Poland signed the Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities in 1995 and ratified it in 2000. Every few years the Advisory Committee on the Framework Convention visits the country and meets representatives of its minorities. Silesian representatives, Marta Bainka and Grzegorz Kulik, met the delegates in Gliwice on the 17th of July.
Marta Bainka reported on what Pro Loquela Silesiana has accomplished since the Committee’s last visit to Poland, and Grzegorz Kulik described what Silesians have done during the recent years and how the Republic of Poland treats us. Each member of the delegation was also given a copy of both reports. Below one can read the report by Marta Bainka. The report by Grzegorz Kulik is available here.
PRO LOQUELA SILESIANA REPORT 2014-2019
for the Advisory Committee on the Framework Convention
on the Protection of National Minorities to Poland
Gliwice 17th of July 2019
There are two types of minorities according to the Polish law – national ones, which identify themselves with a nation organised in its own state, and ethnic ones. Silesians are not recognized as a minority according to Polish law. That means Poland does not guarantee any protection for the Silesian culture and language.
There is no regional education for Silesians. Children don’t get to know the history of their region. Moreover a big part of it is never being said out loud like German roots of our cities or even the fact that there were 12 Noble Price winners born in the region.
Most of the projects and activities that are to protect and popularize Silesian culture and language are thanks to the work of NGOs and local activists, not the Polish government nor regional authorities (if so, local authorities are more likely to help).
Pro Loquela Silesiana activities since the last meeting
Over last five years PLS was involved in many activities such as co-organization of the festival ‘Do You Speak Godka?’ or projects ‘Silesian Kafka’ and ‘Kafka – breaking the borders’ based in Nowa Huta and Opawa. It continued collaboration with Radio eM with one new weekly audition about Silesian culture (done by Jerzy Ciurlok since 2018). Our members got involved in writing and publishing several publications (including one written in Silesian) about Silesian culture and language. Jerzy Ciurlok published a book about the history of printers and print shops. We organized lectures in Koźle, Pszczyna, Jastrzębie Zdrój, Katowice, Gliwice and others. Rafał Adamus took part in a panel discussion about the situation of the Silesian dialect organized by the politicians from the party Nowoczesna. Also PLS representative took part in the works of the Commission to choose the new director of the Silesian Library in Katowice.
We have also collaborated with public institutions. We have organized reading tales written in Silesian in a school library in Ruda Śląska. PLS also revised and edited those tales before their publication. The event was organized by RIK (Regional Institute of Culture). We also took part in the conference organized after Congress of Culture in 2016 that we took part in.
Last bu not the least, we have never stopped popularizing Silesian dialect in social media, radio and press. In 2014 PLS organized the campaign Poradzisz? Godej! (You speak Silesian? Speak it!). So far it has been the biggest campaign promoting the Silesian language. The first part of it was a sociological research whose aim was to see what is Silesian people’s attitude towards their own language. The results showed that there is a lot of space for improvement and that the decades of repression in the PPR have caused damage. The worst outcome was among young women and so PLS campaign was focused on them. We made 5 spots and 5 photo-shootings showing young women in official and business related situations speaking Silesian. These were the areas to which respondents agreed that Silesian is not ‘appropriate’. Also more women than men do not show the willingness to teach their children Silesian.
Translations are still a very important part of PLS activities. So far we have translated to Silesian for companies like Samsung, Leroy Merlin, Auchan, Gazeta Wyborcza (one of the most popular newspapers in Poland), Silesian Theater in Katowice, several hotels, restaurants and others. We can say that over the last few years the demand for translation has increased and now there are more billboards with commercials in Silesian compared to 10 years ago.
Other important events that should be mentioned
- 2011 Census
Although it was already known during the last visit of the Commission it is worth to repeat the results of the census in 2011. 847 000 persons declared their Silesian ethnicity, of whom 376 000 declared it as their only ethnic identification and 431 000 jointly with Polish identification. It was one of the Commission concerns that the results were not fully published.
- SONŚ Association of People with Silesian Nationality
In December 2011 SONŚ was legally registered by the Polish Court. At first the decision was negative stating that Silesian nationality does not exist. SONŚ did not agree to remove the statement from its name and presented that according to the Act from 4th of March 2010 about the Census in 2011, nationality in its character is declarative and can be chosen according to one’s feelings and will. After that intervention SONŚ was registered without changes to its name or bylaw.
In January 2012 the Public Prosecutor appealed to the Court stating that the mentioned Act has a temporal character and was only for use during the Census in 2011 and cannot be used for other purposes. The appeal was denied by the Court stating that citizens are free to exercise their will wherever the law does not state the opposite.
After another complain SONŚ was finally delegalized in 2013 by the act of the Supreme Court. Afterwards SONŚ has decided to present its case in the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg. In August 2019 the European Court of Human Rights has informed that the case will be proceeded.
- The efforts to add Silesian to the list of legally recognized minorities in Poland
Silesians have tried many times to get included in the Act of Ethnic and National Minorities and Regional Language from the 6th of January 2005.
The first time was in 2007, when Ruch Autonomii Śląska, Związek Górnośląski and PLS asked to include the Silesian Language in the Act from 2005. Later two projects were prepared by Marek Plura, MP. Pro Loquela Silesiana at that time had asked academics from various European universities to present their opinion whether Silesian can be considered a language and received positive responses. In 2014 regional organizations assembled in the Upper-Silesian Council (including Silesian Autonomy Movement and SONŚ as the biggest ones) prepared a legislative citizens’ initiative. The project was signed by 140 thousands people. If passed, Silesians would be recognized as an ethnic minority by the Polish law. The entire project was denied. In 2012 SONŚ and Kaszëbskô Jednota sent open letters to Polish Authorities (including Donald Tusk as the PM and Bronisław Komorowski as the President) asking for protection of people who identify themselves as Silesians by recognising them as a minority. The last initiative was held by Monika Rosa from Nowoczesna (Modern) and included only the recognition of Silesian as a Regional Language.
One of the problems that regional organizations are struggling with is the one-side narrative in the initiatives held by public institutions. Whenever a Silesia-related topic is raised, the narrative focuses on Silesian who feel Polish ignoring German and Jewish Silesian along with people who would not identify with other nationalities than Silesian, showing the history from only one perspective or stating than Silesian equals Polish.
In 2016 during the March of Independence organized annually on 11th of November in Warsaw a group of men was kicking a yellow and blue flag shouting vulgarisms about UIA and Stepan Bandera. To avoid a diplomatic scandal that has raised two days later, Polish Police has stated that the flag was Upper-Silesian not Ukrainian so the charges were dropped as it is only illegal in Poland to offend other countries’ flags.
The situation is still to be improved. Silesians are not guaranteed the same rights as other citizens, as their freedom to associate was denied by Polish Supreme Court. One of the important things to be done would be to recognize Silesians and their language within the Polish legal system, which within last 12 years was denied 5 times.
In 2016 Silesian activists organized a happening. They have checked how much knowledge about Silesia children get at school. The result was appealing. In 30 minutes they managed to read out loud all the material concerning Silesia collected from the schoolbooks from the beginning of the elementary school until the end of high school which is 12 years of education. Without regional education Silesians may loose their heritage in a short time.