National diversity helps find common language

Some good news has come from Vilnius. Firstly, a memorial plaque has been unveiled on the facade of the former Belarusian gymnasium

By Viktar Korbut

The plaque honours Roman Catholic priest Adam Stankevich, who was an enlightener and supporter of the national school. Secondly, the Centre for Belarusian Language, Literature and Ethno-culture at the Lithuanian capital’s Pedagogical University has recently celebrated its 20th anniversary.  The Centre was opened during the hardest days for Lithuania and Belarus — in 1991 — launching the revival of Belarusian cultural life in Vilnius.

In the 1990s, two Lithuanian schools were set up in the Grodno Region: one state run in Rymdyuny and one private in Pelyasa. 120 children attend — a modest figure; however, all the youngsters desire to study in Lithuanian and the state has ensured this right for them.

It’s no wonder that Belarus enjoys such ethnic, religious and racial harmony, as solutions are found before problems arise. Igor Popov, the Head of the Grodno Regional Executive Committee’s Department for Religions and Nationalities, can easily list dozens of events organised jointly with the Union of Poles in Belarus and the Lithuanian community. Every year, district and regional contests of poetry and writing are held, featuring Polish language experts. Meanwhile, libraries have special national literature funds. Festivals such as Avgustovsky Canal in Culture of Three Nations, Polonaise (in Slonim) and the European Basketball Championship for Lithuanian communities are also organised.

Our neighbouring countries are attentively following our handling of national diversity, learning from our experience. In Vilnius, there is the Belarusian language school (named after Frantsisk Skorina and attended by 120 children). In June, the Voronovo District is to host a sitting of a joint Belarusian-Lithuanian commission overseeing school issues, which last met a year ago in Vilnius.

In Poland, three thousand boys and girls are learning Belarusian written and spoken language through additional classes: at schools, gymnasiums and lyceums. Meanwhile, 520 children study through the medium of Polish at two schools: in Grodno and Volkovysk.

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