Minorities in Poland and Lithuania

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Subject: Minorities in Poland and Lithuania

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Original sender: Michael Roekaerts <michael@paxchristi.net>

Minorities in Poland and Lithuania

Pax Christi International
Education for Mutual Respect and Tolerance Towards Minorities in
Poland and Lithuania
1. Background
During 1996 a programme developed by Pax Christi International
together with different partners in Poland and Lithuania on "education
for mutual respect and tolerance". This project, which was supported
by the European Union’s Phare and Tacis Democracy Programme, aimed to
develop educational programmes in order to promote mutual tolerance
and respect towards minorities in Poland and Lithuania. The partners,
Pax Christi Warsaw, the Lithuanian Centre for Human Rights and the
Lithuanian Youth Organisation Transilvanija approached associations of
youth workers, primary and secondary school teachers and journalists
about civic education on the situation of minorities and on the
building of multicultural and pluralist democratic societies.
This project was prepared between 15 and 19 September 1996 during a
seminar in Wejsuny and Sejny (Poland). During this seminar,
participants examined important issues related to the
Polish-Lithuanian relationship.
The project started with the International Route 1997 in Poland,
Lithuania and Kaliningrad (Russia). It focused on how the peoples of
the region’s emerging democratic countries, could work together in the
future. During the entire preparation for this Route, the organisers
found that understanding differences, including those of perception
and interpretation of history, is essential for working successfully
together. The themes of this Route, which brought together around 120
young people from all over Europe, included the present day situation
of national minority groups, Roma, immigrants and refugees in Poland
and Lithuania; the political and economic situation as well as the
social institutions of these post-communist states; understanding the
Greek Catholic and Orthodox churches; exploring Jewish, Karaim and
Tatar culture; examining the ecological state of Poland and Lithuania;
traditional pilgrimages and the importance of them for local people
and the security situation in the region, with a special focus on
2. Project activities
2.1. Targeting youth workers
2.1.1. Poland: Drama contest
In February 1998, information about this competition was widely
distributed among many primary schools in Poland (information was sent
to all primary schools in Warsaw and the special units responsible for
education in all the big "voivodship’s" cities). It was also announced
in Gazeta Wyborcza, Poland’s major daily. A special effort was done to
involve the schools in the Punsk-Sejny area, where the Lithuanian
minority in Poland lives. The schools were invited to send in a
screenplay in which groups of children (aged 11 to 14) presented a
selected event (or several events) from the common Polish-Lithuanian
history. It was stressed that the children themselves should write the
play, and that the teachers could only have an assisting role. On the
basis of this screenplay, participants for the final drama contest
were selected.
This final contest took place in the Warsaw Centre for Cultural
Education on 19 and 20 May 1998. Eight schools, four from Warsaw and
four from smaller towns from different parts of Poland, presented
their drama play to a jury composed of experts in either theatre
and/or work with children. After assessing the young actors’
creativity and original approach to historical controversies they
awarded the first prize (a trip to Vilnius where the winners would
meet with children of their age) to a group from Rabików - a little
village near the Polish-Belarussian border. It is interesting to note
that although most of the advertisements for this event were made in
the larger cities, it is a school in a small village that won the
contest. One play, which did not win in this contest, was awarded the
first price in another contest. Next to teachers, pupils and parents
the first secretary of the Lithuanian embassy in Poland, the Warsaw
correspondent of the Baltic News Service and a journalist of Gazeta
Wyborcza (who published an article about the contest) attended the
final contest. As an effect, some teachers, inspired by the topic,
devoted special lessons to discussing both the past and present mutual
relations. Others used the opportunity to touch upon this issue within
the normal curriculum. Some asked whether a competition like this
would be kept every year.
>From 11 till 17 April 1999 the winning team visited Lithuania. The main aim of this visit was to provide the drama contest winners an opportunity to learn about Lithuanian and Polish history and culture. This happened through guided sightseeing and visiting places of interest in Vilnius, Kaunas and Trakai. The children performed their play based on Polish-Lithuanian history in one of the Polish primary schools in the suburbs of Vilnius, where they also took part in classes of Lithuanian language as well as in other lessons. It was a new and interesting experience for them. At the school, the children had the chance of meeting and interacting with Lithuanian children. By coincidence, the Polish president Alexander Kwasniewski was at the same school at the same moment as this group of children. Also, Pax Christi Warsaw donated a wide selection of Polish books for the school library. Both classes are still in contact. This "hands-on" exploration deepened the pupils' interest, kn!
owledge and understanding of history.
2.1.2. Lithuania: Essay Contests "My Little Town"
Two essay contests on "My Little Town" took place within the framework
of this project. For the first contest, November 1997 - February 1998,
40 schools in different areas of Lithuania were invited to ask their
pupils to participate. Out of a total of 200 essays, 22 essays were
