Polish PM visits Lithuania amidst anti-Lithuanian hysteria in Poland

  • 2011-09-07
  • By Rokas M. Tracevskis

VILNIUS - On Sept. 2, the Warsaw-backed Lithuanian Polish radicals rented buses and brought almost 600 Slavic school-children from the eastern borderland with Belarus (some  Russian kids from Klaipeda also were present) to demonstrate in front of the Lithuanian president’s palace in Vilnius against the introduction of some lessons in the Lithuanian language on geography, history (only Lithuania-related themes on geography and history will be taught in Lithuanian) and civic society matters in Slavic schools and the equalization of the level of the exam on the Lithuanian language in all Lithuanian schools.

This exam’s level is scheduled to be equalized in 2013. Now there is a policy of positive discrimination, which means that pupils of Slavic-language schools pass an easier exam on the Lithuanian language than the rest of schools. It helps graduates of Slavic schools to get good marks on the exam and to more easily get into universities. However, professors at universities complain that such students have a poor level of understanding of the Lithuanian language and poor writing skills in Lithuanian.

“The current ruling coalition of conservatives and liberals is anti-national!” shouted Valdemar Tomasevski, leader of Lithuania’s Polish nationalists’ political party, the Polish Electoral Action, at the rostrum placed in front of the Lithuanian presidential palace. He stated that Belarusians, Poles and Russians should not surrender to the Lithuanian policy on education. The strike in Slavic schools against the new law on education was announced at this rally (it was supported only by the administrations of ‘Polish’ schools, while the majority of ‘Russian’ schools, as well as ‘Belarusian’ and ‘Jewish’ schools stay calm). “No! – to denationalization of our children” was written on an English-language poster in this protest rally (the poster’s language unedited).

Lithuanian President Dalia Grybauskaite, reacting to the rally, stated that the Lithuanian state’s attitude towards ethnic minorities is the best in the world. Most commentators on Lithuanian Internet sites pointed out that there are no state-financed ethnic minority-language schools in France and the majority of other Western European countries, and Lithuania would better follow the Western practice.

On the same day, Sept. 2, Poland’s Goebbels propaganda-style main TV channel, TVP, reporting about the demonstration in Vilnius, also showed the warrior-like statements of Polish Foreign Minister Radoslaw Sikorski. TVP even managed somewhat to justify the fascist  vandalism against Lithuanian cultural monuments and Lithuanian-language inscriptions in Poland on Aug. 22-23, as well as to show a Polish-language sentence said by Vytautas Liskauskas (Witold Liszkowski in his Polish ID), head of the ethnically Lithuanian municipality of Punsk in Poland, who complained about the lack of schoolbooks in the native language, as the complaining of a Lithuanian Pole (maybe TVP needed somebody who speaks good Polish, because Lithuania’s ‘Polish’ leaders speak with an Alexander Lukashenko-style accent).

The TVP news reporter, standing in front of the Lithuanian embassy in Warsaw, shouted: we, Poland, should take care of “108 of our schools in Lithuania” (it is unclear why he used the word “our” – these schools are financed by the Lithuanian state) and ended his report with a statement that Poles have lived in the Vilnius region since the world’s creation. Actually, Lithuanian and Polish linguists present a different picture. The number of ‘Poles’ in the Vilnius region increased dramatically due to the massive closure of Lithuanian-language schools by Polish authorities when the region was occupied by Poland from 1920-1939. Another wave of Polonization started at the order of the Kremlin from 1950-1955, when 367 Polish-language schools were established in the Vilnius region by the Soviet communists, and many Lithuanian schools were closed in this south-eastern region of Lithuania.

On Sept. 4, Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk arrived on a sudden visit to the Lithuanian sea resort of Palanga to meet Lithuanian PM Andrius Kubilius. Tusk wanted to discuss the Lithuanian educational policy. Both sides agreed to create a joint experts’ group on ethnic minority issues in both countries, though Kubilius could simply send Tusk to the Court of Justice of the EU in Luxembourg – Lithuania would be supported by that court regarding all of the Polish accusations. Recently, this court ridiculed Poland’s noises about the lack of Polish diacritics in Lithuanian passports.

Anyway, Tusk is more diplomatic than his foreign minister. “There is no doubt that Poles in Lithuania should know the Lithuanian language, as well as the Polish language,” Tusk said after the meeting. Kubilius pointed out that Lithuania’s Polish Electoral Action has started its election campaign (the parliamentary elections in Lithuania are scheduled for 2012). He also said that the Lithuanian state gives 20 percent more per pupil in a minority-language school than for a pupil in a ‘Lithuanian’ school and expressed regret that half of Lithuanian-language schools (where only a small portion of subjects are taught in Lithuanian, unlike in Polish-language schools in Lithuania where 90 percent of subjects are taught in Polish) were closed by Poland’s authorities in the recent decade. “Two more small schools are planned for closure,” Kubilius said about the situation of ethnic Lithuanians in Poland. Lithuania’s Polish Union, the organization with close ties to the Polish Electoral Action, announced that there will be no strike in ‘Polish’ schools in the Vilnius region at the moment – so, the strike started on Friday and it was suspended on Sunday.

After this meeting, Tusk went to Vilnius to participate in a Polish-language Mass in St. Theresa Church. He made a speech to Lithuania’s Poles in the church. “Poland’s relations with Lithuania will depend on Lithuania’s relations with the Polish minority,” Tusk said at the church. If German Chancellor Angela Merkel would say such words about Poland’s German minority in a church in Wroclaw, she would be forced by the German political establishment to resign the same day. However, Poland is a cultural exception within the EU. Tusk, making such a statement, made good PR for his ruling party – the elections of the Polish parliament and the Senate will be held on Oct. 9, and the election campaign has reached its peak in Poland, where imperialism still dominates in mindsets of the electorate. All this Polish chauvinistic entertainment resulted from the fact that nobody in Lithuania speaks about the strategic partnership with Poland anymore – Lithuania made its choice, which is Baltoskandija. This term is used by Lithuanian Foreign Minister Audronius Azubalis to describe the community of the three Baltic countries and the five Scandinavian countries.