• September 18, 2019
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Radczenko: Polish Discussion Club like Deus ex machina

“I am not persecuted, we don’t call it like that. It’s about the legislative problems related to the rights of minorities” – said Rita Tamašunienė in an interview with the Polish daily Rzeczpospolita. Would you look at that! When I said the exact same thing in an interview for Gazeta Wyborcza about four years ago – I was deemed by the EAPL-CFA [Electoral Action of Poles in Lithuania – Christian Families Alliance, TN], national democrats, and late borderland inhabitants… a traitor! Today, the same circles congratulate EAPL-CFA for having wonderful, wise and beautiful ministers.

It may be that the statement made by Rita Tamašunienė is a typical example of how the point of view depends on where one sits. I hope, however, that what it proves (also or above all) is that a brilliant change has occurred in the thinking of Lithuanian Poles about their situation.

Three tasks

In September 2014, the Polish Discussion Club laid out three fundamental tasks for itself and – indirectly – for the entire Polish community in Lithuania.

First of all, let’s try to sit down together and think about our state of ownership, our problems, challenges that await us in the future and the vision of the Polishness in Lithuania. Let’s stop waving around the slogans of ‘Christian values’, ‘liberal values’, ‘schools’, ‘plaques’, ‘surnames’. Instead, let’s think about what are the real priorities of our community. Which issues are truly important to us and which are just a square peg in a round hole. And last but not least – let’s think about where we want to be in 10, 20, 30 years and how can we achieve this perfect state. I’m not saying that everything went well. Far from EVERYONE wanted to participate in such a discussion, nevertheless, that discussion commenced. As is evidenced by the already second summit ‘Vilenshchina 2040’, which will begin in Vilnius in the upcoming days. Indeed, even the leaders of EAPL-CFA – e.g. minister Jaroslav Narkevič – speak now about the need to set priorities for Polish demands.

Second of all, the PDC proposed: let’s talk with Lithuanians in Lithuanian. We can grieve for a hundred years more that Lithuanians do not want to hear us, that they do not respond to our needs and demands, but have we ever tried to speak in their own language to them? Not through a megaphone at a rally, but in Lithuanian newspapers and magazines, television and the radio? Only Mariusz Antonowicz, Andrzej Pukszto, Jacek Komar, Ewelina Mokrzecka have tried to do it, their texts and speeches began to appear in a variety of Lithuanian media. The ‘Perspective on Poland’ project run by the PDC emerged, under which Lithuanian-language media inform about the positive achievements of Poland and Poles. And so Lithuanians discovered with astonishment that Poles are… different, that just like them Poles don’t like Kremlin and Putin, that they do not only love Poland, but they love Lithuania, Lithuanian language and Lithuanian culture, too. What is more, the PDC began to invite the most important Lithuanian politicians to discussions, so that they could hear the voice of the Vilnius region not through the game of Chinese whispers of the self-proclaimed representatives, but directly. And as it turned out, these meetings did not fall on deaf ears. Nation-wide parties began to change their programmes, to invite Poles to their electoral lists…

And thirdly, the Polish Discussion Club has shown an attractive, modern face of Polishness in Lithuania. They have shown that they can be both serious, but they can also play. Not only to the rhythm of polonaise but also contemporary – no matter whether rock or disco – rhythms. Not only on 11th November but also on 16th February. They have shown that a modern Vilnius Pole, just like a modern Lithuanian, knows how to use Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, YouTube.

Deus ex machina

If someone had told me five years ago – when seven enthusiasts appointed PDC – that in five years Polish-Lithuanian relations would warm up to a ‘love story’ level, unprecedented even in times of strategic partnership between Valdas Adamkus and Lech Kaczyński, that the EAPL-CFA activists who just yesterday protested under the slogan ‘Stop Discrimination’ in front of the embassies of Germany, Denmark, and the USA, would begin to claim that there was no discrimination, that the Lithuanian right-wing would submit projects to solve Polish problems – I would not have believed. However, this is what has happened. Perhaps due to the Polish Discussion Club, perhaps thanks to some other Deus ex machina.

Now, however, our entire community is facing a much more important task. To make sure that activists who no longer feel discriminated against but still admit that there are legislative problems regarding the rights of national minorities, do not forget to solve these problems while in power. And since appetite comes with eating: I hope we won’t have to wait another 5 years to solve them.

This commentary was published on Tuesday (17th September) in the Polish broadcast of the Lithuanian public radio LRT Klasika.

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

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