selected. The authors, 15-16 year old pupils from 12 Russian, Polish
and bilingual schools situated in six cities were invited to the award
ceremony in Vilnius on 7 February 1998. During the second contest,
November 1998 - February 1999, 50 schools were invited to ask their
pupils to participate. This time, 60 essays from 21 schools were
received (10 from Vilnius, both Lithuanian and Russian, Russian
schools in Kaunas, Klaipeda and Baltoji Voke; a Russian-Lithuanian
school in Šalcininkai; Polish schools in Trakai, Šalcininkai and
Eišiškes; Lithuanian schools in Nemencine, Visaginas, Baltoji Voke and
Maišiagala). Twenty essays were selected as "winning" and their
authors invited to the award ceremony in Vilnius. During these award
ceremonies, a general introduction on the topic of tolerance was
given, as well as an explanation on the aims of the youth training
courses and youth seminar. Those interested were invited to
participate in the youth training course on tolerance. This activity
helped to bring the project’s subject, tolerance education, into
schools in an original and attractive way. By writing about the local
town and history, the subject comes closer to the pupils, family and
schoolteachers. The response to the invitation shows that, within a
wide variety of schools, there is an interest in this topic. In
October 1999, the book ‘My small town’  - containing the winning
essays in their original language as well as in translation
(Lithuanian, Polish, Russian, English) - was published. The book is
illustrated with paintings from gypsy children depicting their daily
life in towns and villages.
A first youth training course took place in Visaginas, 13-15 June
1998. The authors of the 20 best essays of the first contest followed
this training course aimed at developing skills useful for youth
leaders working in the field of ethnic tolerance. Lecturers from
Vilnius University (Faculty of Slavonic philology) and from Znad
Willii, the Polish radio station of Vilnius, facilitated discussions
amongst participants on tolerance in historic perspective and on the
usefulness and necessity of knowing many languages. The course took
place in Visaginas, a city where Russian speakers form the majority.
Many of them work in the nuclear power plant of Ignalina. This
training course was especially useful for the pupils from the local
Russian schools. The Russian speakers in Visaginas form a rather
closed community avoiding extensive contacts with the Lithuanian
population. A positive sign of openness, however, was that some of
those selected to participate in the training course asked if their
friends could join as well.
This youth training course was followed by a youth seminar in
Anykšciai, 27-30 June 1998. During this seminar, the participants of
the first training course got an opportunity to apply their newly
acquired skills through discussions, practical exercises and games.
The main aim was to train youth to develop their own initiatives to
promote tolerance and mutual understanding in their local communities.
Showing and discussing a movie on the Holocaust in Lithuania made
participants aware of this tragic episode of history. Dealing not only
with the present but also with events from an often painful past, both
under Nazi- and Soviet-occupation, is very important in building real
tolerance and understanding.
The second essay contest was also followed by a youth training course,
this time in Troškunai, 16-17 April 1999. Twenty children from
Lithuanian, Russian, Ukrainian, Polish and Jewish origin and from
Russian, Polish and Lithuanian schools all over Lithuania participated
in the training. Two observers from Latvia  as well as a participant
from the Lithuanian youth organisation "Youth Cross-roads"
participated in this course. The Latvian participants were interested
in learning more about this activity in order to start with similar
youth initiatives in their country. The representative of "Youth
Cross-roads" was looking for co-operation with Transilvanija. The aims
of the training course were to learn to analyse the identity of
participants, and to examine the issues of tolerance, nationalism,
xenophobia and genocide. The trainers employed many interactive
methods which can be used by the participants in other groups they
belong to. Many children explained that they were Lithuanians, since
they live in Lithuania. They noticed however that Lithuania is an
ethnocentric country and that for those belonging to a national
minority, it is not always easy 'to be different'. They also explained
in which ways they were not tolerated as well as how and why they
themselves were sometimes intolerant towards people from another
nationality. Starting from a discussion on whether genocide would be
possible in Lithuania or not, participants made some small
performances about genocide and created a monument "There will be no
genocide". Later, a film about the Holocaust in Lithuania was shown
and analysed. The group also visited a nearby Gypsy community. As the
activity took place during the NATO bombings of Yugoslavia, this
conflict was discussed as well. Many children were afraid that the
bombings would lead to the Third World War, and especially the Russian
speaking participants voiced strong opinions against NATO actions.
In order to lower the threshold for young participants, it was decided
to organise a one-day seminar in Vilnius on 16 May 1999. Many young
people don’t dare to participate in a longer seminar or training
course, but might be convinced to come and listen for one day. People
involved in the activities of Transilvanija as well as of other youth
organisations and NGOs shared their experiences in NGO work. During
this seminar, participants visited the exhibition of the painting by
the famous Polish painter Jan Matejko depicting the victory of the
combined Polish-Lithuanian army over the Teutonic order. It was the
first time that this painting, a national Polish monument, was on
display in Lithuania.

