• December 4, 2015
  • 284

Polish deputy demands the theatre on Pohulanka

Artur Górski, a member of the Polish parliament, filed an interpellation concerning the reclamation of the former Polish Theatre building on Pohulanka for the Polish community in Vilnius. Below we have provided the whole text of the interpellation addressed to the Deputy Prime Minister, Minister of Culture and National Heritage, Piotr Gliński, and Minister of Foreign Affairs Witold Waszczykowski.

Persuant to Article 192 of the Rules of the Polish Parliament, I present to the Prime Minister, Deputy Minister and Minister an interpellation concerning reclaiming of the former Polish Theatre building on Pohulanka for the Polish community in Vilnius.

The theatre on Pohulanka (the name of the building comes from the name of Vilnius’ Grand Pohulanka, now J. Basanavičiusa) was built between 1912-1914 on the initiative of Hipolit Korwin-Milewski by the architects Aleksander Parczewski and Wacław Michiewicz.

The building was constructed in a manor-gentry style, while retaining ‘Polish’ character through its fish shape of body and decorations in the Polish Renaissance style. The theatre had 900 seats on the ground floor and 2 amphitheaters. At the time it was one of only a few buildings in Vilnius which had central heating, sewage and water supply.

The theatre was built with financial contributions from the Polish community, mainly landowners and wealthy burghers of the Vilnius province. It was handed over to the city authorities in 1926, under the condition that only Polish theatre would be performed there. In the notarial act the founders wrote that “Polish words are to resound in this theatre.” Between 1925 and 1929, Juliusz Osterwa’s team – the Reduta theatre – performed there. From the 30s the theatre operated as City Theatre on Pohulanka. During the World War II, it was one of only a few working theaters. After the war, against the wishes of the donors, the building was given to the Lithuanian Theatre of Opera and Ballet, then housed a Youth Theatre, and most recently it is the headquarters of the Lithuanian Russian Drama Theatre.

From time to time discussion is reignited among Poles in Lithuania regarding reclaiming the theatre building on Pohulanka, as it is a part of Polish national heritage and many feel that it was brutally robbed from the Polish community. However, for many Poles it would be enough to at least save the building from becoming a ruin. Last year the theatre celebrated its 100 years anniversary. On this occasion, a poster was put up on the building. It read: “I’m 100 years old! I feel like i am 20, but I look as though I was a few hundred… I hope I live to see the restoration.” This poster was designed to draw attention to the urgent need for thorough renovation.

Accordingly, I have the following questions for the Prime Minister and the Minister:
1/ Will the Polish government take action in the Polish-Lithuanian arena and initiate a conversation with the Lithuanian government, to return the theatre building on Pohulanka to the Polish community in Vilnius, which was illegally robbed.
2/ Will the Polish government clarify with Lithuanian authorities, if and when the thorough restoration of the Polish Theatre on Pohulanka will take place? Polish elements of its architecture should remain after the restoration.
3/ Can the Ministry of Culture and National Heritage help to speed up the general renovation of the Polish Theatre in Vilnius, if one of the conditions of the Lithuanians should be the participation of Poland in the financing of the operation? Can this participation take place before the return of the property to Poland, or after the reclaiming of it by the Polish community in Vilnius?
4/ Will the government make efforts with the Lithuanian and North American authorities to restore to the Polish community in Vilnius the building of former Priest Bishop Władysław Bandurski Polish Scout Watchtower, which was illegally appropriated by the Lithuanians, without any compensation to the Polish side, and then transferred to the USA to serve as the Embassy building? The history of Zawisza Czarny’s Black Vilnius Thirteen is linked to this building.

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

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