• May 28, 2023
  • 203

“Polish Flowers” is not just a culture but the vast community of Vilnius

On Sunday, 28th of May, the long-awaited 23rd traditional Jan Gabriel Mincewicz Festival of Polish Culture “Polish Flowers” was held in Nemenčinė. The festival is the largest cultural event of Poles in Lithuania, organised by the Union of Poles in Lithuania. Dozens of well-known and well-liked ensembles from Vilnius and the Vilnius Region as well as from further corners of Lithuania, and also guests from Poland and Ukraine attended the spectacular and extremely colourful event. In total more than 1200 artists arrived, whose performances were admired by a multitude of spectators.

“Polish Flowers” is the oldest festival of Polish culture in Lithuania, dating back to 1989. Its initiator and organiser was the then president of the Union of Poles in Lithuania, the director of the Song and Dance Ensemble “Vilnius” – the late Gabriel Jan Mincewicz, who then for many years was a tireless organiser and director of this festival.

Continuing this rich tradition, nurturing the values of cultivating the mother tongue, the Union of Poles in Lithuania, for the twenty-third time, invited the traditional festivities to the amphitheatre in Nemenčinė.

A traditional Holy Mass in the Church of St Michael the Archangel in Nemenčinė preceded the festival’s opening ceremony. The Mass was celebrated with the intention of the Union of Poles in Lithuania, all Polish ensembles active in Lithuania – for their management, artists, and spectators. 

After the service, a colourful and singing procession of bands taking part in the festival set off through the city streets.

The festival began with a presentation and welcome to all the numerous ensembles who had arrived, as well as a reminder of the history of “Polish Flowers”. The irreplaceable Czesława Szablińska hosted the festival.

Among the guests who came to the festivities were: Polish Ambassador to Lithuania Konstanty Radziwill and his wife, MP Anna Maria Siarkowska, Member of the Seimas Czesław Olszewski Nominated by: Lithuanian Poles Electoral Action-Union of Christian Families Political Group, President of the Council of the World Polonia, Vice President of ZPL and EAPL-CFA Jarosław Narkiewicz, Head of Consular and Polish Diaspora Affairs Division Consul Irmina Szmalec, President of the Union of Christian Families and MEP of the 6th term Bogusław Rogalski, Mayor of the Vilnius Regional Municipality Robert Duchniewicz, Director of Administration of the Vilnius Regional Municipality Władysław Kondratowicz, Head of the Department of Culture, Sports and Tourism of the Vilnius Regional Municipality Lilia Andruszkiewicz, President of the Vilnius and Vilnius Land Society Józef Szyłejko, councillors from EAPL-CFA, presidents of circles and board members of the Union of Poles in Lithuania, Deputy Mayor of the district Mrągowo Tadeusz Łapka, Chairman of the Municipal Council in Mrągowo Henryk Nikonor, Vice-chairman of the Municipal Council in Mrągowo Bogdan Moroz, Director of the Cultural Centre in Mrągowo Agnieszka Michalska, Barbara Morawska, President of the Assosiation of Vulinu anf Vilinus Land Enthusiasts in Mrągowo, and President of the Assosiation on “Polish Community” circle in Węgorzewo Wiesław Pietrzak. 

The President of the Union of Poles in Lithuania, a Member of the European Parliament Waldemar Tomaszewski, and the vice-presidents of this largest Polish organisation in Lithuania Maria Rekść, Waldemar Urban, Albert Narwojsz and Edyta Klimaszewska conducted the official opening.

After the official start of the festivities, the combined choir conducted by Wioleta Cereszka sang the ‘Rota’.

“Polish Flowers” is not only a culture but a huge community.

“Praised be Jesus Christ! With this catholic, old Polish greeting, I would like to greet everyone: Your Excellency, Ambassador of our most glorious Republic, honoured artists, 1200 people will perform on this stage today, team leaders, we welcome you all and at the same time thank you for this beautiful festival, for the “Polish Flowers”, which were sown by the late Jan Gabriel Mincewicz and the Union of Poles in Lithuania 34 years ago”. With these words, the president of the Union of Poles in Lithuania, Waldemar Tomaszewski, welcomed all the crowds gathered in the Forest Opera in Niemenčinė.

The president of the Union of Poles in Lithuania also reminded the audience that next year on 26 May we will be celebrating the 35th anniversary of the festival. 

Waldemar Tomaszewski also pointed out how important it is in today’s world to nurture culture and thanked all those who make this effort: “Dear compatriots, in a changing world, when borders are disappearing, we always emphasise that the strength of a nation will be its culture and its mother tongue, which is nurtured by this culture. This celebration is not only about culture; it is about the vast community of Vilnius and our guests from the Motherland; it is about our multi-generational families. It is this togetherness that the Union of Poles in Lithuania is building here in the Vilnius region. A great pillar of this togetherness is our tireless team leaders and artists. I would like to thank them sincerely – all of them together and each of them individually. I would like to thank those who started these festivals: Natalia Sosnowska, Leonarda Klukowska, for the present organisers: Violeta Cereszka, German Komarowski and all those known and unknown who organise these festivals,” he said.

Words of thanks also went to the Plenipotentiary of thePolish Government for Polonia and Poles Abroad, Minister Jan Dziedziczak, who supported the organisation of this beautiful and colourful festival.

