School returns to Polish town

  • 2005-12-14
  • From wire reports
VILNIUS - A Lithuanian language school in the Polish town of Sejny has reopened after 85 years. Officially re-established on Dec. 10, the new school is expected to become the cradle of Lithuanian education and culture among Poland's Lithuanian society.
The ceremony was attended by community representatives, Lithuanian and Polish authorities and other guests.

Antanas Petrauskas, director general of the governmental Department of Ethnic Minorities and Lithuanians Living Abroad, said that the school had been built with the government's funds and had not received any financial support during four months of the current academic year.

"So far, neither the Polish government nor the Sejny local government have granted a single cent for the construction, equipment, furnishing and supplies of training materials," Petrauskas stressed.

The school, estimated at 5.2 million litas (1.5 million euros) was built in seven months, with a gym to be started next year and a swimming pool sometime in the future.

As Irena Gasperaviciute, head of the Lithuanian community in Poland, explained, the situation in Sejny is completely different from that in Punsk, where Lithuanian schools were first opened after World War II. In Sejny the first Lithuanian-language classes were only opened in 1989.

"Lithuanian life needed to be rebuilt in Sejny and awaken the need for it, because the need tends to diminish amid lack of cultural life and education," she said.

The school complex, which comprises a kindergarten, school and gymnasium, will have an enrollment of 66 students this year. Its total capacity is 120 students.

The latest census in Poland suggests that more than 5,600 Lithuanians reside in Poland, mainly in Punsk and Sejny.

There are currently 14 Lithuanian education institutions in Poland attended by 807 students.