• November 20, 2019
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After reports in the media, Jarosław Wołkonowski dismissed from the University of Bialystok [UwB]

Dr hab. Jarosław Wołkonowski, who seemed to be inseparably connected with the Vilnius branch of UwB, no longer lectures at the university. As one of the branch’s employees informed the editors, dr Wołkonowski was given a disciplinary dismissal due to criticism of the university authorities for, inter alia, training students and lecturers in Russia. He told ‘Kurier Wileński’ about his reservations towards the former dean’s decision”.

“I confirm that dr hab. Jarosław Wołkonowski is no longer an employee of the University of Bialystok. The University of Bialystok does not disclose information about its personnel policy” – this is the answer we received from the spokeswoman of the UwB, Katarzyna Dziedzik.

A little more information was provided to the editorial staff by one of the university employees who wishes to remain anonymous. According to him, Wołkonowski’s discharge is linked to his statements in the media in October 2019. “It looks like we have returned to the Soviet era,” he commented.

Let us remind you that in an interview with the media, Jarosław Wołkonowski criticised some of the decisions of the former dean, dr hab. Mieczyslawa Zdanowicz, in particular sending students and employees of the Vilnius branch for training to Russia.

“I think that this is completely unacceptable. I wrote a letter to the dean, pointing out that in our cooperation we should focus on the West, primarily on Poland and other Western European countries, and not on contacts with Russia. However, to no avail” – said the lecturer over a month ago, still as the branch’s lecturer.

Wołkonowski also warned about the decision of the university authorities not to form the first year of master’s studies. In 2019, second-cycle studies were not launched because only seven candidates had enrolled.

– But the university requires at least 12. Perhaps such requirements are justified in Poland, but not in Lithuania, where there are simply fewer students. Suffice it to say that the Polish studies at a Lithuanian university were launched with only four candidates – the former dean of the faculty explained to ‘Kurier Wileński’, while emphasising that the studies are of great importance for the future of the Polish community in Lithuania.

As established by the editors, the university had already had a ban on contacts with the media. “Dr hab. Jarosław Wołkonowski, an UwB professor, has not been the dean since September 2016, but he has repeatedly spoken to the media about the faculty’s activities, although he had not received an appropriate authorisation. In November 2018, he received a letter from the rector of the University of Bialystok reminding about the principles of our information policy. It is also worth noting that earlier a letters on the same topic were sent to all employees of the unit (including professor Wołkonowski) by the then dean, dr hab. Mieczysława Zdanowicz of UwB. The letter clearly showed that only the dean and the promotion representative (in consultation with the dean) were authorized to speak on the functioning of the faculty,” the university spokeswoman said.

Jarosław Wołkonowski does not comment on the case, however, his representative, lawyer dr Ewa Kosior, replied to us on his behalf. “I inform you that on November 19, dr hab. Jarosław Wołkonowski filed a lawsuit in the Labour Court to be reinstated to work as a result of having his employment contract terminated without notice. As a long-term employee of the University, he is open to a conciliatory settlement of the dispute,” she told ‘Kurier Wileński’.

It is worth to recall the role played by Jarosław Wołkonowski in establishing and then operating of the Vilnius branch of UwB. It was him, as the president of the Association of Polish Scientists in Lithuania, who made efforts to allow the Polish minority to study in Vilnius in their mother tongue. He justified the necessity of establishing a university with the Polish language of instruction by research based on censuses. They showed that in terms of education, Poles remain at the losing end of the Lithuanian society, and only the Roma give way.

In 2007, thanks to the support of Polish authorities and the understanding of Lithuanian politicians, it was possible to create a new faculty. The Association of Polish Scientists of Lithuania, supported by other Polish organisations in Lithuania, chose the University of Bialystok as a partner for their endavours. Jarosław Wołkonowski, as the first dean, created its organisational foundations.

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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