The President of the Union of Poles in Lithuania also emphasised that the current festivities now officially bear the name of “the indefatigable Jan Gabriel Mincewicz” “We are already inviting you to the next year in advance. Long live Jan Gabriel Mincewicz’s Polish Culture Fest “Polish Flowers”, long live Poland and Lithuania, long live our homeland Vilnius!” – he said.

“Polish Flowers” is a testimony to a rich tradition and commitment to patriotic values.

The Ambassador of the Republic of Poland to Lithuania, Konstanty Radziwiłł, read out a letter from the Chancellery of the President of the Republic of Poland, addressed to the festival participants by Minister Andrzej Dera. In the letter, the Minister, on behalf of the Head of State, sent greetings to all participants of the “Polish Flowers”. This is a testimony to the rich tradition and special attachment of the local Poles to nurturing patriotic values. The fact that, since its inception, this festival has been developing rapidly and invariably remains the largest cultural event for Poles in Lithuania deserves special recognition,” – reads the letter.

Andrzej Dera then thanked you for your organisational efforts and social activism, “which serve to nurture Polish cultural heritage for future generations. It is your work that makes it possible today for everyone to enjoy the unique beauty of our native culture, maintaining a sense of unity,” he wrote.

The Ambassador of the Republic of Poland to Lithuania, Konstanty Radziwill, thanked for the invitation to the festivities and wished all those gathered a great time. At the same time, he expressed his respect for the organisers of the festivities: “You can indeed see the community here; it is something great. I am happy that so many of us are here; it is a good omen for the future. We are strong, we are a community and may it always stay that way!” – he said.

“Community is a gift to be learnt from you.”

Anna Maria Siarkowska, MP for the Polish Parliament, emphasised that she was attending the Nieman festival for the umpteenth time. “A longing and yearning for Polishness, which you have preserved in your speech, in your hearts, as well as in your customs and culture, which you cultivate so beautifully, brought me here,” she said.

“I wonder what is so special about Vilnius that makes you miss it so much? I think it is this sense of community that you nurture, this strength of culture, Polish customs, and national traditions that you preserve. This is a great gift that you bring as Poles living in the former Eastern Borderlands, a gift that you bring to all Poles because we can learn this community from you,” said the MP from the Motherland.

“34 years ago, Jan Gabriel Mincewicz planted this beautiful garden of flowers.”

Czesław Olszewski, Member of the Seimas, Nominated by: Lithuanian Poles Electoral Action-Union of Christian Families Political Group, expressed his joy at being able to meet in person the “legend of Vilnius Region” Jan Gabriel Mincewicz, who “34 years ago, like a gardener, planted this beautiful garden of flowers, nurtured it for 27 years and for seven years now, when he passed away to the Lord, this beautiful tradition has continued”.

The Member of the Seimas also thanked Waldemar Tomaszewski for overseeing the celebration; words of thanks were also addressed to the Union of Poles in Lithuania and all those who contributed to the organisation of the holiday.

“I wish all of us that the Holy Spirit will strengthen our faith and especially our love for our beloved homeland of Vilnius, following the example of the late John Gabriel Mincewicz,” he said in conclusion.

The president of the Union of Poles in Lithuania, Waldemar Tomaszewski, the director of the Nemenčinė Multifunctional Cultural Centre, German Komarowski, and the director of the Multifunctional Cultural Centre in Rudominė, Violeta Cereszka performed a beautiful show for the closing ceremony.

To sum up the 23rd Jan Gabriel Mincewicz Festival of Polish Culture “Polish Flowers”, Waldemar Tomaszewski asked the chairman of the Council of the World Polonia Jarosław Narkiewicz to speak.

“Being here today, we see that not only can we, but we must be proud; not only can we, but we must be happy because we are on our own land, we are among our own. We are passing on what our great-grandfather has handed us down. It is important that we have preserved the intergenerational bond,” he said. He stressed that this is envied in many countries about the Poles in Lithuania.

“We are at home; we are our own; let us be strong in unity; let us cherish this, for it is a gift we cannot lose”. J. Narkiewicz appealed to those gathered.

***

“Polish Flowers” is the oldest festival of Polish culture in Lithuania and the largest cultural event for local Poles.

The Union of Poles in Lithuania in the late 1980s and early 1990s initiated festivals of Polish culture on the wave of national revival in Lithuania. The first festival – “Polish Flowers” – was held in Nemenčinė on 13 May 1989. The then president of ZPL, the director of the Song and Dance Ensemble “Vilnius Region” – the late Gabriel Jan Mincewicz, who was then a tireless organiser and director of the festival for many years, initiated and organised it. 

Following the passing of Gabriel Jan Mincewicz to the Lord in 2016, the Vilnius Regional Government and the Union of Poles in Lithuania decided to continue organising the “Polish Flowers”. The organisers of the festivities stressed that both local residents and local Polish bands felt the need to resume the festivities.

The Polish culture festival “Polish Flowers” in Nemenčinė has a rich tradition. This spectacle, with the participation of nearly 1,000 ensembles and, this year, many more, is a wonderful opportunity to celebrate the beauty of the heritage of Polish culture. It is also a symbolic place of the general meeting of ensembles from the Vilnius and Kaunas regions as well as from abroad on the stage of the Nemenčinė theatre.

The festival contributed to creating many school and amateur ensembles, which to this day bring together Poles in the Vilnius region.

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

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