• February 21, 2023
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Polish language not only on special occasions

On 21 February, we celebrate International Mother Language Day. For Poles living in Lithuania, the celebration of their mother tongue is definitely special. The Polish language is a reason to reflection and… pride.

─ Mother language is a language in which I think, I live, because all my surroundings mostly speak Polish. It is also the feature of my nationality. In Polish, I can easily express my thoughts and find understanding from people I meet who think the same way I do. The knowledge of Polish in Lithuania is a great asset because it provides an opportunity to communicate with Poles, and it is also an expression of respect for another person of that nationality and a demonstration to representatives of other nationalities that there are many Poles in Lithuania. We have our own culture, history, speech which we can be proud of – Dorota Petkun, a student of the Adam Mickiewicz’s High School in Vilnius, tells to “Kurier Wileński”.

Not only on special occasions but also on a daily basis

The day of a mother tongue will certainly be celebrated in Polish schools in Vilnius Region. Each school celebrates it in its own way, especially since, as Danuta Szejnicka says, the Mother Language Day is celebrated here not on special occasions but also on a daily basis.

─ Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, in “The Little Prince”, uses a wonderful comparison of a man to a tree. If this tree is rootless, any wind can push it to any direction. It seems to me that the mother language as well as the native culture in which someone grows up and is brought up, become such roots which help to form the identity and values. In adulthood, a person is confronted with different cultures and languages, which he or she may compare and juxtapose with each other, and may even be forced to speak several languages. But returning to the mother tongue and culture in which someone was brought up will compose the kind of foundation that will help to build further floors, further experiences, further adventures. Flitting from one language to another, from one culture to another, risks losing oneself. Caring for mother language and culture primarily means rootedness and skilfully building foundations. This does not mean any kind of backwardness which does not allow a person to open up to learning new languages and other cultures – points out Danuta Szejnicka, a Polish language teacher at St John Paul II Middle School in Vilnius, a chairwoman of the Association of Polish Language Teachers in Lithuania.

An appeal with a Polish song

─ By celebrating the International Mother Language Day, we emphasise the weight and significance of the mother language. Polish is important for a Pole, Lithuanian for a Lithuanian and French for a French. Such a day focuses our attention on the fact that we have our mother language, that we know it, that we have an opportunity to speak and learn in our mother language at school. It is an occasion for us to appreciate our mother tongue and take care of its correctness – points out Polish language teacher Andžeła Dajlidko, associate director of the Michal Balinski’s Middle School in Jūšėnai, in the conversation with “Kurier Wileński”.

According to the associate director of the Polish school in Jūšėnai, each Polish language teacher and primary teacher plans special activities for the children on this day.

─ There will be exercises to improve pronunciation, spelling, especially of difficult words. In addition, the children will choose particular Polish words that they think are the most beautiful, difficult or interesting. For sure there will be an appeal to start this day with a Polish song. Above all, we will encourage the children to speak Polish correctly on this day – says Dajlidko.

As our conversationalist points, students’ language correctness varies. To a large extent it depends on the language in which the children use at home. It is particularly satisfying to hear the young generation speak Polish in their families, which is not so obvious, because not so long ago, about 50 per cent of students in the first grade were children who did not speak Polish at home. These proportions have changed nowadays – children who do not speak Polish are minority. The next environment after the family where students hear Polish language is school – students participate in lessons conducted in Polish, celebrations of national and patriotic feasts and ceremonies organised by the student government.

The youth joins in the celebration

Celebrations of the International Mother Language Day commonly take place in Polish schools in Vilnius Region but they also spread beyond the school environment. Poles from the Youth Community in Mickuny together with young people from other villages decided to celebrate this day in their own way, organising an integration meeting and a Battle of the Intellects.

─ In this sizable number and variety of events, we do not want to “lose” the Mother Language Day, we try to remind people of this celebration through different activities – tells Czeslawa Zadranovich, the head of the Youth Community in Mickuny, to “Kurier Wileński”.

─ We are distributing posters with the slogan “I speak Polish, because I am Polish” to draw attention to our mother language, which is close to our hearts. In addition to this, within the framework of the Erasmus+ project “Empowerment of young people from national minorities in a European, national and local context” we have many different activities focused on the promotion of our mother tongue. Together with young people from Butrimonys, Solecznik and the Vilnius Region we organise a celebration of the Mother Language Day. We are arranging a Battle of Intellects and a great time. We will also watch short films together, where young people will express themselves on the topic: “I am a Pole because…”, “Knowing Polish allows me to…” – announces Czeslawa Zadranowicz.

The Youth Community in Mickuny has a place that can always be used. This is the Community House in Mickuny, which is a branch of the Multifunctional Cultural Centre in Rudomin. The administrator of the Community House is always open to the needs of young people and shares his premises, where young people have space to meet, practise dancing or use the library.

─ We must take care of our mother language so that we can give it to our children, so that they use it with pride – says the youth community leader. She is glad that her child, who is in the first grade, started school in Polish.

Multilingualism as an asset

Poles living in Lithuania necessarily find themselves in a situation of multilingualism and can speak several languages.

─ The mother tongue is simply the most beautiful and the best sounding of all the languages in the world. We, as Poles living in Lithuania, also have the comfort of knowing several languages: we know our mother, state and foreign languages. In the reality of Lithuania, speaking of the Polish language is a great asset. Knowing the language gives an access to a new area of news, information that is not necessarily available in another language. Lithuanians have their own culture, traditions and histography which are familiar to Lithuanian language users. Knowing the Polish language allows you, for example, to look at the same historical events from a different point of view, to compare one version of events with another, to look at the world more widely, to draw your own conclusions. And this is enriching. It also prevents mental slavery or the actions of propaganda – believes Robert Czechowicz, a resident of Solecznik.

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

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