Poles Apart

Plight of the Eagle
Plight of the Eagle

After the previous post (click here) I was surprised by the serendipity in my choice of topic after I discovered an article in Dziennik about the state of the Polish language around the world. Poland’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs recently published a report entitled: “The Situation of Polish People Abroad”. This is the most detailed report of its kind ever published and it paints a worrying picture for the future of Polish people and the Polish language abroad.

Radek On a Mission
Radek On a Mission

The report looked at thirty countries around the world, most of them European states. According to Radosław Sikorski, Poland’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, the purpose of the report is ascertain what particular problems affect the Polonia (the Polish community outside Poland) around the globe so that the Ministry can then implement a plan to help them tackle these difficulties.

South America Tops
South America Tops

In the report we find several important pieces of information. Firstly, the number of Poles living in each country, the number of Polish schools and the local state’s attitude and policy with regards to Polish people. The report shows that Canada, Brazil, Argentina and Sweden stand out as the ‘best’ countries for Poles to live in, that is their rights are respected most in those states.

Curie-ing Favour with the French?
Curie-ing Favour with the French?

However, in the other countries found in the report, Polish ex-pats and the Polish language have little chance for support. In France, Polish children may be surprised to learn that the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising and the Warsaw Uprising were one in the same and there was much anti-Semitic feeling during WWII; in Germany they are taught that Chopin and Marie Curie-Skłodowska were French.

United in Intolerance?
United in Intolerance?

This report, once again, shows us that any talk of European solidarity and tolerance is just that – talk. Actions speak louder than words, of course, and if we truly are committed to building a united Europe then it is probably about time to do away with nationalism and intolerance. This goes for ALL the countries of the European Union, Poland included. Pie in the sky? I hope not…


17 thoughts on “Poles Apart

  1. I’m pretty sure that (a bit more than 20 years ago) nearly nothing was taught at school about Polish politics/people/society during WWII … except geographical location of death camps, fact that some Jews were saved by Poles who resisted, and that Nazi occupation was particularly hard. Nowadays, I don’t know…
    But I do agree with you that our educational systems shall not only provide for national histories but as well for qualitative European history.
    As far as Chopin and Marie Sklodowska-Curie (sorry, no l\ on my typepad) are concerned, my feeling is that both are technically both Polish and French, because of their respective personal histories. (As I didn’t met them personally, I’m not able to know their intimate feeling about this nationality question but would respect their intimate choice.) Still, I’m happy to share respect and proudness of this two persons with Polish people!

  2. Agree.

    On the one hand there is the Polish nationalists’ martyrology in which Poland can do no wrong and on the other hand there is the ignorant and often dismissive attitude of the rest of the world towards Poland.

    They both feed of each other.

  3. Oh, they BASHED Lithuania much more than anyone else in that script, lol, because of what goals they want and strongly hope to achieve in the part of Lithuania which was suddenly made a part of Poland in 1920: the right to use Polish letters, manner of writing and no Lithuanian grammatical endings in names and surnames of people who say they are Poles in the Lithuanian passports, Polish versions and random pseudo Polish versions of street names of settlements where people who call themselves Poles live, no matter how Lithuanians would feel about it. E. g. Kiemelių (Yard’s) street rewriten to the random pseudoPolish Kemelu (no sense) that some random person came with and labeled his house on the street corner, ignoring and spitting on the laws of Lithuania and all common sense. Poland and Poles did already undermine Lithuanianness of people who lived in that part of the country in 1920-1939. Poland doesn’t want to think and see how do Lithuanians in that part of LT and elsewhere within Lithuania feel about the Polonisation of their homeland forced on from Poland now either, it seems. Poles don’t want to learn Lithuanian properly there again – they wanna get the exams of Lithuanian light, force Lithuanians speak Polish if they wanna work in public adn places and administration of that county. Poles spit on Lithuanians and their culture gladly again. All that despite that Poles from Poland were allowed to teach the locals Polish again after they had already lost their ability to speak it during the Soviet times or never spoke proper Polish being Belarussians or Lithuanians, just Polonized due to former greater prestige of that language than of their suppressed/oppressed native languages, cultures, identities, opportunities there.