The next seminar, which took place in Druskininkai, 20-22 May 1999,
counted 26 participants (Ukrainians, Belarussians, Polish and
Lithuanians ), of which half came from villages and half from big
cities. The topic was identity of the Capital/Province. Starting with
educational games and group discussions, participants explored their
family history and their daily life personal experiences of belonging
to a minority or the majority, living in a village or in a big city.
This process helped to build group cohesion, and to overcome the
initial divides. Later, participants from the rural areas and those
from the cities gathered in separate groups. They had to show the
stereotypes they thought 'the other' would have about them through
collages and painting. Participants also discussed ways to improve
relations between minority and majority groups and exchanged
suggestions on common activities. The last day was devoted to
training. After an introduction to youth organisations in Lithuania,
sessions took place focused on enhancing skills needed to develop
local youth projects. This led to many suggestions, proving that young
people are eager to organise activities for themselves, and willing to
help other, less advantaged, youth. One proposal, a basketball
competition for school children in a Russian-speaking district, was
submitted to the Lithuanian Open Society Fund, which decided to fund
it. Another implemented project was a street drawing competition (with
chalk) for street children, who often come from poor mixed families.
Participants also asked for more seminars/training courses on topics
influencing the daily life of youth, such as youth organisations and
youth empowerment; the conflict between generations; religious sects
in Lithuania; and how to build self-confidence.

The last youth seminar took place in Vilnius, 12-14 October 1999. The
55 participant seminar was attended by many young people from all over
Lithuania as well as youth leaders from Estonia and Latvia. During
this seminar, the working methods of Transilvanija, including the
essay contests, were explained to youth leaders from other Lithuanian
organisations as well as those from the other two Baltic States. The
Latvian and Estonian youth leaders expressed interest in the essay
contest methodology, and together it was decided to organise a new
round of the essay contest in 1999-2000, on a Baltic level.

2.1.3. Cross-border: Tolerance Camp and Tolerance Bus

This camp, which took place from 15 to 28 August 1998 in Sejny
(Poland) and in the Polish-Lithuanian borderland, aimed at bringing 30
young people from Poland and Lithuania together. Both Polish and
Lithuanian specialists  gave lectures on issues such as the situation
of minorities, ecology and human rights. Also nine journalist
workshops of two hours each were organised to provide young people
with more practical skills. Trainers of Polis led these workshops. All
participants wrote articles for a special Polish-Lithuanian edition of
Polis, published in November 1998. During this camp, a close
co-operation started between Polis and Pax Christi Warsaw. Other
training moments included sessions on human rights. The activities in
Sejny took place in a house belonging to the local parish, in a cosy
exhibition hall belonging to the Pogranicze (Borderland) Foundation
and in the local cultural centre. From 23 to 26 August participants
got into the Tolerance Bus, organised by Transylvanija. During this
trip in the Lithuanian borderland participants met with local
inhabitants and NGOs. Back in Sejny, participants had the opportunity
for discussions and an evaluation. Due to the summer holidays, no
common activities with the schools that participated in the drama
contest could be set up. A short report was broadcasted on Radio Free
Europe/Radio Liberty as a free-lance collaborator of this station gave
a lecture during the camp. Everyone left Sejny with more understanding
of the issues dealt with during the Camp, and with more willingness
and energy to improve the situation. In Sejny, representatives of
Belarussian and Ukrainian youth organisations visited the camp. They
were motivated to organise a similar activity in 1999 in their own
country. A new camp was organised in August 1999 in Przemysl, near the
Polish-Ukrainian border. Young people from Poland, Ukraine, Lithuania,
Belgium and Croatia participated.

