100th Anniversary of Polish education in Paluknys

2015-11-27, 12:52
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100th Anniversary of Polish education in Paluknys Photo L24.lt

2015 year was a jubilee year for the Paluknys Secondary School (Trakai district). The 100th anniversary of the school was celebrated.


All main celebrations held throughout the school year, including the traditional alumni meeting, prom celebration, sports day, teacher's day etc., were celebrated under the theme of the 100th anniversary. The school participated in various projects, gained additional funds for costumes for the school assembly 'Strumyk' and for a photography exhibition 'The century-old school'.

The imposing gala, which took place in the mid of November, was dedicated to commemorate the Polish Independence Day, but it was also the culmination and summary of all year-long activities.

In the mirror of history
The history of the Polish alma mater in Paluknys like a mirror reflects the changes of political system and mentality of following generations of the local community in the country. Old-fashioned albums with photos of the most important school moments were stored in the school for years and were presented for guests during the jubilee.

The first teachers arrived in Paluknys already during World War I, in 1915. Unfortunately, the names of the very first educators are no longer available, just like the surname of teacher Albina, who started teaching children in their native language in 1917.

With time, Polish education in Paluknys took real shapes. In 1918-1921 lessons were taking place in the presbytery with teacher Helena Lastovska. In 1927 wooden school building was built, and one year before the outbreak of World War II, the school had grown to seven classes.

Unfortunately, the wooden school building was destroyed by fire in 1968 and it took three years to get new school.

Many teachers still remember wise late Lidija Gorpinič, who led the education institution in the 50s. During this period small primary schools were founded in the surrounding villages that used to let their students to continue learning at the school in Paluknys.

In 1964 the institution gained the title of the secondary school and its new principle was Vincenty Kamilevič. He died tragically in 1977, but his name is associated with school's great times and development. The first graduates finished the school in 1967. All in all, 48 graduation groups finished the school till now.

Multinational school
The times when a modest school accomodated three different language (Polish, Lithuanian and Russian) groups have already passed to the history. Late Stanislovas Kuodis was the principal of the multinational school. In that period (1977-1994) the number of students in the trilingual school increased to 420 and they were educated by 42 teachers.

The building became too small for such a rapidly growing institution. The construction of a new one began in 1988 and two years later it was already finished.

Four years later, at the initiative of the Lithuanian school community, the school was separated into the Polish-Russian school and the Lithuanian 'Medeinos' school led by Vytautas Gustas. The management of the Polish-Russian school was taken by Jan Zachaževski.

The Russian part of the school faded away by itself a few years later. The division, however, caused also a gradual reduction of Polish classes.

Obstacle race
Over the past century the history was not lenient to those who wanted their children to learn in ones' mother tongue in Paluknys. It was not easy during the World War I, in 1915, while doing first steps in school building, it was not easy in the days of the World War II and neither in conditions of widespread russification. It is not easy even today, when the school has to fight for every child, even for one raised in Polish culture, traditions and language, and go against the expansionary policy of the Lithuanian educational institution, fight for its existence and survival every day.

Exactly 15 years ago, on the eve of the jubilee celebrations, the Polish school in Paluknys faced a dilemma of joining the Lithuanian school, which would mean actual liquidation of Polish 12th grades and even complete disappearance of the Polish part of the educational institution with time.

The threat for the Polish school has not calmed down. The reality of the education in Paluknys over the past two decades has been similar to an obstacle race, when two competitors have unequal power. The Lithuanian 'Medeinos' school received the status of a gymnasium recently.

According to Agnieška Sakovič, the principal of the Secondary School in Paluknys, the community of the Polish school also dreams about such status, but the main reason which causes failure to meet these aspirations is the lack of students.

'There are 90 students learning in the school today, while our neighbours have twice more. The most numerous class (7th grade) consist of 11 students, while classes of grades 1-4, 2-3, 5-6 are combined. Older grades work as separate classes, although they are not numerous. We had eight graduates last year. We are happy that all of them passed their final exams successfully and continue to live on: four of them started studies in the branch of the University of Bialystok in Vilnius, one is studying in the Vilnius Technology, Business and Agriculture School, and others started to work. In turn in the group of preschool and kindergarten we have 20 children aged from 3 to 6 years at present. Parents are glad that their kids can attend our school, because they know that we have really good conditions here. And that makes us very happy,' said Agnieška Sakovič.

