- May 6, 2023
Ten thousand Poles at the parade of Polishness in Vilnius. Another great success of ZPL and AWPL
The tenth anniversary of the Polishness Parade in Vilnius organised by the Union of Poles in Lithuania headed by President Valdemar Tomaševski was a huge success. As estimated by TVP Vilnius, the number of participants in the Parade exceeded 10,000 people.
The Parade of Polishness – one of the most important events for Poles living in Lithuania since 2004 – marched through the streets of Vilnius today. As a symbolic culmination of the 10,000-strong white and red parade, a Holy Mass was celebrated at the Gate of Dawn, a place close to every Pole.
Guests of honour walked the entire route together with Poles from Vilnius and all over Lithuania and took part in the Holy Mass: Konstanty Radziwiłł – Ambassador of the Republic of Poland in Vilnius with his wife, Adam Struzik – Marshal of the Mazowieckie Voivodeship( Province), Janusz Kowalski – Deputy Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development of the Republic of Poland, Halina Bieda and Ryszard Majer – Senators of the Republic of Poland, Stefan Krajewski – Member of the Sejm of the Republic of Poland, Bogusław Rogalski – Member of the European Parliament of the sixth term, leaders of Polonia organisations from 10 countries and numerous friends of Polish citizens of Vilnius from the Motherland.
The May Polish march in the heart of Vilnius has already become a beautiful tradition and one of the most anticipated events of the year by Vilnius Poles. The Polishness Parade has been organised for 20 years by the Union of Poles in Lithuania(ZPL) on the occasion of the Day of Polonia and Poles Abroad.
“For the last twenty years, the parade of Polishness has been organised by the Union of Poles in Lithuania – our flagship organisation. As we can see there is a very wide participation of Poles from all over Lithuania, of course, most from Vilnius. This parade is also already a legend for Polonia and the whole world. Last year we hosted the world’s Polish community, the European Polish community, and there were many guests. This is a parade of many thousands of people, multi-coloured as we can see, white and red colours dominate of course,’ said Valdemar Tomaševski, president of ZPL and AWPL, Member of the European Parliament. – The parade shows our unity, our solidarity. We also show our artistic and scholarly achievements. All Polish organisations are together and it is wonderful that we can walk down the main street of the city to the Gate of Dawn, where there is a service in the intention of Polonia and Poles abroad. We enjoy this celebration. We thank the people, and we thank God, for the good weather too. The sun is shining, and we are happy. I wish all the best to Poles in Lithuania and all over the world on this holiday.”
Participants in the Polish parade set off at noon from Independence Square near the Seimas, walking along Gediminas Avenue, past the Presidential Palace, Vilnius University, and the Embassy of the Republic of Poland, heading for the Gate of Dawn.
“The soul and heart are rejoicing”
“Rita Tamašunienė, a member of the Parliament of the Republic of Lithuania, was marching with the Poles from the Šalčininkai region. ‘I am very happy to be here with the small ZPL units from all over Lithuania. Behind us are the Lauda and Kaunas ZPL units. Ahead of us are the Jeziorosy and Wisaginia groups. Many other groups have also come to participate in the march. This shows that we want to express our Polish identity. This beautiful, traditional parade provides us with such an opportunity. It is a wonderful occasion to meet, be together, and show that there are many of us and that we are together. We are demonstrating how beautiful our Polish identity, our native language, our culture, and our national colors of white and red are for those of us living here in Lithuania,’ said the member of Parliament.”
Poles from Vilnius and all over Lithuania, guests from the Polish Motherland, and representatives of the Polonia marched in the parade. Local authorities and municipalities, Polish schools and artistic groups, social organisations, including numerous ZPL circles, were well represented.
“I am bursting with pride, and my soul and heart are rejoicing, seeing so many fellow countrymen and that we are together – in unity there is strength. In Vilnius, the capital of Divine Mercy, Poles are visible today like never before,” said Czesław Olszewski, a member of the Parliament of the Republic of Lithuania, who came to the march with his family – his wife and son. He said that he was very pleased that many distinguished guests from the motherland had come to the Polish parade in Vilnius, including members of parliament, senators, and representatives of many other offices. Taking the opportunity, he wished all Poles in Lithuania to stay true to their Polish identity, Christianity, and to love their homeland.”
“Above the heads of the march participants, Polish, Lithuanian, and Vilnius region flags were waving. The marchers were also holding white and red flags, balloons, flowers, carrying banners and posters, and some even had white and red umbrellas.”