As mentioned above, a first special issue of POLIS  was published in
November 1998. The articles, which reflect the personal opinion of
participants about the tolerance bus and camp, present a wide range of
opinions and ideas. During a meeting organised by the Polish Batory
Foundation this issue of POLIS was presented. Different NGOs commented
positively on the fact that it was published in two languages.
Following the "Youth and National Minorities" Camp in Przemysl, a
second special issue of POLIS was published in November 1999. This
issue includes many articles on minority issue and reflections written
during this camp.

2.2. Targeting teachers

The Lithuanian Centre for Human Rights was responsible for the
organisation of three Human Rights Education Seminars and two Action

2.2.1. Human Rights Education Seminars for Teachers

These seminars aimed at acquainting participants with the key
documents on human rights, their core concepts and ideas and with
methods for teaching them; increasing the desire of the participants
to make human rights come alive in the context of school and everyday
life; promoting better understanding among different nationalities
living in Lithuania and to strengthen the integration of minority
schools in Lithuanian society.

The first Human Rights Education Seminar took place in Šalcininkai,
4-6 February 1998. All teachers of social sciences and the school
headmasters of Šalcininkai, as well as five students belonging to
school councils, participated. Teachers and students from Lithuanian,
Polish and Russian schools were very interested in participating as
proven by the fact that there were more candidates than places. The
local authority, which looked very positive to the seminars, provided
facilities for the seminars. Similar results were obtained during the
second Human Rights Education Seminar, Eišiškes, 30 April 1998.

The third Human Rights Education Seminar for Teachers took place in
Šalcininkai, 9-11 February 2000. Originally, this activity was planned
to take place at the Lithuanian school in Sejny, Poland. But the
Lithuanian community was very afraid of the reaction of the Polish
authorities if such as seminar would be organised by a Lithuanian
organisation. This issue was discussed both with the chairperson of
the Lithuanian community in Poland as well as with high-ranking civil
servants at the Polish Ministry of Education in Warsaw. The LCHR even
managed to obtain a certificate of approval for this seminar by the
Ministry. Since it proved difficult to organise this seminar in the
local school, the Lithuanian Cultural centre in Sejny was contacted.
This Centre responded positively, but after a few weeks informed the
LCHR that the local Lithuanian community was not enthusiastic about
the prospect of this activity. According to local community
representatives, the Polish community needs such a seminar, not the
Lithuanians. The option of a bilingual seminar was explored by the
project co-ordinator, but since it was impossible to organise this
seminar in Sejny, it was again organised in Šalcininkai. The main
difference from the seminar organised in 1998, was that this time the
participants came from the whole region of Šalcininkai. Participants
were teachers of various subjects, headmasters and students of
Lithuanian, Polish, Russian and Belarussian nationalities. The local
Lithuanian school provided facilities for the seminar.

As a result, a network of educators interested in human rights, both
in Lithuanian schools and minority schools is taking shape and
expanding as the teachers and students involved became multiplicators
in promoting human rights, right of minorities and democracy in their
schools. The schools involved in this seminar later took part in many
other activities organised by the Lithuanian Centre for Human Rights,
and as such a network of schools open to the ideas of promotion of
tolerance and human rights started to develop. It was important that
the seminars not only dealt with teaching human rights in schools, but
also with applying human rights in schools.

2.2.2. Action Days

The idea behind an Action Day is to involve secondary school students
in public life and to show them the ways in which it is possible to
influence decisions of policy makers. During an Action Day, students
are acquainted with all aspects of the day-to-day running of a
municipality. Workers of the town administration participate in the
whole action day. In fact, the Action Day itself is the last day of a
whole process during which the teachers prepare the students.

The first Action Day in Šalcininkai, 15 April 1998, reached 70
participants from five different schools. Many of the teachers had
participated in the teacher training seminars. In the schools,
proposals were worked out, while during the action day they were
discussed with members of the administration and local politicians.
The final vote adopted five projects , which were faxed by the
participants to the Parliament and the Ministry of the Interior. Three
participants were interviewed on the "Crossroads" programme of the
Lithuanian National Radio. All students were enthusiastic, innovative
and delivered a high quality of work. This action day succeeded at
bringing youth from different ethnic background (Lithuanians, Poles,
Belarussians and Russians) together around issues of common
importance. The Šalcininkai Municipality had allocated 6.000 Lita
(1.500 US$) for the implementation of the best project. The Police
Department, who played a very active and constructive role, and the
mayor were so impressed by the quality of the work that they decided
to implement all five proposals. It is very positive to have the local
people themselves looking for solutions for their problems, without
having to hire expensive consultants.

