Poles with Silesian ‘nationality’

Czeslaw Ryszka

In the European Union, including Poland, the National Census of Population and Housing began on 1 April 2011. It will last till 30 June. Unlike the census of 2002, which allowed to give only one answer concerning nationality, this year we answer two questions: 1. What is your nationality? 2. Do you declare affiliation to any other nation or ethnic community? The questionnaire explains that one can declare among other things one’s affiliation to the Silesian ‘nation.’ Outstanding lawyers claim that the Central Statistical Office mixed the national and ethnical categories, which clearly stands in opposition to the verdict of the Supreme Court issued in 1998 that ‘Freedom of choosing nationality can be realised only in reference to objectively existing nations as formed in the historical process.’ The verdict was issued in connection with the refusal to register the association called ‘The Union of Population of Silesian Nationality’ and in 2006 – ‘The Union of Population of Silesian Nationality – Union of People Declaring Silesian Nationality.’ Did the verdict reject the right of the Silesians to their identity? Of course, it did not. I am a Silesian and a local patriot. Thanks to that I feel more strongly connected with Poland. Why mustn’t ‘Silesian spirit’ be treated ‘nationally’ as the Silesian Autonomy Movement treats it? It is the organisation that has formed a coalition together with the Civic Platform and the Polish Peasants’ Party in the Silesian Marshal Office. The assumption that there is some nation should have important justification: a nation must have a separate, i.e. its own history, culture, language, customs… Responding to the question about the Silesian language the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Administration issued a negative opinion in 2010 because it would have led to the usage of bilingual names of places and the teaching of ‘Silesian’ in schools. But Silesian is not a language but only a dialect, a version of Polish. For example, the word ‘wegiel’ [coal] is pronounced as ‘wongiel’ but it is the same word with some regional pronunciation. Differences in pronunciation are in every Polish region, e.g., in Podhale, Mazowsze or Podkarpacie. The only regional language in Poland is Kashubian, which is completely different from Polish. But due to this fact there is no Kashubian nation but there are only Kashubian people. Unfortunately, some do not realise the fact that the Silesian Autonomy Movement is testing Poles how far they can go in the separatist activities without exposing to actions of the Polish state services. I want to remind you that several years ago the Silesian Autonomy Movement (RAS) was seen as an extremist group and the Bureau of State Security was interested in its activities. Currently, this organisation constitutes the ruling coalition in Silesia and because of that the special services are not interested in it. Someone has guaranteed that RAS does not threaten the Polish constitutional order. Really? According to the RAS statute, which is a kind of constitution of ‘Silesian state,’ besides several slogans about the validity of the Polish constitution, we have statements about creating its own parliament and senate, presidential office, jurisdiction, treasury and police. It means that this ‘Silesian state’ could lay all taxes and if it wishes it can transfer something to Warsaw but only the amount it recognises as appropriate. Moreover, ‘Silesian state’ decides independently what jurisdiction of the Republic of Poland will be observed in the region. The head of RAS Mr Jerzy Gorzelik said on 4 April 2011 that the statute was being changed but its aims were still valid. And he was going to realise these aims till 2020. The representatives of the Silesian Autonomy Movement estimate that 300-500,000 people can declare Silesian nationality in this year’s census. In order to achieve that on the last two days of March RAS distributed 100,000 leaflets convincing people to declare Silesian nationality in the national census (I am curious who has paid for these leaflets). Furthermore, RAS is struggling against the Polish state in the tribunal in Strasbourg and his key activists wrote about ‘Polish concentration camps’ (Andrzej Roczniok’s book) and despite their declared struggle for ‘autonomy’ they place the mottos ‘Long live independent Upper Silesia!’ (Dariusz Jerczynski) on the covers. Meeting the wish of RAS the national football stadium in Chorzow (under reconstruction) will have its seats painted in yellow and blue (Silesian colours) and not in white and red as it used to have. Kazimierz Kuc openly speaks about Silesia that it will not be Polish in ten years. It is against these and other activities of RAS that the Law and Justice Party and Jaroslaw Kaczynski reacted firmly. It must be correct reasoning that if RAS is in the regional coalition with the Civic Platform it means that the ruling party legitimises all these activities, i.e. carries bigger responsibility that Gorzelik’s movement. Is the Civic Platform doing that out of complete thoughtlessness or does it consent to Silesia as some kind of enclave with a special status? If it happened we would have conflicts in Poland which we would not even dream of. I think that the political game about ‘Silesian spirit’ played by RAS is using the emotions of the Silesians who are very independent in their convictions, who are sensitive and also very patriotic. May they not be misled by this pseudo-independence which can lead as a consequence to divide the Polish state into regions (provinces).

"Niedziela" 16/2011

Editor: Tygodnik Katolicki "Niedziela", ul. 3 Maja 12, 42-200 Czestochowa, Polska
Editor-in-chief: Fr Jaroslaw Grabowski • E-mail: redakcja@niedziela.pl