The Police Threaten Fines for Hanging a Polish Flag

"They want to charge me because on the Day of Polonia I hanged out the Polish flag on my shop” - says Jarosław Pieszko, clutching in his hand the note from the police. Photograph by the author

Jarosław Pieszko who on 2 May, which is a Day of Polonia, hanged out on his shop in Jaszuny a Polish flag is subject to threats from Lithuanian justice. The Day of Polonia is a widely celebrated day for all the communities of Poles around the world.

– On the Day of Polonia I hanged the flag out because I am Polish. On that day Polish flags are hanged out in all the corners of the globe, in all the places where our compatriots live and where Polish communities are. Nobody objects it and nobody feels offended or indignant, and here, almost instantly, I was called to the police- Jarosław Pieszko reports. The problems he encountered exemplify non-acceptance by the local authorities to any manifestations of Polish language and Polish descent; authorities, which for years have consequently fought against Polish street signs and names.

As we have recently informed our readers, Zygmunt Marcynkiewicz, the director of „Irzimas,” a transport company from Czarny Bor in Vilnius region, was confronted by the Language Comission and the Language Inspectorate. First, Mr Marcinkiewicz was reprimanded by the inspectorate for placing bilinguial, Lithuanian and Polish, bus route plates on the company busses. Later on, he was requested to remove the Polish names of the destinations from the bus route plates.  He did not remove them and he was charged.

The inspectors of the Language Inspectorate imposed fines on Bolesław Daszkiewicz, the director of administration of Solecznica local government for displaynig street signs with Polish street names. After the event we learnt at the inspectorate: „ in accordance with the Lithuanian law all names of the streets in Lithuania must we written in the official language, which is Lithuanian. Only the EU law guarantees the right of minorities that in a given territory constitute majority to use their own language next to the state language in the street signs. However, the Supreme Administrative Court of Lithuania adopted a provision that in some cases the Lithuanian law can overrule the EU law, and apparently, the case with the street signs falls under the given court decision. The Lithuanian officials and representatives of the judiciary who are sensitive towards the cases connected with Polish language decided that Polish flags, signs and names in Polish are unacceptable.

-The police accuse me that I hung out the national flag of a foreign country. I absolutely disagree with the charge. The size of the flag I hanged out was much smaller than the flags of foreign countries and it was to symbolize that I am of Polish descent- resents Jarosław Pieszko. As we learned in the police station in Jaszuny, the information that the Polish flag is placed at Pieszko’s shop was received from Vilnius.

A police officer who preferred to remain anonymous admitted an anonymous call on the emergency number. The caller informed that the flag of a foreign country is hoisted on the shop in Jaszuny. The police officer added that the caller gave the exact time when he saw the flag.

– Let them charge me, but as it is a day of Polonia and Poland I will continue to hang the Polish flag out as I always used to do- said Jarosław Pieszko firmly.