- May 7, 2022
A Parade of Thousands of Poles in the Heart of Vilnius
On Saturday, in the May sunshine, thousands of Poles marched through the streets of Vilnius in a colorful and joyful Parade of Polishness. The white and red parade, organized by the Association of Poles in Lithuania (APL), was highly anticipated this year because it took place after a two-year break due to a pandemic.
The thousands of Poles marched from Independence Square, Gedymina Avenue, Vilnius and Great Streets to the Gate of Dawn to celebrate the Day of Poles and Poles Abroad and the 231st anniversary of the Constitution of May 3.
“The parade is not my first, but in my role as president of the APL board, it is. Generally, we continue what was done before and a lot has been done. We can see that there is a beautiful mood, many participants-10 thousand or maybe more. We are happy with our unity, that we are together, and that we have great determination. I think that with God we will always be in good shape. – said during the march president of APL and Electoral Action of Poles in Lithuania–Christian Families Alliance, member of European Parliament Waldemar Tomaszewski.
Poles from Vilnius and other parts of Lithuania, guests from the Polish Motherland, and compatriots representing the Polish Diaspora marched in a festive parade. Polish schools, artistic groups, organizations, local governments, and municipalities were numerously represented.
“I am glad that I could come once again here, to Lithuania, to support you in your problems, your joys, your schools, your youth. It is extremely important that we are all together. That is why we established the European Union of Polish Diaspora Communities, to speak with a common voice,” said Tadeusz Adam Piłat, President of the European Union of Polish Diaspora Communities, to our portal. As he admitted, it is already the seventh time he takes part in the Polish Parade.
The spirit of Polishness
Dr. Boguslaw Rogalski, political scientist, advisor for international affairs of the ECR in the European Parliament, and President of the Union of Christian Families, pointed to the wonderful spirit of Polishness that is hovering over Vilnius today. “A beautiful, wonderful day. Patriotism can be felt at every step. As always, because I try to be at every Polish parade in Vilnius,” said Dr. Rogalski in an interview with our portal. He pointed out that Poles in Vilnius Region can be an example for all Polish and Polish organizations scattered around the world. “There is no other such well-organized Polish community. Such a community is represented both politically and socially. You are here, Dear Fellow Compatriots of the Polish Diaspora, in the Polish Parliament, in the Parliament, in the local governments. Here, Dear Compatriots, you are a wonderful example for all Poles around the world to follow”. – assessed Dr. Rogalski.
Jaroslaw Rzepa, a member of the Polish Parliament, walked in the group of guests from Poland. “We feel very good here. Smiles and cordiality all around. Today, we are united by Poland and the red and white flag,” said Mr. Rzepa, also assuring of his support for Poles in Lithuania.
Jan Michał Dziedziczak, Secretary of State, Government Plenipotentiary for Polonia and Poles Abroad, who took part in the parade, pointed out that the presence of so many people in the march, especially young people, was very impressive. “The manifestation is wonderful. I am glad that I have the honor to be in the great Polish family of Poles from the Vilnius region,” Dziedziczak said. He stressed that Poles in Lithuania are loyal citizens of the Lithuanian state while being proud of their roots, cultivating the Polish language, Polish culture, and traditions. “This is very important and I thank them very much for this. We often set the Polish community in Lithuania as an example to our compatriots abroad,” – said the Secretary of State. He added: “I am happy to be with my compatriots in Vilnius today.”
Pride in being Polish
Participants in the march held white and red flags, flags, balloons, and flowers. The flags of the Vilnius Region and Lithuania were also flying.
Rita Tamašunienė, a member of the Parliament of the Republic of Lithuania from the Electoral Action of Poles in Lithuania–Christian Families Alliance expressed her satisfaction with the resumption of the Parade of Polishness. “Our hearts rejoice because after a long break we have gathered here from all corners of Vilnius and our Lithuania to celebrate together the recently celebrated Day of Polonia and Poles Abroad and the 3rd of May Constitution Day. We, Poles in Lithuania, constitute a huge community and this is something to be happy about. Certainly, we are also pleased with the fact that there are many young people among us”. – said the politician. She stressed that the Polish Parade organized by APL has already become a beautiful tradition that is worth continuing. “Today we have an opportunity to express our pride in being Poles, that we can organize such a beautiful May Day event. We take pride in our parade. We want to show the whole world how we can celebrate,” Tamašunienė said.
Walking with a red-and-white flag, Republic of Lithuania MP Czeslaw Olszewski said: “We are happy that we have gathered so pompously, in such large numbers. Songs, great mood, weather as per order.”
Smiling, dancing, and singing young people in folk costumes attracted attention.
