- May 22, 2019
Šimonytė: I will speak with the inhabitants of Šalčininkai in their language
“Inasmuch as it is important to listen to people and to reduce tensions in society, to show Visaginas or the Šalčininkai region attention, I would be the person that can go there, talk with them, speak with them in their language, understand and simply be closer,” says presidential candidate Ingrida Šimonytė in “Dzień na dwa głosy” radio programme.
“I am one of the MPs who have signed the bill authorizing the original spelling of surnames on the main page of the passport. It is a pity that it is not moving past the first reading due to different procedural issues. Apparently, some lack the courage to come back to this topic, even with the alternative project that has now been presented to Sejmas [the Lithuanian parliament, TN]. My opinion is very simple – a person’s name and surname are a part of their identity. Therefore, whether the officials can read them out loud or not seems to be a secondary matter to me. When it comes to identity, we cannot be talking about the second page of the passport,” stressed the candidate.
When asked about the fact that even in the conservative faction of the parliament, to which she belongs, one can find opponents of the original spelling of surnames, Šimonytė replied:
“On the other hand, one of the greatest enthusiasts of this issue is Andrius Kubilius, the president of the May 3rd Group, to which I belong and in which we search for solutions to various problems current for the Poles in Lithuania, e.g. the retransmission of Polish TV programmes or granting additional points for the knowledge of Polish during university admissions. There are people with different opinions, just like in other factions – we would hardly find a faction where opinions on this subject would be homogenous. As I said before, if this issue remains unresolved and it happens that I am elected president, I am ready to submit the bill to the parliament myself,” said Šimonytė.
As she added, she is “ashamed by the situation from 2010” when Sejmas did not support the Kubilius government’s project on the original spelling of surnames.
Speaking about the education system for national minorities, the politician pointed out that changing the current situation from the position of power does not make sense and would not be right.
“If people have the right to choose education in their mother tongue, which is not the Lithuanian language, why wouldn’t they use it. The only thing that I find important is that every student at any school has the same opportunities. The same applies to Lithuanian schools – the possibilities of children who graduate from school in the city and in the provinces are often significantly different. Thus, the bottom line is, how can we ensure that young people graduating national minority schools have every opportunity to integrate into the Lithuanian life and feel as Lithuanian citizens, instead of being pushed aside for any reason.
When asked whether she will be able to win over the voters of Polish nationality, Ingrida Šimonytė agreed that sometimes the representatives of national minorities may feel forgotten in Lithuania.
“In Lithuania, there should be no people who are forgotten, regardless of who these people are – whether it’s disabled people, who we keep trapped in multi-storey buildings without a lift, single mothers who are constantly running back and forth between their jobs and children and who, because of always choosing their child, fall out of the social life, or whether it’s our national communities – we simply cannot afford to have people that are invisible, forgotten. Sometimes we also forget about the people who are not ethnic Lithuanians,” contemplated the presidential candidate.
“As a person of partially Polish descent, by default, I cannot be someone who is not open to others. I hold my ancestors dear, both those who were Lithuanian and those who came from Vilnius and considered themselves Polish. From the ‘technical’ point of view, I think I have a fourth of Polish blood – my mother’s father is Lithuanian, originally from Dzūkija, from Marcinkonys, who after moving to Vilnius during the occupation met his wife and stayed here. They spoke Polish in my mother’s home, she graduated from a Polish school, she still has an enormous collection of Polish books, from which I read all of the world classics, so in a sense, for me, the Polish language was a path to those books that I could not get in Lithuanian. Therefore, it is personally important to me and I take great pleasure in various initiatives underlining our unity. The Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth gave so much to the world that it would be simply stupid to separate ourselves and not see the gift that we received over the course of history,” said Šimonytė.
“Yes, there are people for whom this is not important, who consider social issues or personal financial situation important. In this campaign, I do not promise to the Poles, the Russians or the Jews things that the president cannot implement. However, inasmuch as it is important to listen to people and to reduce tensions in society, to show Visaginas or the Šalčininkai region attention, I would be the person that can go there, talk with them, speak with them in their language, understand and simply be closer,” the candidate convinced.
Šimonytė also assured that she would like to go to Poland for her first visit abroad, taking advantage of the moment of perfect relations between the two countries.
“Poland is our path to the West, both geographically and in terms of infrastructure, investment, or our joint projects. Poles help us to become attached to the Western world in all ways possible – through pipelines, links, roads, as well as culturally, and with other means,” said Ingrida Šimonytė.
Translated by Marta Bednarczyk within the framework of a traineeship programme of the European Foundation of Human Rights, www.efhr.eu.