• January 16, 2018
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Kaczyński Street in Vilnius could have appeared in 2010

The initiative of EAPL-CFA on commemorating the late Polish President Lech Kaczyński by naming after him the street in Vilnius was not the first initiative in this matter. The idea to name this street after his name appeared in April 2010 for the first time, shortly after the tragic events in Smolensk, and was brought up by conservatives.

The authors of the idea also suggested placing on the Main Post Office building a bas-relief with the image of the President and the inscription – “Lech Kaczyński (1949-2010) – the President of the Republic of Poland and a great friend of Lithuania” in two languages: Lithuanian and Polish.

Kaczyński or Kačinski

This idea was blocked by Janusz Skolimowski, the Polish ambassador in Vilnius of that time, and the Polish party councilors in the local government of Vilnius, who could not decide whether the president’s surname should be spelled “Kaczyński”, “Kačinski” or “Kačynski”. According to Lithuanian legislation, streets must be named in accordance with the Lithuanian grammar, in other words, in Lithuanian.

“Whether people like it or not, the name of the President would be in the adapted form, not the original. Many do not understand that a separate decision will be adopted in the case of naming the street. Spelling of street names and surnames in documents, press or websites are two separate issues. Street names must be written in Lithuanian” – explained in 2010 Irena Smetonienė, the chairwoman of the State Commision of the Lithuanian Language of that time.

The comments of the ambassador and councilors

In Skolimowski’s opinion, spelling the name of Lech Kaczyński in Lithuanian would be misconstrued in Warsaw. Especially that the plane crash in Smolensk happened a few days after Lech Kaczyński’s visit to Lithuania, when the Lithuanian parliament rejected the project with the original spelling of surnames.

“It’s not me who needs to explain how things should be done. Perhaps it is not worth to rush, but to discuss this matter substantively in the parliament. Perhaps a bilingual spelling could help. I will repeat, the idea is very good. However, if the President’s name will be Lithuanized, it will look like a bad joke. This issue was touched upon during his last visit” – explained Ambassador Janusz Skolimowski in 2010.

After such a reaction from the Polish side, the council of the capital government decided to postpone the issue for a month.

“Bearing in mind how the President assessed the decision of the parliament regarding the Lithuanization of Polish surnames, the alteration of his surname would be inappropriate” – said Jarosław Kamiński, the councilor of EAPL-CFA of that time.

Unfortunately, the council did not return to this issue neither after a month nor later.

The proposal of EAPL-CFA

On Monday, the fractions of EAPL-CFA in Vilnius and its region registered draft resolutions on naming after Lech Kaczyński a plaza at the Houwalt manor in Maišiagala and an alley in the centre of Vilnius, located between the Main Post Office and the shopping centre on the Gediminas prospectus.

Everything indicates that the plaza and the street will be named in accordance with Lithuanian legislation, in other words, President Lech Kaczyński’s name will be spelled in the adapted form. The question is, was it worth the wait of eight years?

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

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