- June 25, 2019
Trakai: Polish Flag in Secondary School attacked
An article titled “Trys valstybinės vėliavos” (Three state flags, TN) was published on June 21st in the “Trakų žemė” newspaper. Its author, Dobilas Kirvelis, was outraged that a white-and-red flag is placed on the building of the Polish secondary school in Trakai, next to the flags of Lithuania and the European Union.
The lawyers assure that the director did not break the Lithuanian law by hanging out the Polish flag on the building. The article was sponsored by the governmental Spaudos, radijo ir televizijos rėmimo fondas (Press, Radio and Television Support Foundation, TN).
“I have lived in Trakai for five years. Almost every day I go with my child to the Luka lake. We always pass the Polish secondary school in Trakai at Birutės street, where three flags hung (i.e. Polish, Lithuanian and the flag of the EU, TN),” writes Dobilas Kirvelis, describing himself as a resident of Birutės street in Trakai. In his view, “demonstrating white-and-red flags this often makes Lithuanians living in the Vilenshchina (the Vilnius region, TN) and others feel like this region is still inhabited by those who secretly dream that it belonged to Poland.”
The “Trakų žemė” newspaper consulted the case of the white-and-red flag on the building of the secondary school with the chairman of the parliamentary education committee, Eugenijus Jovajša. “According to art.12 (1) of the Law of the Republic of Lithuania on the national flag and other flags of foreign states may be displayed on a 24-hour basis only near, over or on diplomatic missions, consular posts of foreign states and the buildings of the residences of their heads, other state establishments of foreign states legally established in the Republic of Lithuania, unless otherwise provided for in international agreements of the Republic of Lithuania,” commented on the matter of the Polish flag Mr. Jovaiš. Since Polish secondary school in Trakai is located in the Trakai district municipality, the editorial team of “Kurier Wileński” asked Edita Rudelienė, the Mayor of the Trakai region, for her opinion on this issue. The Mayor claims that nobody had informed her about the issue with the Polish flag on the secondary school building. There were no complaints, and the headmaster of the school should hang the flags in accordance with the law.
We have also asked the editorial office of “Trakų žemė” whether their article calls for discord between the Polish and Lithuanian communities.
The editor’s answer is as follows:
“We are very pleased to see that you are so interested in our article. You can find all the answers to your questions in the article. We have already sent an inquiry concerning this matter to the director of the Trakai district administration, but the flag still hangs. In our opinion, everything has been explained in the article. We just want to add that the unwarranted displaying of the flag of a foreign state, in this case it is the Polish flag, causes disagreement among the people of Trakai and reminds its inhabitants about the autonomy of the Vilenshchina, which existed about 30 years ago, and which united four districts in Trakai. Would that by any chance be the reason why the Polish flag has been hanging for half a year now? We will not answer this question but has only revealed what the commentators wrote. Additionally, the headmaster of the Polish secondary school clearly violated the law by displaying the flag.We sincerely hope that the administration of the local government in Trakai will oblige the director of the school to obey the generally accepted regulations regarding display of flags. Maybe director Marian is an exception? If so, why?”— responds the editorial staff of “Trakų žemė”.
Marian Kuzborski, director of the Polish secondary school in Trakai, in an interview for “Kurier Wilenski”, said that the flag was displayed on November 11, 2018.
– I believe that the problem with the Polish flag hanging on the building of the Polish school is only considered as a problem by members of nationalist organizations. The Polish flag was displayed on the building on November 11, 2018, because our two countries were celebrating the 100th anniversary of regaining independence. After all, the Polish flags were hanging on November 11 in Lithuania, and we just wanted to celebrate this anniversary a bit longer and that is why we left all three flags at the building until the end of the school year, i.e. until June 21. There was never any problem with that. The Polish flag did not bother anyone. The flags of Lithuania and the European Union are displayed on the building throughout the school year, explains Mr. Kuzborski.
Jarosław Narkiewicz, Member of the Seimas (Lithuanian Parliament, TN), politician from Electoral Action of Poles in Lithuania – Christian Families Alliance (EAPL–CFA), in an interview for “Kurier Wilenski” said that the editors of “Trakai žemė” try to set Polish and Lithuanian communities against each other with the aid of such articles.
– Yes, the author has in a way signed the article, with his name, but I would say that it is rather an anonymous one. The “Trakai žemė” newspaper always writes negatively about Poles in Lithuania, looks for negative sides and never highlights the positive ones. It still lives in the past. Thanks to articles like this one, they receive financing from the state funds. After all, this article was also financed by Spaudos, radijo ir televizijos rėmimo fondas (Press, Radio and Television Support Foundation, TN). They often raise Polish problems, even where there are none. They do not appreciate that on the building of the school the state and the EU flags are displayed, but they see a problem with the Polish one. It is not the first time when they try to set Polish and Lithuanian circle against each other with the aid of such articles. They want to make us look bad, states Mr. Narkiewicz.
Ewelina Dobrowolska, lawyer from the European Foundation of Human Rights (EFHR), is certain that the headmaster displayed the flag in a legal manner.
– Any private individual or institution may at any time display the Polish flag in Lithuania. There are no restrictions. Restrictions apply only when it comes to the Lithuanian flag, i.e. there are public feasts when the Lithuanian flag should hang on the buildings, as far as other flags are concerned, they can be displayed at any time, but obviously they have to be clean and unsupported, argues EFHR lawyer.
Translated by Karolina Antos within the framework of a traineeship programme of the European Foundation of Human Rights, www.efhr.eu.