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Poland's Lithuanian minorities uncertain about ruling bloc's initiatives

  • 2016-12-15
  • BNS/TBT Staff

VILNIUS - Members of the Lithuanian national minority residing in Poland say they are witnessing increasingly radical sentiments by Polish ruling parties on national minorities, adding they are unsure of their future.

In their words, the uncertainty is fueled by the parliamentary initiative to equate "Lithuanian nationalism" with a totalitarian regime.

"We are observing one thing — the indeed increasingly radical beliefs in Warsaw, in the ranks of the current ruling party; we truly do not know what to expect," Algirdas Vaicekauskas, the leader of the Sejny-based Society of Poland's Lithuanians, told BNS.

"We find it very strange that the amendments include a concept of 'Lithuanian nationalism.' I don't know that the Senate members have in mind in the initiative — are these Lithuanian symbols, is it (the Lithuanian national emblem) Vytis, is it the tricolour (Lithuanian national flag), or monuments? We don't know whether the monument to Antanas Baranauskas in Sejny would be viewed as Lithuanian nationalism, which the legal amendments will ban," he added.

"We hear signals about possible review of content of textbooks used in schools, about some controllers coming and checking our library. I understand the need to ban content that promotes nationalism, communism, fascism, and other totalitarian regimes. This I can understand. But I cannot imagine how we wouldn't be able to teach the Lithuanian history (by the Lithuanian curriculum) in Lithuanian-language schools," said Veaicekauskas.

Regarding the Senate's initiative, which was excluded from the agenda on Thursday, he voiced hope that "common sense would prevail."

Terese Uzdilaite, the leader of the Suwalki branch of the Lithuanian community in Poland, also said other national minorities sensed heightened political tensions over statements of some ruling politicians.

"This sounds very threatening. We raise no political issues ... Everyone's afraid of this administration; there will be extremities, we sense it. Other communities are also discussing what they should do. The fearful times of the Solidarity are coming back. There were many things back then, including intimidation," she stressed.

Uzdilaite says that Lithuanians are in good contact with local Polish communities in Punsk, Sejny, and Suwalki, with no tensions felt there.

According to the proposal registered in the Polish parliament, "fascism, German Nazism, Ukrainian, and Lithuanian nationalism, Prussian, Russian, and German militarism" would be considered "other totalitarian regimes" in addition to communism.

The resolution was initiated by Jacek Kurzepa, a lawmaker of Poland's ruling Law and Justice party.

The amendments suggesting to equate "Lithuanian nationalism" with a totalitarian regime was excluded from Thursday's agenda of the Polish parliament. Lithuania's Foreign Minister Linas Linkevicius dismissed the initiative as a misunderstanding, which was solved, as Lithuania had expected.

"Different ideas arise in parliament, including our parliaments. We expected that this misunderstanding would be sorted out and this has happened," he said during a news briefing.