• March 19, 2023
  • 181

Great adventure with the Polish language. Olympians awarded

The 34th Olympiad of Polish Literature and Language in Lithuania has been concluded. Out of 29 participants, the commission selected 10 winners. The winners were characterized by high rhetorical culture, and younger students also performed well.

The Polish Language Olympiad in Lithuania was initiated on the wave of national revival in 1990 and since then it has been a particularly important event focusing the attention of the Polish community in the country. Every year, the participants of the competition and their teachers – who are the main characters of the event – come to the Olympiad’s closing ceremony, as well as employees of the Polish diplomatic mission, politicians, social activists and delegations of local governments, who rush to congratulate them with flowers and gifts.

An unusual setting for a celebration

This year’s Polish language competition took place in the year of the 700th anniversary of Vilnius, so it was no coincidence that it was accompanied by the motto from a poem by Czesław Miłosz: “Nigdy od ciebie, miasto, nie mogłem odjechać” (“Never from you, o city”). The students took part in the written and oral eliminations within the centuries-old walls of Vilnius University, remembering Adam Mickiewicz and Juliusz Słowacki, Kraszewski or Miłosz. On 10th March, after two difficult days of competition, the results were announced.

The closing ceremony of the competition was held in a special place, as the organizers invited students to the capital’s City Hall. In a beautiful classicistic building, designed by Wawrzyniec Gucewicz, numerous congratulations flowed to the students, interspersed with wonderful performances by the musically talented youth. The ceremony was graced by the phenomenal vocal performances of Ewa Rawluszewicz, a student of the Władysław Syrokomla Middle School in Vilnius, winner of the main prizes in international music competitions (winning the American Protégé competition in New York, the Grand Prix in the international competition in Kazakhstan, the first place in the Premio Scarlatti competition, gold in the Riga Symphony competition, the statuette of this year’s “Little Christopher”). It was a real pleasure to listen to the piano pieces performed by Karol Leszczyński or performances by the string ensemble from the Balys Dvarionas Music School.

Written and oral

This year, the organizers of the Olympiad drew attention to the record number of participants at the national qualifying stage. A total of 30 students qualified for the competition, with 29 taking part, so the two competition days were a time of intensive work for the jury, which consisted of lecturers of both Vilnius Polish studies.

The written works and oral answers of the participants were evaluated by: doc. dr Barbara Dwilewicz, doc. dr Irena Masojć, doc. dr Halina Turkiewicz, doc. dr Henryka Sokołowska from the Centre for Polish Language and Culture at the Academy of Education of Vytautas Magnus University, as well as dr Teresa Dalecka, dr Irena Fedorowicz, doc. dr Kinga Geben, doc. dr Regina Jakubėnas and the chairwoman of the jury prof. dr Krystyna Rutkowska from the Centre for Polish Studies, Vilnius University. The auditions were also attended by a guest from Warsaw, a member of the Presidium of the Main Commission of the National Olympiad in Polish Language and Literature, dr hab. Igor Piotrowski, professor at the University of Warsaw.

An elite group of participants in the Olympiad

Students preparing for the Polish Language Olympiad face a real challenge. They have to demonstrate a broad knowledge of literature, not only textbook literature, but also literature that goes far beyond the school syllabus. They have to work through stacks of literary works, critical-literary studies and issues in the field of grammar. This is why, in such an ambitious and demanding competition, all participants in the Polish Language Olympiad are winners – because they know more, they see more, and belong to an elite of readers and thinkers.

Although the results of the competition were announced some time ago, it is worth recalling the names of this year’s winners. This time, the triumph was celebrated (though, as she admitted, without euphoria) by Emilia Kuncewicz, a student of the Middle School named after St. John Paul II in Vilnius (Polish teacher Teresa Król), who won the title of the best twice, as the jury also awarded her the first place in the eliminations at the city stage.

“I love reading, it’s my passion”, said Emilia, who devoted her “Olympic” oral paper to the topic of the discourse of women’s emancipation in the 19th century. In her written work, she reflected on the image of the mother in Polish literature. She referred to Żmichowska’s “Poganka”, Hoffmanowa’s “Pamiątka po dobrej matce”, Orzeszkowa’s “Marta” and “Nad Niemnem”, Tokarczuk’s and Rafał Kosik’s short stories, and touched on 20 contexts in total. As she revealed in an interview with “Kurier Wileński”, when taking part in the Olympiad, she was not motivated by practical reasons (the title of laureate of the Olympiad allows one to gain additional points during the recruitment process for Lithuanian studies), as she does not plan to study in Lithuania. She participated, simply to test herself.

The two second places went ex aequo to Jakub Wojniłło from the St John Paul II Secondary School in Vilnius (also Polish teacher Teresa Król) and Radosław Bartoszewicz from the Władysław Syrokomla Secondary School in Vilnius (Polish teacher Barbara Dajnowicz).  As Jakub said, participation in the Polish Language Olympiad is somewhat of a “family duty” for him, since his father won the first Polish Language Olympiad in Lithuania, and 30 years later his older sister Gabriela repeated the success. Moreover, Jakub’s participation in the Olympics is due to his fascination with Polish literature. “I prefer paper books, not e-books. The smell of a book gives a plus 10 for the joy of reading”, Jakub revealed in an interview with “Kurier Wileński”.

The third place on the podium was awarded to three participants. They are Justyna Bogdiun from the Middle School in Ejszyszki (Polish teacher Václavia Ivanova), Katherine Lucja Cytacka from the Wladyslaw Syrokomla Middle School in Vilnius (Polish teacher Lucja Minović) and Daniel Daukszewicz from the Eliza Orzeszkowa Middle School in Belaya Vaca (Polish teacher Aleksandra Bojarin).