The second Action Day, also in Šalcininkai, took place on 24 February
2000. Again the local politicians and civil servants were
collaborative and played a very constructive role. Seven teams, in
total 80 students aged 14 to 17, from all over the Šalcininkai
district participated (Poles, Lithuanians, Russians and Belarussians).
The teams prepared six concrete projects on local community issues. At
the end of Action Day each team had to present their projects and
everybody could vote for the best one. For the implementation of the
best project the Šalcininkai municipality allocated 5000 Litas (1250
USD). The winner project was entitled "Co-operation of Jasiunai
secondary school and the Children rights protection agency". 

2.3. Targeting Journalists

Pax Christi Warsaw organised in the framework of this project a series
of four journalist workshops. Since it proved difficult to collect all
the addresses, phone or fax numbers of minority press and magazines
(there are no complete and up-to-date listings and reference books),
Pax Christi Warsaw had to create its own list in order to prepare
these seminars.

The first workshop took place Kraków, 18-22 June 1998 and was
organised with the help of members of the International School of
Journalism at the Jagiellonian University. Representatives of national
minority newspapers and magazines in Poland were invited as well as
Polish journalists from Lithuania. This mixture worked well. For
example, the local Kraków television took a deep interest in the
Polish people from Lithuania, visited them and stayed in contact since
then. Since only ten 'real' minority journalists were willing to come
(including a Lithuanian, an Armenian and two Orthodox Belarussians),
other young people working with media and minority issues were
invited. It was not always easy to overcome the uncertainty and lack
of confidence of minority journalists. In total twenty participants
took part in the lectures, discussions and training on topics such as
specific features of the minority journalism, general ethical aspects
of the media, local media, question of stereotypes and multicultural
sensitivity. The participants also visited a local TV station, the old
Jewish quarter of Krakow and the Ukrainian centre in Kraków.

The second workshop was organised in Wroclaw, 26 - 29 November 1998.
Eleven journalists, either from papers and magazines edited by
national minorities or connected with universities and willing to
co-operate with the national minorities' press, participated. Building
on the positive effect of the previous workshop, also this time two
Polish journalists from Lithuania participated. The main aim of the
workshop was to have participants exchange experiences about working
in the minorities’ press. The organisers also aimed at developing the
practical skills of journalists. Wroclaw is a multicultural city,
having been under the influence of Polish and German culture. Its
cultural, historic, ethnic and political situation was examined,
providing participants with an opportunity to understand the
lesser-known part of the city life and its problems. Participants also
visited the Cultural Centre of the Lemks from Legnica "U Sibie" and
the Polish TV in Wroclaw. Dr Grzegorz Janusz (Lublin University) 
presented the legal status of minorities in Poland and the draft law
which will govern all aspects of the national and ethnic minorities
status. Special attention was given to the media aspect of this law.
Trainers from Polis conducted the practical side of the journalist
workshop, with a strong focus on writing texts properly, informatively
and in a fashion that keeps the reader's attention. For this portion
of the workshop, participants interviewed people in the street about
their daily life, their contacts with people from other ethnic or
religious groups and their perspective on the future of Wroclaw as a
multicultural town. The final activity of the workshop was a panel
discussion on "How can the media help to prevent intolerance, ethnic
conflict and xenophobia?"

The third workshop, 21-24 October 1999, took place in Suprasl, a small
town of approximately 4,500 inhabitants in northeast Poland, near the
Polish-Belarussian border. As the population in this region did not
have to move after the Second World War, both national (Belarussian)
and religious (Orthodox) minorities  live together with the Polish
community. The 20 participants had the opportunity to examine this
dynamic during the seminar. The seminar began with presentations on
the history and present day situation in Suprasl and meetings with
influential people of the local community, such as members of the city
council. Following this, participants had an opportunity to discover
the local realities themselves. This process helped participants to
overcome the stereotypes they had about Suprasl. For instance, during
their meeting with the local authorities, the Orthodox participants
started to look differently towards this town, which they initially
had seen only as an important cultural and religious centre. It also
assisted in breaking a psychological barrier between the participants
as 'strangers' and their hosts. The organisers are proud that this
workshop had an additional effect. Their presence in Suprasl, a
relatively small community, became a central event of local life,
arousing the interest of the local population. During meetings in
which the local minorities' problems were discussed and where both
representatives of the minority and majority were present, these
representatives started to discuss the problems between themselves.
Something similar happened during the visit to the Orthodox Monastery,
where a quarrel over land ownership was clarified through, or because
of, the presence of the group. During the final evaluation,
participants expressed an interest in follow up seminars to examine
one of their largest problems, the low demand of their kind of press
by the public, as well as an analysis of the law on the press.