    1. The Poles certainly do have a lot to answer for with regards Lithuania. However, I think it’s a little bit more complicated than the Poles “spitting” on the Lithuanians and treating them with disdain. Thankfully, both nations are together in the EU and for several years have had pretty decent relations. Let’s hope they start working together like ‘goo’ neighbours. 🙂

  4. In earlier centuries, Lithuanian-speakers were reduced to quiet peasants. They had to learn Polish or Russian before coming to live to Lithuania’s cities. They had been spitted on as the lowest social stratum everywhere in their own country for centuries.
    For Poland to expect that Lithuanians would still gladly Polonize themselves and part of their country and say yes, Vilnius, Wilno, Vilna shall stay dominated by Poles/Polish speakers no matter what and Lithuanians shall be disdained by them for coming to live to it and be themselves – Lithuanians – there alone, that IS continued spitting on the Lithuanian culture. To be angry that Lithuanians have Lithuanized this or that in Vilnius/Wilno/Vilna/Вильна, knowing how much was and still is being Polonized in that county, it IS spitting on the Lithuanian culture. To be THAT disrespectful to the fact that Lithuanians use the Lithuanian alphabet and grammar in the Lithuanian passports and Lithuanian names of places there, where Polish or half-Polish speakers don’t even have common usual, traditional names for places, there only certain obviously later Polonized versions of the older Lithuanian names of places exist or existed and are not used by everyone nor even every Pole. Poland shall remember that most real Poles from Wilno were taken/driven/exiled to Poland after the terrible 1939. What remained? Certainly a lot less than what had been, and Lithuania[ns] shall feel virtually no guilt and disdain for that lessening.;)

    There are good relations between the nations officially, there may be good relations between many polite representatives of the nations, but I say Lithuania is BASHED majorly and unfairly by Poland of Kaczynski now again, and that’s not because Lithuanians oppress Poles, try to make Polishness vanish or see Poles and Poland badly (it was mostly our common history, many events had common value to both nations; we try to see history from several different perspectives now ;)), in a really hostile way. Lithuania is BASHED and lied about because Poland and Poles want to undermine Lithuanianness of a certain county and HOPE to achieve even more of Polonization of that county right now. If Lithuania would really be clearly rigid, unpushable towards even greater Polonization of itself, Poland would calmly enjoy what lot Poles already have there.

    I don’t have anything against Polish culture (even in Lithuania), but I have lots against certain arrogance of certain uncultured Poles.

    How nice it is for Lech Kaczynski to come and say: “you [idiots] called me Lechas, but I am Lech!:D” pretending that you don’t know, or not knowing, that the Lithuanian language (grammar) itself doesn’t tolerate words like Lech, therefore every Lithuanian says Lechas, Lecho, Lechui, Lechą, Lechu, Lechai… even though they know the real name is Lech. How dare Poles tell ‘Landsbergisowi’ instead of ‘Landsbergiui’, if they protest against ‘Lechas’? How dare Poles write ‘Szimaszius’ instead of ‘Šimašius’, if they protest against ‘Kačinskis’? When they blame Lithuania that hard, they spit on Lithuania. 😉 They just don’t see that both Lithuania and Poland are equal. Both are national states with minorities. There are similar problems to solve on both sides, Lithuanians are not more nationalistic and not more hostile to their ethnic minorities than what Poles are hostile to their Lithuanian and other minorities where they’ve still survived. There are different people and opinions on both sides, there has to be respect for opinions, there has to be a honest inner discussion, not blaming, cursing, blatant blackpainting of a neighbor you fakely call equal and ignoring of its current laws. 🙂
    Now, they pretend they are working as good neighbors when they need. But Poland pushes Lithuania constantly. Kaczynski called Lithuania a country of many nations already. o_O. Poland knows it is bigger and therefore it feels like it can just push Lithuania, push Polonization of a part of Lithuania by blackpainting it.