Distinctions from the Ministry of Education, Science and Sports of the Republic of Lithuania were awarded to Joanna Dacewicz from the Juliusz Słowacki Middle School in Bezdany (Polish teacher Edyta Klimaszewska), Gabriela Jankowska from the Jan Śniadecki Middle School in Soleczniki (Polish teacher Bozena Bandalewicz), Augustyn Ozarowski from the Michal Balinski Middle School in Jaszuny (Polish teacher Krystyna Turkot) and Dorota Agata Petkun from the Adam Mickiewicz High School in Vilnius (Polish teacher Elwira Bielawska).

These ten laureates will represent Lithuania in the national competition at the LIII Olympiad of Polish Literature and Language in Warsaw, the final of which will be held on 19-20 April. We keep our fingers crossed and wish you the traditional breaking of pens as you put your thoughts to paper!

High rhetorical culture

Summing up the results of the Olympiad, the chairwoman of the jury prof. Krystyna Rutkowska pointed out that most of the 15 written works were devoted to the topic of the city. 10 students focused on the image of the mother in literature, and 4 students reflected on the theme “Not without allure is this terrible world”.

“You admired the beauty of man created on the model of the Absolute, you saw in man the image of God. The harmony and order of nature, and love for another human being was a common idea for you. I personally admired these works for their skilful combination of the divine in man and the human in God”, emphasized the chairwoman of the jury, thanking the students for their numerous participation in the Olympiad and for not hiding the fact that “they are very wise”. “If we have such young people, we cannot be afraid for our future”, she said.

As prof. Igor Piotrowski assessed, the students from the Vilnius region taking part in the national Olympiad in Polish Literature and Language in Warsaw are characterized by a high level and high rhetorical culture. “All participants have prepared an oral statement and it is a statement very nicely composed, mostly very nicely said. They certainly worked at constructing this speech”, stressed a representative of the Presidium of the Main Commission of the Polish Language and Literature Olympiad.

He also drew attention to the clear trend that younger and younger students are participating in Polish language competitions, and in their responses “you can hear material for the future laureate”. “Some of the younger students’ responses are also very mature. It is not the problem of maturity that is the problem of these younger students, but of reading, better substantive preparation” prof. Igor Piotrowski noted in an interview with the “Kurier Wileński”.

Congratulations and awards

The closing ceremony of the Olympiad was an opportunity to honour students and their teachers by distinguished guests. Congratulations were deemed necessary by Irmina Szmalec, first secretary-consul of the Republic of Poland, head of the Consular and Polish section of the Embassy of the Republic of Poland in Vilnius; Agnė Liucilė Andriuškevičienė, advisor to the Minister of Education, Science and Sport of the Republic of Lithuania; Krystyna Dzierżyńska, president of the Association of Teachers of Polish Schools in Lithuania “Macierz Szkolna”; Alina Kowalewska, Adviser to the Director of the Vilnius City Government Administration for Education. A congratulatory letter was sent by doc. dr Diana Šileikaitė-Kaishauri, Associate Dean of the Faculty of Philology at Vilnius University.

Representatives of the Vilnius, Šalčininkai and Trakai Municipalities also expressed their appreciation of the students and teachers: the outgoing mayor Maria Rekść, the newly elected mayor Zdzislaw Palewicz, the deputy mayor Jonas Kietavičius and heads and specialists of the district education departments. “By our presence here, we certify that the Polish language here in Lithuania should be, that it must be respected, have the appropriate status. We must be very determined that the Polish language, on a par with the official Lithuanian language, should have a dignified place on our social scene”, Zdzisław Palewicz said.

Dina Voronina, a methodologist from the Lithuanian Centre for Informal Education of Students, who has been accompanying the Polish language Olympiad for years, congratulated the students and thanked the sponsors of the event: Embassy of the Republic of Poland in Vilnius, the Polish Institute in Vilnius, “Macierz Szkolna”. The event was organised by the Vilnius City Government, the Ministry of Education, Science and Sports of the RL, the Lithuanian Centre for Informal Education of Students, the Balys Dvarionas Music School.

Students and teachers from the Wladyslaw Syrokomla Middle School in Vilnius ensured that the ceremony was prepared down to the last detail.

The 34th Polish Olympiad in Lithuania has already gone down in history. Reflections? It is a great joy that in the Vilnius region, there is no shortage of talented, clever and gifted young people, for whom Polish literature and culture is a value in itself, who win laurels in the Olympiad not for the sake of profit, but for the pleasure of reading, who have so much to say that the jury has to stop the speech that is just starting. Undoubtedly, the students’ successes are due to the family and, to a large extent, to the Polish language teacher who, in spite of the fatigue of the endless educational reform, accompanies the student unceasingly on this beautiful adventure with the mother tongue.

In conclusion, I would like to recall the words of Andrzej Waligórski: “Bo jeżeli jesteś i ja jestem,/To dlatego, że stojący na warcie/Polonista znużonym gestem/Kartki książek wertował uparcie/Za kajzera i za Hitlera,/I za cara, i za innych carów paru,/I dlatego właśnie nie umiera/Coś ważnego, co nazywa się Naród” (“Because if you are and I am,/It is because, standing on guard/Polonist standing on guard with a weary gesture/The pages of books paged stubbornly/For the kaiser and For Hitler,/And for the tsar, and for a few other tsars,/And that is why something does not die/Something important, which is called a Nation”).

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

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