The fourth and final workshop was organised in Warsaw, 16-19 December
1999. During the previous workshops, the participants had the
opportunity to examine the situation of different minorities in their
own region. During this workshop, which was seen as a conclusion of
the entire series, 20 young journalists were invited to Warsaw. The
capital is where most government policy concerning minorities is made.
The topics covered during this workshop included legal regulations
concerning press, especially those most relevant for minority press. A
representative of the Department of National Minorities explained that
the Ministry of Culture and National Legacy is focusing more on
supporting cultural activities and not so much on financing minority
press. Participants received information about possibilities of
support for minority press from different non-governmental
foundations, on organisations that can help journalists working with
minority issues and some practical suggestions how to promote minority
press. There were also meetings with experienced journalists from
large journals.

2.4. Supporting activities

Throughout the project, regular meetings of the co-ordination team and
visits by the co-ordinator took place. An evaluation of the project
was conducted in December 1999.

On 6 December 1997 a seminar on 'Education for Tolerance' took place
in Antwerp, Belgium. The aim of this seminar was to study existing
pedagogical methods, communication techniques and strategies related
to educational materials on minority questions. In a first round,
experts and partners from both partner countries explained their
activities and the results they hoped to obtain. In a second round,
representatives of NGOs in other countries from all over Europe shared
their experience in working with minorities on issues such as
tolerance. This seminar enabled the partners in this project to learn
from other participants in the seminar of their experiences when
involved in projects dealing with tolerance, peace education, human
rights and multicultural learning so that they can use the newly
acquired skills in the continuation of the project.

Between 28 November and 4 December 1998 a group of three members of
parliament from Poland and three members of parliament from Lithuania
as well as a representative of each partner organisation were invited
for a study visit to Belgium. The main aim of this visit was to
explore the federal state structure of Belgium. This visit enabled the
participants to explore the 'Belgian Model' in detail and to look for
specific details useful in their respective countries. Visits were
made to the Federal Parliament in Brussels, the Flemish Parliament
(Brussels), the Parliament of the French Speaking Community
(Brussels), the Walloon Parliament (Namur) and the Parliament of the
German speaking community (Eupen). The Polish embassy in Brussels
invited the whole delegation to a concert commemorating the 80th
anniversary of the reinstatement of the Polish independence. As the
European Commission's headquarters are also located in Brussels, one
day was reserved for meeting with Commission officials dealing with
the Phare and Tacis Democracy Project. By having a mixed delegation of
politicians and NGO people from Poland and Lithuania, both groups got
to know each other better by staying together for a long time and will
in the future continue to collaborate. The informal moments, both
within the delegation and while visiting, proved to be very useful for
making contacts. Especially the members of parliament stressed the
importance of this kind of visits, and asked to organise more similar
activities. For them, it was the first time they met outside of a
formal body. The participants also developed ideas for future projects
and collaboration between the political world and civil society.

On the publications level, information set on Polish-Lithuanian
history was published in Warsaw in August 1999. The aim of this
information set is to provide participants in common projects with a
balanced overview of the Polish-Lithuanian history. Throughout the
project a draft text was used, enabling participants (some of them
students of history or political sciences) to discuss the contents of
the materials. This draft version provoked participants to think about
their history. Their conclusions were, when possible, included in the
text. In March 2000, Pax Christi International published a reader on
"Minorities in Poland and Lithuania". It is a compilation of articles
on different national minorities in both countries. It does not
pretend to be exhaustive, but aims at providing useful information
about national minorities in both countries. The contents must be
understood in this context. The opinions are those of the authors, and
do not necessarily correspond to those of the partner organisations.
The book was distributed among political decision-makers, NGOs, civil
servants, journalists in both countries and in the EU. They are asked
to provide their comments on the content of this publication. It is
hoped that this book will provoke a lively discussion and debate about
minorities in Poland and Lithuania. Based on the existing material and
on the results of this debate, a revised version of this book can be