'We have to invent something interesting all the time, something that would be different and more attractive than in the Lithuanian school. Unfortunately, our good intentions often face resistance because of the lack of money. Small pupil's basket funds, because of small number of students, does not allow to have, for example, interactive whiteboards, which are used by our neighbours. We have a lot of ideas, but our possibilities are limited. It is also not easy as we have to share every space with the Lithuanian school, which has more students and occupies more and more of our rooms,' explained Agnieška Sakovič.
Because of the lack of space, Lithuanians use rooms located in the so-called Polish part of the school building, as well as the canteen and concerts hall. Polish kids have physical education classes in the sports hall located on the Lithuanian side.

Harmonious team
There are 28 teachers in the Polish school in total. Some of them are also employed by the 'Medeinos' Gymnasium. As it is usual, there are almost only women in the teachers team. To add, many young professionals joined the Paluknys school teachers team recently.

Geography teacher Stanislava Chalaburdo, who has been working in the school for 48 years, physicist Irena Šulc, Vaclav and Janina Gudalevič, Vaclava Klijevska create kind of a bridge between the past and the present. According to Chalaburdo, the trilingual school was the best example of true friendship.

'There was little space, but there was a lot of fun too,' emphasized the teacher. There was no such situation when one school prospered at the expense of another. Each of them lived its own life. There was no competition.

The school tries to be the cultural centre of the locality; it organizes various events, involving not only students and teachers, but also their parents, other residents of Paluknys and surroundings.

'Our team is very harmonious. My aspirations are supported by other teachers, we have great cooperation. Together we carry out a lot of creative ideas, because everyone understands that interesting projects are necessary for our children, their parents and our entire community,' summed up Sakovič.

The memorial plaque
The school administration and community believe that protest actions organized by the Forum of the Parents of Polish Schools in Lithuania, during which it was stressed that the status of the Secondary School in Plauknys should be kept, will fulfill their hopes. According to Agnieška Sakovič, the school feels a huge support and help from the councilors of the Trakai district municipality on behalf of the Electoral Action of Poles in Lithuania.

'We have many friends. We can always count on the support of Jaroslav Narkevič, Deputy Speaker of the Seimas of Lithuania. We also cooperate with the Association of Poles in Paluknys. Our mayor Marija Golubovska is always present at school events; the school also participates in various projects, organized by the municipality,' said Sakovič. The school is also supported by various organizations from Poland and private donors, providing financial help for daily school's needs.

On the day of celebration of the 100th anniversary of the Polish school in Paluknys, a memorial plaque commemorating the 100th anniversary of Polish education in Paluknys was unveiled. It was funded by the local branch of the Association of Poles in Lithuania.

'Let this plaque be a visible sign of our memory about the school history. We firmly believe that the future will bring us a lot of joy, an increasing number of students, fun from trips, winnings in competitions,' said Renata Juknienė, chairman of the local branch of the Association of Poles in Lithuania.

Good news
During such beautiful celebration, guests were congratulating and thanking for the efforts of teachers in educating young Poles. Consul-general Łukasz Kaźmierczak handed for the school the letter from HE Polish Ambassador in Lithuania Jarosław Czubiński with congratulations and sincere wishes of 'success in education and upbringing next Polish generations conscious of their Polish identity, fully-fledged and valuable citizens of Lithuania'.

'Every person has the right to choose in a free democratic country, but we must always remember that everyone has also the right to traditions, one's roots and education in one's mother tongue. This school gives the opportunity to receive education in your mother tongue from kindergarten till 12th grade, and it is you, Paluknys residents, who will decide whether to use this right in the future,' said Narkevič and expressed his hope that the prolongation of the period when it would be possible to apply for the gymnasium status to two years will bring positive changes for the school of Paluknys.

Coucilors from the Electoral Action of Poles in Lithuania, administration of the Trakai district municipality led by mayor Edita Rudelienė, vice mayor Marija Puč and director of the administration Jonas Liesys also attended the celebration. Puč conveyed wishes from Valdemar Tomaševski, EAPL chairman, member of the European Parliament. The guests also brought some good news - both schools will be renovated next year.

Especially beautiful gesture from the teachers team was visit of the graves of all late teachers during last autumn holidays. During the celebration their memories were also honoured by the minute of silence.
To add, the Polish school in Paluknys was honoured by the presence of the government representative for the district of Vilnius, Audrius Skaistys. Large group of friends and donors, on whose help the school can always count, attended the ceremony too.

Book of history – still open
Despite all difficulties, the local polish school still exists and educates subsequent generations. Its history book, as it was stressed during the jubilee celebrations, is still open. It will be writen by all these great students who helped to organize the ceremony and who are not indifferent to the future of the school.

Irena Mikulevič

MSZ ENG"This project is co-financed from the funds granted by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Poland."

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