• May 4, 2019
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Ten Thousand People at the Polish Parade in Vilnius. “Unity Makes Us Strong”

Poles from all over Lithuania, compatriots from Poland and many other countries took part in the Polish parade in Vilnius. On Saturday, over ten thousand people walked from Independence Square to the Gates of Dawn to the beat of the march music. White-and-red flags fluttered proudly over the participants’ heads.

A festive march was organized by the Association of Poles in Lithuania to celebrate the Day of the Polish diaspora and Poles Abroad, the 228th anniversary of the adoption of the Constitution of May 3rd and celebrate the 30th anniversary of the Association’s activity.

“We are going to Our Lady of the Gate of Dawn to express our gratitude for 30 years of the Association of Poles in Lithuania,” said Waldemar Tomaszewski, MEP, leader of the Electoral Action of Poles in Lithuania – Christian Families Alliance (EAPL–CFA) and of the Vilnius Branch of the Association of Poles in Lithuania, during the march. As he emphasized, it was the establishment of the Association that activated the Polish minority in Lithuania.

“The Association of Poles in Lithuania is where it all began. Our top priority was to unite the Polish community and we’ve managed to do it. Over the years there have been many attempts to break this unity, but our opponents did not succeed and today we are the most united Polish community in the world. We also set an example for our Lithuanian brothers and show how to act in the unity in both the agenda and the hearts,” said Mr. Tomaszewski.

Mr. Tomaszewski added that this year’s parade in praise of Polishness was special because it was joined by representatives of the World Polonia Council, and what is more, Council’s meetings are planned to be held tomorrow for the first time in Vilnius. “For the first time in history, the World Polonia Council gathers in Vilnius. Its chairwoman, Teresa Berezowski, the entire presidium and some Polish activists from the USA, Canada, England, France, Sweden, and basically from all European countries have arrived in Vilnius,” said the leader of EAPL–CFA. 

“The heart of Polishness beats here” 

With flags in their hands and with a smile on their faces, the Poles from Vilenshchina (the Vilnius region, TN) and the regions further away, activists from the Association of Poles in Lithuania, students and teachers of Polish schools, youth, veterans, members of numerous artistic groups, inhabitants and all those who identify themselves as Poles participated in the parade. Among them were also leaders of Polish social organizations in Lithuania, politicians from EAPL–CFA, MEPs, representatives of the Polish Embassy in Lithuania, Polish authorities, Polish diaspora organizations from all over the world and guests from Poland.

“The heart of Polishness beats here. The parade was as great as always. I have participated in it a few times in a row. I encourage all Poles from Poland to come to this parade and see that Polishness in the Vilenshchina still thrives,” said Bogusław Rogalski, Ph.D., a political scientist, adviser on international matters to the European Conservatives and Reformists (ECR) in the European Parliament, Chairman of the Union of Christian Families.

Rita Tamašunienė, a politician of the Electoral Action of Poles in Lithuania, said that she feels proud that so many Poles live in Lithuania and have gathered in Vilnius in such numbers. “Polishness binds us in this beautiful parade,” said Ms. Tamašunienė.

She added that by celebrating feasts that fill us with some special spirit, such as the Day of the Polish diaspora and Poles Abroad, the anniversary of the adoption of the Constitution of May 3rd, and  by marching along the streets of Vilnius to Our Lady of the Gate of Dawn  “we participate in celebrations not only in Poland but also abroad, wherever Polish hearts beat.” 

The flags of Poland, Lithuania alongside with the one of the Vilenshchina fluttered over the heads of participants of the parade.

“I am very happy that we have our holiday, we can be together and show ourselves. It makes my heart particularly glad to see so many children and young people. I am sure that future generations will celebrate Polishness just as much as we do now,” said Maria Rekść, Mayor of the Vilenshchina.

Feast of Poles in Lithuania

“Šalčininkai unites”, “Love of the homeland is our law” – these are some examples of banners carried by the group of more than a thousand representatives of the Šalčininkai region who came to Vilnius. The Mayor of the Šalčininkai district, Zdzisław Palewicz, emphasized that the parade in praise of Polishness, which is now taking place, is a feast of Poles in Lithuania. “Once again we are demonstrating that we are a well-organized community. We must stay together because it is a key element of building a national community. When we act together, we are accompanied by both perspective and optimism and that is what makes us stronger,” said Palewicz. He also pointed out that “it is not only about declaring Polishness, but it is more about building the Polish community and fulfilling postulates, so that everyone, regardless of their nationality, can live well in Lithuania and the Vilenshchina.” “Such meetings show that as citizens we are organized and friendly toward Lithuania. At the same time we nurture our Polish traditions and demonstrate our Polishness, because it is a great value for us. Unity makes us strong.” – said the Mayor of the Šalčininkai region.

Edyta Tamošiūnaitė, the Deputy-Mayor of Vilnius, who also participated in this white-and-red parade, said that the event is a symbol of the unity between Poles in the Vilenshchina. “We want to be together and celebrate side by side the Day of the Polish diaspora and Poles Abroad and the Day of the Constitution of May 3rd. It fills us with good energy and strength to preserve our identity, pass it on to our children and show the inhabitants of Vilnius, Lithuania and the whole of Europe that Poles in the Vilenshchina are united and strong,” said Ms. Tamošiūnaitė. “It is an honor for me to be here with my compatriots,” proudly stated Maria Pucz, Deputy-Mayor of Trakai District. 

Dreams come true

Poles from Kaunas and the surrounding area also came to Vilnius and took part in the parade. A small but very active 7-person delegation came from Vandžiogala (Polish: Wędziagoła; a small town in Kaunas district, TN). “Since the Vandžiogala branch of the Association of Poles in Lithuania was established in 2010, we always come to Vilnius for the parade in praise of Polishness. For us, as the Poles from Lauda and Kowieńszczyzna (the Kaunas region, TN), where it is difficult  to preserve our Polishness, the parade is a great holiday,” claimed Ryszard Jankowski, the president of the Vandžiogala branch of the Association of Poles in Lithuania.

Czesław Kwaśniak from Lesser Poland Voivodeship, who participated in the parade in Vilnius for the first time, shared his impressions with our portal. “It was an incredible feeling. It was a pleasant surprise for me. The turnout was really high and that is great. The parade shows the unity and strength of Poles in Lithuania,” said Mr. Kwaśniak.

For Łucja Dudojć, teacher from the Jan Śniadecki Junior High School in Šalčininkai, participation in the parade was a dream that came true. “I have been working in a school for 43 years and I’ve always dreamed of walking along the streets of Vilnius with my pupils and with scouts. And here I am! We are very lucky to be able to demonstrate our Polishness. Now, every single one of us is proud, to be walking down the Adam Mickiewicz street – today’s Gediminas street, and  be well-treated as a Pole in Vilnius,” said Dudojć.

The Holy Mass was held at the end of the parade below the miraculous painting of Our Lady of the Gate of Dawn. The mass was led by priests from the Vilenshchina and Poland.

View the embedded image gallery online at: http://l24.lt/pl/spoleczenstwo/item/299626-parada-polskosci-w-wilnie-jednoscia-jestesmy-silni#sigProGalleria98edc6c739 

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

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