• January 7, 2016
  • 238

Polish scientists in Lithuania: It was a difficult, but very successful year

“Scientists are not to please politicians or even media. Sometimes we need to raise difficult topics” – says Prof. Henryk Malewski, chairman of the Association of Polish Scholars of Lithuania (SNPL), summing up the last year’s activity of the organization. As he points out, also in the next year we must not lack pretexts to difficult discussions which provide us with an opportunity to find solutions.

Summing up the yearly activity, conferring the titles of honorary members, and rewarding scientific works of Polish students – these were the main points of the SNPL Christmas meeting.

„It was a difficult, but very successful year” – thinks Henryk Malewski. Of the most important events, he lists two international conferences: „Science and the quality of life” and „Between integration and exclusion: linguistic rights of national minorities in Europe”, which attracted to Vilnius scientists and experts from around the world.


The next achievement is the incorporation of the SNPL yearbook on the Index Copernicus list – an international, specialized platform for promoting scientific achievements, as well as supporting national and international collaboration between scientists, publishers of scientific journals and scientific entities.

„The novelty of the yearbook concerns Polish, English, and Lithuanian summaries. It is important for the international exchange that the yearbook was not written just for itself, but so that the topics it touches would provoke discussion. There are various topics, for the most part concerning our Vilnius Land – historical, political, and social. Some articles may arouse controversy in different communities but scientists need to have a room for discussion – content-related discussion, discussion supported by arguments, facts” – says Dr Mirosław Szejbak, executive editor of the SNPL yearbook.

There is one more reason for the Vilnius scientists to be satisfied, it is the association members’ publications, which were published last year. For example, Dr Henryka Ilgiewicz’s monograph dedicated to the Wroblewski State Library.

„Traditionally, we pay attention to political and military history, culture, and literary life. Other institutions, especially the scientific ones, remain greatly unexplored, e.g. there is no monograph of the Stefan Batory University. The Wroblewski State Library was one of the most important institutions, established by Polish activists, supported by Polish society, the Second Polish Republic contributed to its development when the Vilnius region was lucky to be part of the Polish state” – tells Dr Ilgiewicz.

„I am really glad to see that also the younger generation joins the scientific work. I believe they will be the continuers of our cultural heritage research. It does not have to be monographs, studies, it can be an article. They can write about schools, libraries, and associations. This is our heritage and our memory, no one except for us will do that. The only way to refute the unfavorable opinion about us is to talk about the rich, Polish cultural heritage in Lithuania” – thinks the researcher.

Honors and awards

During the meeting, chairman Henryk Malewski awarded Prof. Edward Szpilewski, one of the organization founders, a honorary membership diploma. The same title was conferred on Prof. Ewald Pacowski, the oldest SNPL member, who will soon turn 100.

„25 years go, Poles started to leave Lithuania for their studies in Poland, but part of them came back as they could not cope with curricular differences. We wanted to provide an opportunity to study in Polish in Lithuania, but to establish a Polish University, you need Polish scientists. For me it was an essential job for Polish schools – the representatives of the Szpilewski family have been teaching in Polish schools since 1933 to this day” – one of the SNPL founders recalled the beginning of the association.

The associate of Szpilewski’s activity was back then, among others, Prof. Romuald Brazis, who will organize the 20th jubilee conference „Science and the quality of life” this year.

„The organization of the first such conference in 1990 was an important event as people learnt about the existence of an organized scientific society of Poles in Lithuania. Many people from Polish youth in Lithuania drew their attention to science, we managed to enhance the importance of the existence of Polish intelligentsia. It was the time of great changes, first in Poland, then in Lithuania. Common experiences, common and separate expectations of Lithuanians and Poles, it has been a quarter of a century, we can calmly look back. We expect the 20th conference to be an equally significant event” – underlined Prof. Brazis.

Apart from paying honor to the honorary members, the association also tries to recruit younger staff. This is why a contest on the best bachelor or master paper dedicated to the Vilnius region was organized. Several dozen papers entered the contest, only around twenty entered the finals.

„We received papers on information technology, economy, history, linguistics, and pedagogy. The commission had difficulty choosing, especially because the papers covered different areas. Essentially, the papers had to be related to the Vilnius region or promote it in some way” – explains Doc. Dr Barbara Dwilewicz, chairperson of the commission.

The first place went to Maria Suska, graduate of the Kazimierz Wielki University in Bydgoszcz, author of the paper on pedagogy entitled „Life aspirations of Polish school graduates in Lithuania”.

The second place went to Tomasz Bożerocki from the Lithuanian University of Educational Sciences, author of the master paper entitled „The issues of Lithuania’s statehood and national attribution of the Vilnius region in the documents of the Home Army Command in the years 1939-1944″.

The third place went to Bożena Bukowskaja (the Lithuanian University of Educational Sciences), author of the paper entitled: „Regional peculiarities of numbers declension and usage of Polish language in the Vilnius region” and Julia Żybort, from the Department of Economy and Information Technology of the Bialystok University subsidiary in Vilnius, author of the paper entitled: „Labor market of the Vilnius city in the years 1925-1937″.


Henryk Malewski, chairman of SNPL, announces that his plans for the next year are also ambitious. A conference co-organized with the Bialystok University subsidiary in Vilnius and the Pomeranian University of Słupsk: „National minorities – opportunity, challenge, or national security threat” will take place in the Polish Cultural Center in Vilnius at the end of April.

„This is a very up-to-date topic, perhaps even dangerous, for there were different opinions whether the topic is worth raising. However, we need to approach such issues from the scientific point of view. We do not need to talk about the national minorities issues in the streets or in journals, but during scientific discussions so that we can come to reasonable conclusions” – emphasized Malewski.

There is also a plan to organize a joint research and development project with the University of Wrocław comparing the situation of Poles in Lithuania and Germans in Opole Silesia.

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

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