An example for the youth.
“There was a solemn atmosphere, Polish songs were resounding, and joyful laughter was heard. ‘How long it’s been since we last saw each other!’ – every now and then there were also cheerful calls and greetings to long-unseen relatives and friends.”
“I am very happy that such a parade exists. Beautiful weather, beautiful atmosphere, beautiful colors, lots of young people,” said Maria Rekść, councilor and longtime mayor of the Vilnius region, sharing her impressions. She emphasized that the white and red parade is a great opportunity to “show our youth – our future – that Poles have been living in Lithuania for centuries, that they should not be ashamed to be Polish, that they should live with Polishness and pass it on to future generations.” She thanked ZPL and everyone who contributed to the organization of the Polishness Parade.”
Waldemar Urban, a councilman from the Vilnius region, emphasized that the Polish parade in Vilnius is not only a manifestation of Polishness but also of unity among Poles in Lithuania. “We have a beautiful holiday today. The multi-thousand-strong march of Poles has already become a tradition. As we can see, the weather is good every year. We, Poles living in the Vilnius region and throughout Lithuania, show our unity. The Polish parade is really joyful and uplifting. We are a united Polish community, which is a good example for all of our compatriots scattered throughout Europe and around the world,” said Waldemar Urban, a councilman from the Vilnius region.
Celebration of Polishness
Poles from further afield in Lithuania, from Lauda and Visaginas, taking part in the red-and-white parade, stressed that this was a particularly important celebration of Polishness for them. “This is a celebration of Polishness. For us, it is very important. Especially for the Poles in Samogitia, who don’t have Polishness in their everyday lives. It’s not like in the Vilnius region,” – said Irena Duchowska, president of the ZPL “Lauda” branch. She added that it is not easy for a large, organised group to come to Vilnius because “we are scattered and do not live in one place”. “And age-wise it is already very difficult. Many people would like to come, but their legs are weak. Unfortunately, most are over 60, 70, and 80 years old. We are getting old,” said Ms Irena with a hint of sadness.
“Poles in Vilnius manifest their national affiliation. It is very nice to see so many familiar faces and more. Poles from all over Lithuania came together. We couldn’t miss Poles coming from the Ignalina region, Visaginas, Jezioros, and from more remote regions of Lithuania. We are there and we also want to manifest our Polishness together,” said Zygfryd Binkiewicz, president of the Wisaginsk branch of the ZPL.
Like the march of the Polish hussars
In the group of visitors was Father Ryszard Halwa, a Pallottine priest from Poland. This is how he described the Polish march: “As one journalist said, this has both a patriotic and a religious dimension, as we manifest in this way the Polishness, the presence of Poles here in Vilnius in Lithuania. That this is a great force is evidenced by these countless thousands of people with red and white flags. As the president of the Union of Christian Families Boguslaw Rogalski said, this is a peaceful march. Let the Lithuanians see that this is a beautiful patriotic march’.
Dr. Boguslaw Rogalski, political scientist, advisor for international affairs of the EKR in the European Parliament, and president of the Union of Christian Families, admitted that he was accompanied by wonderful impressions and patriotic emotions. “Today the streets of Vilnius looked like a march of the Polish hussars. The beautiful red and white flags and the Hussar spirit, the Hussar wings of the Poles from Vilnius floated over the streets of Vilnius and left a lasting mark, I think, in the hearts of all those who marched with us today. They marched to celebrate the Day of Polonia and Poles Abroad with the Poles of Vilnius. It is the duty of every Polish patriot to be here, in Vilnius, to support our compatriots so that Polishness will always flourish here, so that Polishness, deeply rooted in the Vilnius Land, will never die,” said Dr. Bogusław Rogalski.
The symbolic culmination of the approximately two-hour-long Polish march was a Holy Mass at the Gate of Dawn at the miraculous image of Our Lady of the Dawn Gate. Participants in the march prayed for the intention of the Polonia and Poles abroad. The Mass was performed by priests from Vilnius and Poland. The choir of the State Folk Song and Dance Ensemble “Mazowsze” added splendour to the solemn service. This famous Polish group called the pearl in the crown of the Republic of Poland, later invited everyone to a concert at Vilnius Town Hall Square.
A magnificent performance by “Mazowsze” was a beautiful closure to the Vilnius celebrations of the Days of Polonia and Poles Abroad.
Translated by Jakub Teleszczuk within the framework of a traineeship programme of the European Foundation of Human Rights, www.efhr.eu.