    If Poles in Poland and in Lithuania itself would be more interested in what Lithuanianness in Lithuania was and is like, not just think of Poles in Lithuania and of Lithuania as of an unfairly lost part of Poland… If Poland wouldn’t think that Polishness in Lithuania is and shall be kept the same as Polishness in Warsaw and Poles in Lithuania shall be thaught to complain about ethnic discrimination in Lithuania if they find themselves in a different situation than what people in Warsaw or in some Poland’s village live in, that would be Poland’s respect to Lithuania as a country with its own laws, history, self-reflection, millions of citizenry, state-language, culture, right not to learn Polish – such a hard language, btw – if its not your native language and you don’t live in Poland, and the like. 🙂

    Polish culture has, in fact, gained strength in the Republic of Lithuania since 1990, even since 1987 really. It is not weakening and is not being deliberately weakened by Lithuanians, it continues gaining strength, and I am glad about it. I respect Poland and Polish culture, I just hate it when Poland does not respect Lithuania for the fact that the Lithuanian culture is also gaining strength, Lithuanians live and dare to use their native language in all of Lithuania now, not just in villages and Lithuanians don’t like to be blackpainted and pushed by Poland. Lithuania will most likely start using Lech Kaczynski instead of Lechas Kačinskis in its passports soon. That will be the final result of a long discussion and of the evolution of Lithuania during these 20 years of regained independence when Lithuanians became open to the whole world, are marrying many foreigners and getting foreign names themselves, etc. We will use names which we won’t all know how to read at all. Names with unseen letters and unusual endings also. That shall be our decision. Poland’s nationalistic push to Lithuania was still quite unfriendly and will be remembered as unfair by many Lithuanians, imho.

  5. Poland did never BASH Latvia for using Lehs Aleksandrs Kačiņskis or the likes in their passports, btw. 😉 The bashing and pushing of Lithuania is clearly biased.

  6. What a post! Jurate, I think it is natural for a ‘larger’ neighbour to exert more influence on a ‘smaller’ one. The same happens with Poland and Germany, Belgium and France, Wales and England. I don’t think it’s good, but that’s the way of the world. I don’t think the Poles are disrespectful turning Lithuanian names into Polish. The English do it as well, as do the French and Germans. There are hundreds of examples of this.
    I understand your anger but let’s build bridges, not destroy them. 🙂

  7. Nothing against bridges, but double standards and badmouthing based on them and on ignorance had never built any real firm bridge. 😉 No bridge can be built when people on one side give a lot and people on the other side just complain too much unfairly and say one to another and to the strangers: “don’t go over that bridge, bad people live there! If we shall go there, then with an army to turn them to our slaves and rule them, teach them OUR culture”.
    Hooray to fake bridges?

    The report in Dziennik was not objective at all. The evaluation of a situation of Poles and its changes in each country was based on subjective criteria, deliberately different for each country. Do you know the saying ‘appetite comes with eating’? That’s what happens to Poles who wrote about the situation in Lithuania, so Lithuania got all the worst evaluations and is probably more hated in Poland and by Poles who are citizens of Lithuania itself now. That’s because a part of Lithuania had been made a part of Poland 1920-1939 and Poles imagine that it shall be just like Poland forever. And it’s relatively easy for Poland to push Lithuania to get its concessions, to make Poles of Lithuania to ignore the current laws of Lithuania and scream that they are discriminated. It’s actually enough that certain “politicians” scream about discrimination, people themselves stay rather passive but agitated.

    1. I fear my country’s hope was lost on April 10th when we lost the people that could make us great, like we were supposed to be.

      However, please know that I’m also more tolerant than a lot of bastards you find around. Have a nice day, guys.

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