while,” says the owner of the most famous street sign with Polish name in Lithuania.


Tłumaczenie by Marta Wojtowicz w ramach praktyk w Europejskiej Fundacji Praw Człowieka, Translated by Marta Wojtowicz within the framework of a traineeship programme of the European Foundation of Human Rights,

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