• April 22, 2015
  • 245

‘Polish-Lithuanian stalemate’ that is deja-vu or Polish-Polish discussion

Can Polish and Lithuanian people reach a consensus when it comes to historical issues dividing them? The answer for this eternal question was sought by Polish publicists in a debate organized by the KARTA Center in the History Meeting House in Warsaw. A lengthy, over two-hour discussion closed with a conclusion regarding the state of Polish minority in Lithuania.

In a debate ‘Polish-Lithuanian stalemate’ in the History Meeting House, partook: Zbigniew Gluza, editor-in-chief of ‘Karta’, founder of KARTA Center, Jerzy Haszczyński (‘Rzeczpospolita’), Jacek Pawlicki (‘Newsweek’) and Piotr Zychowicz (‘Do Rzeczy’). The meeting was hosted by Krzysztof Ziemiec of TVP. Discussion concerning difficult moments in the history of neighboring nations, the Poles decided to hold among themselves. The Lithuanian side, as well as the Polish people of the Vilnius Region, were represented only in the audience.

The discussion opened with referring to the interview that Zbigniew Gluza gave to ‘Newskweek Historia’. The text, printed in October 2013, stirred quite a bit of emotions when it was published online a year later. Zbigniew Gluza begun with a statement that only Poland, as much stronger, can improve Polish-Lithuanian relations. The editor of ‘Karta’ pronounced the policy regarding Lithuanian as shallow and foolish. He also stated that the issues of Polish minority in Lithuania are rooted in the history of the last century. The solution to this problem, Gluza sees in leading a dialogue based on partnership, however it is Poland that should take the first step.

With this view disagreed Jerzy Haszczyński, according to whom the Polish people already did everything they could as far as historical dispute is concerned. ‘Poland is not a threat to Lithuania’ – emphasized the ‘Rzeczpospolita’ journalist. At the same time, he expressed his regret that Russian propaganda manages so easily to push out Polish culture among the Poles living in Lithuania.

Jacek Pawlicki did not agree with a statement that Poland already did everything it could when it comes to Polish-Lithuanian relations. According to him, it is still too early for a resolution of historical issues, both on the Polish, and the Lithuanian side. He also pointed out the current situation in Ukraine and dangerous comparisons of it with the Vilna offensive in 1920.

With the historical aspect dealt Piotr Zychowicz, reminding that for many generation terms of Pole and Lithuanian were not mutually excluding. According to the ‘Do Rzeczy’ reporter, only adopting by the Lithuanians of an ethnic concept, according to which a Lithuanian is someone who speaks Lithuania, called into question Lithuania’s right to Vilnius, which at that time was not ethically Lithuanian. Referring to current issues, Zychowicz decided that you should give up nationalism (both Polish and Lithuanian) and allude to the tradition of great power Commonwealth.

Real emotions though brought the discussion with the participation of the audience. In this case, historical dispute was overshadowed by the current events – that is the issues of Polish minority in Lithuania. The Polish people from the Vilnius Region – main characters of the last minutes of the discussion – did not have numerous representatives in the audience. On their behalf spoke Rajmund Klonowski, who came for the debate from Vilnius and Gabriel Gorbaczewski, who is studying in Warsaw.

In the discussion also took part, stressing that she is appearing as a private person, Rasa Rimickaite – cultural attaché of the Lithuanian Embassy in Poland. ‘I have been taking part in meetings like this for 20 years, that is as long as I have lived in Poland. They always have the same scenario and there are always the same questions asked. What is more – today’s press has the same topics, as the press of the interwar period’ – she said, not disguising her emotional involvement. She also pointed to existing Polish-Lithuanian cooperation, taking place on various levels, and the need for even better, mutual understanding, in the form of personal meetings as well as cultural exchange, since Polish-Lithuanian relations suffer the most from deep-seated ignorance.

In the conclusion of the debate, the speakers agreed that in the face of Russian threat, bringing Poland and Lithuania closer is needed.

Zbigniew Gluza, closing the debate, acknowledged that Lithuanian policy regarding Polish minority cannot be accepted, he said however, that we should speak with Lithuanians, and politics should supersede historical prejudice. ‘We have to open up to each other’ – said ‘Karta’ editor.

‘For me, the debate did not contribute anything new, there was repeating constant of statements heard long ago’ – said Rajmund Klonowski after returning to Vilnius – ‘However, I am glad about the conclusion of the debate. Up until recently in Poland there was attempting at all cost to excuse Lithuanian policy regarding Polish minority. Now all the speakers, representing various groups after all, agreed on the fact that Polish minority in Lithuania is discriminated. I am glad that more and more people in Poland understands that we, Polish people in Vilnius Region, should have our basic rights guaranteed.’

About how the debate went, everyone can see for themselves. The meeting in full can be viewed online. Although it is not some breakthrough in building Polish-Lithuanian relations, it is worth to take some time, if only to see how the ‘Warsaw salon’ looks at Lithuania, the Vilnius Region and local Poles.

The debate about Polish-Lithuanian relations with Jerzy Haszczyński (‘Rzeczpospolita’), Jacek Pawlicki (‘Newsweek’), Piotr Zychowicz (‘Do Rzeczy’) and Zbigniew Gluza (‘Karta’) can be viewed here.

Discussion was hosted by Krzysztof Ziemiec.

Based on: radiownet.pl, dsh.waw.pl

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

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