• March 11, 2015
  • 272

Polish flags at the Independence March

Poles living in the Vilnius region has also been taking part in celebrations of the 25th anniversary of Lithuanian independence. Children from ethnic minorities (including Polish kids) in their national costumes took part the celebratory session of the Lithuanian Parliament. It has been the first time for 25 years when Polish representatives were invited for such a celebration. Moreover, the group of young Poles got together via Facebook and marched in the official parade in Gediminas Avenue at noon. These Poles also met with Bogdan Borusewicz, the Marshal of the Senate of Poland. This meeting was held by the Polish Debating Club. Earlier, Borusewicz (as his parents lived in Vilnius) visited the Antakalnis Cemetery. Unfortunately, the meeting with representatives of the Association of Poles in Lithuania (ZPL) and the Electoral Action of Poles in Lithuania (AWPL) was cancelled, as the Marshal decided to visit also the Rasos Cemetery.  The meeting was supposed to be held just before Borusewicz’s departure, in the VIP room at the Vilnius Airport. Tomorrow in the Lithuanian Parliament, the deputies of AWPL are meeting with the group of delegates of Polish Parliament (led by Eugeniusz Grzeszczak, the Vice-marshal of the Sejm).

For a few years, the celebrations on the 11th of March, which is the Day of Restoration of Independence of Lithuania, has been marked only with the parade of Lithuanian nationalists, full of slogans like ‘Lithuania for Lithuanians’. This parade was planned also in Gediminas Avenue, but a few hours later and marching in the opposite direction. In order to correct a negative impression, created by this – according to the majority of Lithuanian society – chauvinistic or even fascist parade, the Lithuanian government decided to organize the alternative parade for ‘good’ Lithuanians and patriots, as to enable citizens observing this day in compliance with their views. Such a parade has been organized for the third time.

Just after the celebrations in the Parliament, this alternative parade set from Independence Square in the direction of in the direction of the Vilnius Cathedral. As a year ago, the main attraction was the longest (1000 metres!) flag of Lithuania, which was followed by about 4000 people from Vilnius and other regions of the country. In this tricoloured parade, led by military bands from Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia, as well as the honour guard of the Lithuanian army, which carried the flags of all EU member states, there were also people with other flags. There was a group of Polish, Ukrainian and Lithuanian flags – the historical, referring to the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, and the current ones.

The Polish group was not numerous – about 30-40 people. The Poles from the Vilnius region marched together with Lithuanians and Polish guests, not only from Poland itself, but also from France – we mean Roman Górecki-Mickiewicz, Adam Mickiewicz’s great-great grandson, who became so attached to Vilnius over the last few years, that he even stood as a candidate of the Lithuanian Freedom Union (led by A. Zuokas) in the recent local government elections. The initiative of forming the Polish group which joined the parade was introduced by young people, associated with liberal parties. The participants emphasized that the initiative was not political, but patriotic movement. The initiative launched a few days earlier on Facebook was supported by these people who think that the Day of Restoration of Independence of Lithuania cannot be celebrated without local Polish minority who identify with this national holiday.

A few hours later, some participants of the parade, belonging to the Polish Debating Club, met with Bogdan Borusewicz, the Marshal of the Senate of Poland, in ‘Sakwa’ coffeehouse. In fact, the table they sat by was not like the Round Table, but the Marshal was willing to discuss with young Poles. He talked about his memories of anti-communist resistance and restoration of independent Poland and Lithuania, as well as his reflections on the current, troubled Polish-Lithuanian relationship. ‘Maybe Russians will bring us together?’, joked Borusewicz, who was quite disappointed with the attitude both of Lithuanian and some Polish activists in the country. The uneasy situation of Vilnius, Warsaw, and especially the Polish minority in Lithuania, was summed up by the Marshall of the Polish Senate  as a stalemate.

Translated by Joanna Stępińska within the framework of a traineeship programme of the European Foundation of Human Rights, www.efhr.eu.

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