This was noted by the mayor of the Vilnius district, Maria Rekść, at the head of one of the largest delegations. “We see many children and young people in beautiful costumes. They are here together with us, this is very important. We have to show that we are the largest national minority in Lithuania, that Poles are open, smiling, cheerful and nice,” said Maria Rekst, emphasizing that today, participating in the parade, she feels extremely proud to be Polish. She expressed hope that “for many centuries to come there will be no shortage of Poles in the Vilnius Region.
Vilnius Deputy Mayor Edith Tamošiūnaitė also shared her impressions of participating in the red-and-white parade with our portal: “I feel festive, wonderful. The mood is solemn because there are so many of us and we all walk together in unison through the streets of our beautiful Vilnius.”
The May Day parade in Vilnius was attended, as always, by a large number of Poles from the Šalčininkai region. “I am glad that so many people came from the region – more than a thousand people from every corner of our region,” said the mayor of the Šalčininkai region, Zdzislaw Palewicz. He pointed out that today’s parade is of great importance in building the community and spirit of Poles in Lithuania. “I think that every person who is here feels dignified and confident because he is not alone, he is a part of something big. Once again we confirm that there are a lot of Poles in Lithuania, that this is a well-organized community, that they can work well and rest well, that they are good citizens,” the mayor said. – We have a future, regardless of difficult times. And it is precisely in these uncertain times that we should always be together, as we testify today with this presence.
Prayer at the Gate of Dawn for Poles around the world
The march, which lasted just over an hour, culminated in Holy Mass at the Gate of Dawn. Under the miraculous image of Our Lady of Mercy, those gathered joined in prayer for the intentions of Poles in Lithuania and throughout the world. The thanksgiving Mass was concelebrated by Father Ryszard Umanski, Father Ryszard Halwa, Father Jozef Matveychuk, and Father Marian Opryszko.
After the Mass, a letter from Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki addressed to the participants of the Vilnius Parade of Polishness, was read. “Poland is with you, but Poland is also in you. Wherever the Polish heart beats, there is a particle of Poland. I wish you to be proud of Poland and to derive satisfaction from your ties with the country. The Association of Poles in Lithuania, the organizer of the Parade of Polishness, appealed: “Let’s be together! And we are together!” – wrote the Polish Prime Minister in a letter that was read out after the Mass by Jan Michal Dziedziczak, Secretary of State, Government Plenipotentiary for Polonia and Poles Abroad.
“Today’s Parade of Polishness, which brought together so many, including leaders of Polish diaspora organizations from various countries, veterans, parliamentarians, students, teachers from Polish schools, artistic groups, scouts, Polish social organizations, and our Lithuanian friends – is an example of unity – especially important in the face of the challenges facing the world today. Today we manifest the strength of spirit to preserve our identity and pass it on to our children and grandchildren,” Morawiecki stressed.
He added that “we are showing the residents of Vilnius, the Vilnius region, Lithuania, all of Europe and the world that Poles in Lithuania are united and thus strong.”
He thanked the Poles in Lithuania for cherishing Polish culture and tradition, for being faithful to the language and faith of their fathers, and for their love for Poland. On this occasion, he also extended an invitation to all: “Come, dear compatriots, as often as possible to the free, sovereign, independent our common Poland”. He also appealed for support for the Ukrainians who are heroically fighting for their homeland.
Acknowledgment from the president of APL
After the common prayer in the Gate of Dawn, the participants of the several-thousand-strong Parade of Polishness were addressed by the president of APL Waldemar Tomaszewski.
“Greetings and sincere thanks to all the residents of Vilnius and honorable guests who came to the Parade of Polishness. We started by marching through our beloved Vilnius, and here is the culmination of our parade – Holy Mass at the Gates of Dawn,” Tomaszewski said. He added that this is not the end of the celebrations, because the participants can also look forward to May Day events in their circles, branches, and municipalities. In total, 40 may celebrations are planned.
The leader of APL stressed that the Polish community in Lithuania is resilient, strong, and has reasons to be proud. “We have 63 Polish schools, including 35 gymnasiums. We have 59 kindergartens, 12 thousand students, and 3.5 thousand preschoolers. For all this, we also wanted to give thanks today through the Blessed Virgin Mary for the Lord God in the Holy Trinity only. We thank you for our latest success – the defense of Polish schools in the Troki region. We thank you for all the graces that we experience,” said Tomaszewski.
At the end, he thanked all those who came: “I would like to thank everyone once again, the honorable guests who came from all over the world, I would like to thank the Poles from the Vilnius region – from Thurmont, through Vilnius to Druskininkai, I would like to thank the Poles from Kaunas, from Lauda. Thank you all together and to each one of you individually. God bless you and your families.
Translated by Karolina Glaubitt within the framework of a traineeship programme of the European Foundation of Human Rights, www.efhr.eu.