3. Impact and future prospects

3.1. Impact on the target group

3.1.1. Youth workers

The Vilnius-based Lithuanian Youth Organisation Transilvanija, which
can mobilise around 30 young people and has members of different
ethnic backgrounds, managed to address youth leaders through the essay
contests. The topic of mutual respect and tolerance towards minorities
was presented to young people in a lively way. Their personal
experiences in daily life were used as a starting point for the
project. Participants were able to draw on something they knew, and
did not have to focus on a new and abstract theme. This project
strengthened their knowledge and consciousness about minorities, and
enhanced their willingness to organise by and for themselves
activities involving young people, including young people from

Out of the group of 'winners', potential multiplicators were selected
to participate in the youth training courses and youth seminars. Many
of them started workshops in their own schools (outside this project),
on human rights, tolerance, minority issues, and how these issues are
of concern to young people. This active involvement often stemmed from
the fact that they were living in mixed regions. As many of the
participants were interested young people it is hoped that, following
their participation in this project, they will be able to encourage
other youth to join them and to organise local activities in these
mixed regions. Later on, these youth initiatives will link and form a
network of local youth initiative groups, bridging the gap between
minority and majority as well as the gap between village and city.

In Poland, students and other young people will be influenced by the
articles they read in Polis. Many of these articles have been written
by Polish youth during the tolerance camp and bus. In future editions
of Polis, other articles on this and similar topics will appear in
order to continue the work started. Pax Christi Warsaw also managed to
attract new active members through Polis.

3.1.2. Teachers

Due to the fact that the Polish partner organisation was not
specialised in working with children, not much follow-up work was done
with them or with their teachers. Pax Christi Warsaw is exploring
co-operation with other NGO's with a higher profile in this field.
This is a major difference with Lithuania, where the Centre for Human
Rights has a tradition of working with schools and students. The
success of both the Human Rights Education Seminar and the Action Day
proves that the teachers themselves are asking for these kinds of
activities and are willing to use the knowledge they gained in their
courses as well as in their daily work at school. In both countries,
young teachers proposed similar and new activities, pointing at an
increased awareness that not only something needs to be done, but that
they are able to do things by themselves. They also approached the
organisers for advice on how to start local organisations and
implement youth activities.

3.1.3. Journalists

Within this project, The Polish partners put a stronger focus on
journalists than the Lithuanian partners. The exchanges, which were
organised between journalists from the minority and majority
background, were especially useful to promote the position of
minorities in Polish society. Representatives of minority press could
present themselves as such and found a forum where they could exchange
information on their common problems. At the same time, the workshops
provided representatives of the majority press with an opportunity to
discover the life of their minority counterparts. This project focused
mainly on the written press. It became clear through the project that,
to attract journalists from the minority press, workshops have to be
organised in the regions were minorities live. The Orthodox minorities
participated throughout the project, as workshops took place in the
regions they inhabit. Probably a higher attendance of the Lithuanian,
German and Slovak minority journalists could be achieved by organising
similar workshops in their regions.

Even if the journalist workshops were a success, there was not a big
media attention for most of the activities of the project since they
are not a very popular subject for mass media. Journalists of local
radio stations and magazines, however, showed a keen interest in the
activities and reported on them. In Lithuania, some of the seminars
and training courses, even if strong in content, were not reflected in
the press but a basketball competition for 140 street children,
organised by Transilvanija, received wide media coverage. The Finnish
magazine ‘Lithuania’ published articles about the Lithuanian
activities of this project. In Lithuania, the new youth magazine "LUX"
is going to publish an article about Transilvanija and its work.

3.1.4. Other target groups

The politicians from Poland and Lithuania learned about the 'Belgian
model' of state reform, focusing on the protection of (linguistic)
minorities in Belgium. The mixed composition of the delegation
(politicians and NGO representatives) was a very good and appreciated
model. It created links and networks, which are  still functioning

The local population in the places where activities took place was
reached through the project. Most of the time, the activities showed
how young people from different nationalities come together to work on
issues of human rights and minorities. This is important, as they
present practical examples of co-operation and mutual understanding
for a population that is often not even aware of the existence of
national minorities. The Lithuanian community in the Polish
borderlands caused a problem, as they felt threatened by activities on
human rights coming from Lithuania.

