Artur Górski: so that not only Poles would attend Polish schools

2015-11-30, 13:02
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Artur Górski: so that not only Poles would attend Polish schools Photo

We spoke to the Member of the Parliament of the Republic of Poland Artur Górski about the problems of Polish education in Lithuania, the weakness for Borderlands residents, but also about the new openness of Polish authorities to Poles outside Polish borders. Artur Górski is in some sense an expert of Polish minority Lithuania.

L24: First of all, we would like to congratulate you once again on your mandate of a Member of the Polish Parliament. It is already for the fourth time when the Warsaw residents trusted you. It is really impressive.
Artur Górski: I am not just a deputy of Warsaw. According to the Constitution, each deputy is the representative of the Nation, mandatory of Sovereign, not only Poles living in the country, but scattered around the world, including the ones living outside the eastern Polish border, on the former Borderlands of Poland. We are one big family, national community. And in my opinion, people from Borderlands are even better. They are well mannered, more attached to their ancestral lands and faith and they are more patriotic, because their patriotism is improved in a daily battle to maintain Polishness. I admire their determination and loyalty to principles.

L24: We address our questions to you as an expert of the Polish minority in Lithuania. You have been dealing with the problems of Poles in Lithuania for many years, so the question arises - why are you interested in Borderlands people?
Artur Górski: I have great fondness for the Vilnius Region, for this treasure which was lost by Poland. Šalčininkai district is particularly close to me, it is like my second homeland. I deeply respect its people too, who are so welcoming, open and friendly, so Polish. As a member of the Polish Parliament I feel responsible for them in some sense; I feel moral obligation to support them, to take care of their material and spiritual welfare.
One of the most important issues is the question of Polish education in Lithuania, and - above all - protection of the threatened Polish language. People have to speak up for the possibility to use Polish in public life, in their identity documents, on plates with topographic names in areas densely inhabited by this national minority.

L24: You are the author of many desideratum and questions to the government about problems of the Polish minority in Lithuania. Very often they are concerning Polish education in this country. Are there any changes in the situation of the Polish minority?

Artur Górski: The government of Lithuania has only one argument. Lithuanian politicians claim that their country - apart from Poland - is the only one, where Poles can be educated in Polish from kindergarden to university. But this is kind of an illusion, because it is being restricted everywhere. For example, there are so many strict rules concerning opening and running a kindergarden, that there is no real possibility of establishing them in older buildings, which are really numerous. Number of lessons with the Polish instruction language is being systematically reduced; Polish schools are being downgraded. To add, municipal schools with the Polish instruction language are being closed under the pretext of population decline while Lithuanian schools are being protected at the same time even if the number of students is smaller. And finally, modern 'ministerial' schools with the state instruction language are being founded next to the municipal schools in the Vilnius Region. Such schools are supposed to attract Polish children who later undergo the process of Lithuanization.

L24: More and more often we hear about attempts to deplete Polish education. Poles answer with increasing determination and obstinacy to such actions. In what light do you see this battle of the Polish schools from some further perspective, from Poland?

Artur Górski: Unfortunately, the previous government proved to be completely ineffective. Minister Sikorski was not competent in the field of Polish-Lithuanian relations. He was too emotional rather than being rational, he allowed others to provoke him. He had no one and only idea, he rather threw himself into extreme attitudes. He did all this behind the backs of our compatriots, without taking their expectations into account, sometimes even acting against their will. Therefore, it is not a surprise that Poles from the Vilnius Region lost their confidence in the Polish authorities; they lost faith in Poland and stopped thinking that Poland will support them. They thought that if they do not win the battle of their rights as citizens of the State of Lithuania, nobody will do it for them. That is why they are so determined and distrustful. We must restore their faith in Poland, their sense of community. And support them in real.

L24: We heard, that there are plans to renew the activities of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Sejm and Senate of the Republic of Poland and the Seimas of the Republic of Lithuania. Do you think it will bring any tangible results for the Polish minority in Lithuania?

Artur Górski: Polish Foreign Minister Witold Waszczykowski already had a conversation with the representative of the Lithuanian Government. Minister Waszczykowski told that the Polish Government wants to renew Polish-Lithuanian relations and reach significant improvement of our mutual relations. There were many cases when governments came to agreements in individual issues, but everything was often destroyed by the Lithuanian Seimas. And here comes the important role of the Assembly, whose works have been suspended by Sikorski for almost a few years.

Meanwhile, members of all parties meet in the Assembly; there is an opportunity to exchange views between the members of Poland and Lithuania, but also to get rid of prejudices and fears. We have to speak wisely and do not necessarily start from the most difficult and troublesome matters. In our arguments we have to take into account the specificities of the Lithuanian nation, its concerns and expectations, and, finally, Lithuanian interests. We should begin with economic relations, which seem to be less controversial for Lithuanians. And I am sure that if general Polish-Lithuanian relations improve, the situation of the Polish minority will improve too. We have to take such actions that will make Lithuanian politicians aware that the respect of the rights of minorities is in their interest.

L24: Polish schools in Lithuania and Polish social organizations, patriotic media, etc. used to get an important help from Poland. Do you think it will be possible to maintain such help or maybe even increase it?

Artur Górski: Political support and material help for the Polish minority on the Borderlands is one of the priorities of the current government. We should of course support Polish media, but we should also try to get back to the times when the channels of Polish national television (not only TV Polonia) were transmitted in Lithuania. Obviously, support of education, renovation of schools and modern equipment of educational institutions is very important. These schools should be competitive with Lithuanian schools; they should attract not only Polish children, but Lithuanian and other national minorities too.

I will encourage the government to develop support programs for Polish farmers and producers form the Vilnius Region. This will facilitate their contacts with buyers of their products in Poland. It will be profitable for both parts. Finally, I am going to request the Head of Civil Service to prepare an information project, aimed at young Polish elites in Lithuania, inviting them to work in the Polish government administration. It can be possible thanks to the current Law on Civil Service binding in Poland.

L24: Polish community in Lithuania is fighting for the traditional model of Polish education, so that all the lessons in Polish schools would be held in the Polish language; the community is also fighting for the liquidation of discrimination in graduation exam of the Lithuanian language. How Poland can support these important demands of Poles in Lithuania?

Artur Górski : Of course, the government must monitor the implementation of the provisions of the Polish - Lithuanian Treaty and make relevant European institutions to control whether Lithuania executes the rights regarding the protection of national minorities, to which it, as the EU member state, has committed. The problem with the Lithuanians is that they believe that they comply with all the provisions of the Treaty and European law in its entirety, and in our opinion it is done only partially. At the moment we are in a kind of traps, but we have a chance to get out of it.
The second very important issue is the support of the Poles protesting in Vilnius so that they would not feel alone. Furthermore, the Foreign Ministry must carefully listen to the voices of the Polish minority and treat the leaders of the Electoral Action of Poles in Lithuania as partners. They know the reality of Lithuania best and know exactly in what way the Polish government can help them. Therefore, the Foreign Ministry must agree upon the Polish policy in Lithuania regarding the minority issues with its representatives. We must treat this issue as an integral part of our Polish -Lithuanian relations, in close conjunction with other issues such as economics or energetics. I am convinced that we can do it with such decisive and consistent approach and full understanding of Lithuanian expectations!

L24: Thank you for the conversation.

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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