• January 12, 2022
  • 199

Czesław Okińczyc about the original spelling of non-Lithuanian names and surnames…

The Seimas of the Republic of Lithuania on Tuesday backed a bill specifying the record of non-Lithuanian names in Lithuanian identity documents. This bill was supported by 83 representatives at the second reading, 29 voted against it. The Signatory of the Act of Re-Establishment of the Independent State of Lithuania, the Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Republic of Lithuania, and lawyer Czesław Okińczyc spoke on this subject…

 

Dear Members of the Seimas of the Republic of Lithuania,

it is with great trepidation and sorrow that I received the news that Irena Andrukaitienė, Birutė Valionytė, Romas Gudaitis, and some other signatories of the Lithuanian Independence Act decided to appeal to the Seimas of the Republic of Lithuania against the original spelling of non-Lithuanian names and surnames.

I am bitterly disappointed that the leaders of the Lithuanian Independence Act Signatories’ Club are misleading the Seimas of the Republic of Lithuania and Lithuanian public opinion by claiming that the act on the recording of non-Lithuanian names and surnames in documents, the draft of which is being prepared for consideration by the Seimas, aims to add new letters to the Lithuanian alphabet. Permission to write non-Lithuanian names and surnames with w, x, or q in no way implies that these letters will be included in the Lithuanian alphabet! The famous Lithuanian Linguist, Associate Professor- Antanas Smetona and many others claim that this would not pose any other threat to the Lithuanian language.

Vincas Kudirka determined the spelling of foreign names containing the letters q, w, x, and others. The “Grammar of the Modern Lithuanian Language” contains a provision that these and other non-Lithuanian letters may be used in non-Lithuanian words in Lithuanian texts. Only this practice, which is widespread in the media, literature, and court judgments, remains to be regulated by law. It is worth noting that the State Commission for the Lithuanian Language agrees. The discussion is not about the admissibility of w, q, or x in surnames, but only about which groups of Lithuanian citizens could take advantage of this possibility. And it is no longer a question of language, but of law and political will.

I am ashamed that the good name of the Club of the Signatories of the Act of Independence of Lithuania engages in questionable political activities aimed at segregating Lithuanian citizens based on nationality. On March 11, 1990, by voting for the law, we fought for a free, democratic Lithuania that would satisfy the needs of every citizen (regardless of nationality, race, religion, or political views). We fought not only for our own freedom but also for the freedom of others. I believe that the absolute majority of us, under the term “freedom”, meant the rights and freedom of those non-Lithuanian compatriots who have lived in Lithuania for centuries and have been building our country together with Lithuanians. We wrote down this respect for Lithuanian national minorities in the Constitution prepared by our Seimas and adopted by Lithuanian citizens in a referendum in 1992 – “Citizens belonging to national communities have the right to cultivate their language, culture, and customs.” I fully believe that the right to cultivate your own language includes the right to correctly spell the original name and surname.

Lithuanian politicians resolved the issue of the spelling of non-Lithuanian surnames back in 1994, signing an agreement on friendly relations and good-neighborly cooperation between the Republic of Lithuania and the Republic of Poland.

Unfortunately, despite repeated attempts every year, even today, after almost 28 years, this symbolic problem awaits his own Alexander of Macedon, who will cut this Gordian knot with a single blow of the political sword. I believe that the present parliament will be this collective Macedonian. There are many courageous politicians on the side of both the ruling and the opposition, ready to pass this symbolic, but innovative act on the recording of names and surnames in documents.

As a signatory to the Act on the Re-establishment of the Independent State of Lithuania, I am asking all members of the current Seimas to support this project. I call on my fellow Signatories not to disturb the Seimas. Let, even after 32 years, this peculiar “debt” be repaid to those Lithuanian patriots who are not ethnic Lithuanians. I am convinced that their respect and love for Lithuania, Lithuanians, and the Lithuanian language will only increase as a result!

I dream that one day I will be able to correctly write down my name and surname and show the whole world that not only ethnic Lithuanians but also ethnic Poles fought and voted for the independence of Lithuania!

For our and your freedom!

 

Czesław Okińczyc

Lawyer,

the Signatory of the Act of the Re-Establishment of the State of Lithuania,

the Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Republic of Lithuania.

 

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

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