During the action day in Šalcininkai, the seven representatives of the
local police department were among the most active participants! As
they were the whole day without uniform, many participants didn’t even
know they were working together with the police. This fact was only
announced at the end of the day, to the astonishment of some
participants. This process, in which also the police was trained in
democratic attitudes, will facilitate contacts between youth groups
and the police in future.

3.1.5. In all target groups

Within each of the target groups, those with a minority background
could express themselves as such and could share experiences with
other participants from a majority background. Even if only small
steps, these kinds of contacts are instrumental in breaking down
barriers and stereotypes. In order to raise the awareness of society
in general about the minority situation it will take much more
initiatives. There is a long way to go. Specific needs (see later)
were identified as primary work areas for future initiatives in this
field. The fact that most of the activities are to be continued, in
both countries, shows that the project, and it constituent parts, were
'owned' by the participants.

3.2. The region

Except for some activities, which for practical and political reasons
took place in the capitals, Warsaw and Vilnius, a large part of the
activities were focused on the borderland regions of Poland and
Lithuania, where in a lot of places a mixed population lives: Poles,
Lithuanians, Russians, Ukrainians, Belarussians and Gypsies.

In both countries, the minorities live rather concentrated either in
big cities or in small towns and villages in the rural borderland
regions. These rural areas are, in general, a difficult environment to
live as young people: high unemployment, alcoholism, no cultural
events, etc. The national communities are often closed and its members
don’t have much contact with the people of other nationalities. This
situation sometimes leads to inter-ethnic tensions, and can even lead
to potential inter-ethnic conflicts. This concentration of minorities
in either big cities or rural regions is reflected in the choice of
locations for activities. On the Polish side, journalist workshops
took place in the main cities of Krakow, Wroclaw, and Warsaw, each
with their own specific history and minority-related situation. One
journalist workshop was organised in Suprasl, which is near the
Belarusian border. Sejny and Punsk, where youth events were organised,
are located near the Lithuanian border. In Lithuania, Eišiškes,
Visaginas, Šalcininkai are located very close to the Belarusian
border, while Druskininkai is near both the Polish and Belarusian

Since different activities took place in the same region, they became
mutually reinforcing and created a deeper impact. In Šalcininkai, for
instance, not only have concrete measures developed out of the
activities (especially the action day), but also local authorities
(town administration, mayor, police force, school headmasters and
teachers) have formed an informal but effective network. They have
asked for more similar events in their region. This result was
obtained by the fact that the participants felt they 'owned' the
project. Everybody knew of existing problems, such as a lack of space
for young people, and the solutions proposed were seen as local
solutions, easy to implement and acceptable for all.

3.5. The Future

During this project, the following needs were identified as important
for the future. In the different projects being envisaged and planned,
these issues will be dealt with.

In Poland.
The journalist workshops should be continued. As it was very difficult
to convince minority journalists to participate in activities outside
their region, more workshops need to be organised in the areas where
minorities live. Later, they can be brought together and meet the
majority press. This will strengthen the free and independent press
against pressure from (local) authorities. The number of opportunities
for young people to meet their contemporaries in neighbouring
countries - not only to the West, but also to the East – should be
increased. Schools and youth groups should be encouraged to set up
international exchange projects.

In Lithuania.
Too often young people have no correct and objective information about
Europe. They often don't know what's going on in Europe, let alone in
the world. However, interest in the European Union and in the 'West'
in general is growing. Future projects should stress links with
neighbouring countries as well as with Europe as a whole. This will
help in breaking down the stereotypes about national minorities.
Within schools, the young people, their teachers and their parents
should be encouraged to look together for creative solutions for
day-to-day problems of concern to young people.

Cross-border level:
To bring together people from both sides of the border, and in larger
regional context, is crucial for developing good neighbourly relations
on a grassroots level. A special focus should be put on disadvantaged
and ethnic minority youth, including Roma, in borderland areas. In
order to encourage these contacts, more activities should be organised
on NGO capacity building (fund-raising skills, advocacy work, etc.),
especially for youth NGOs. Political attention, in view of the ongoing
EU enlargement process, should be given to minority rights. National
minorities should not be seen as a national problem, but as a national
richness. However, too often the minorities, who in both countries
often live geographically concentrated areas, stay within their own
communities or hide the fact that they are members of a minority. They
should be encouraged to express themselves as members of a minority
and to take an active part in all sectors of society.

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