Petition to the Institute of National Remembrance

Dr. Jerzy Szarek
President Institute of National Remembrance
Commission for the Prosecution of Crimes against the Polish Nation

Dr. Adam Siwek
Director of the Office for Commemorating the Struggle and Martyrdom
Institute of National Remembrance

In reference to the rights guaranteed to us by the Constitution of the Republic of Poland and the Act of 6 January 2005 on national and ethnic minorities and on the regional languages, we ask the authorities of the Institute of National Remembrance to change their position regarding the question of commemorating the place of the rally of the Lemko community which took place on 5 December 1918 in the village of Florynka. We believe that the arguments contained in the IPN's reply of 28 November 2018 to our letter of 18 October 2018 to Dr. Adam Siwek, Director of BUWiM, are completely unfounded and inadequate in terms of both the historical situation and the current context. In our letter we asked for permission to put up a memorial plaque in Lemko and in Polish in the historic place where on 5 December 1918 ca 500 delegates from 130 Lemko villages gathered—with the following content:

В ТІЙ ПЛЕБАНІІ І НА ПРОЛІГАЮЧІЙ ПРЕД НЬОМ ДОЛИНЦІ
ПРОХОДИЛО 5 ГРУДНЯ 1918 РОКА ВІЧЕ, КОТРЕ СКЛИКАЛО
БЛИЗКО 500 ДЕЛЕҐАТІВ 130 СЕЛ ЛЕМКОВИНЫ.
ПРОГОЛОШЕНО НА НИМ РУСКУ НАРОДНУ РЕСПУБЛИКУ ЛЕМКІВ.

В 100. РІЧНИЦЮ ПОДІЙ - 5 ГРУДНЯ 2018 Р.
СТОВАРИШЫНЯ ЛЕМКІВ

¯¯¯
IN THIS PARISH HOUSE AND IN THE VALLEY BELOW,
ON 5 DECEMBER 1918, A NATIONAL MEETING WAS HELD WHICH ASSEMBLED ABOUT 500 DELEGATES OF 130 LEMKO VILLAGES.
THE RUSYN NATIONAL REPUBLIC OF LEMKOS WAS DECLARED THERE.

ON THE 100TH ANNIVERSARY OF THE EVENTS—5 DECEMBER 2018,
THE ASSOCIATION OF LEMKOS

In our letter, we also indicated that "For the Lemko community, the events of Florynka in 1918 are an important element of collective social memory, and commemorating them now, when we are struggling with the tragic effects of Operation Vistula and earlier displacements, is to us a kind of duty which we owe to history." We emphasized that we wanted to unveil and dedicate the plaque on 5 December 2018, on the hundredth anniversary of the rally.

The Institute of National Remembrance refused our request, citing the obligation of all citizens of Poland “to respect the territorial integrity of the Republic of Poland" and indicated that the intention of the delegates gathered at the rally in Florynka was to maintain unity with other Rusyns and that they demonstrated unwillingness to include the Lemko territory in the Polish state. In the light of historical facts, these arguments are completely unfounded, and hearing them is especially painful to us because:

  1. On 5 December 1918, the territory of Poland was not defined by recognized state borders, hence one cannot attribute to the Lemko activists any actions against the territorial integrity of the Republic of Poland.
  2. Historical documents attest that the Lemko intelligentsia acted in good faith, with full conviction that all nations would adhere to the Woodrow Wilson address on the post-war order in the world and on the right of nations to self-determination.
  3. The conviction that their actions were in accordance with the international law and not directed against Poland is evidenced by the fact that members of the Rusyn Councils (administrative bodies appointed at the rallies) maintained constant contact and cooperation with the local and central structures of the Polish Liquidation Committee and later with the Polish authorities. This conviction is also confirmed in their declarations and in the decision to submit all disputes concerning the Lemko territory to the arbitration of the Peace Conference in Paris.
  4. A crowning argument showing the groundlessness of attributing—a hundred years after the event—any anti-state significance to the symbolism of the rally in Florynka is the judgment of the Nowy Sącz District Court of 10 June 1921 in the case against Lemko leaders (members of the Executive Committee). It was an acquittal, which emphasized that the accused acted in good faith and by the will of the people.
  5. It is especially painful and paradoxical for the Lemko ethnic minority when the letter from the Institute of National Remembrance cites the integrity of state borders as a reason for rejecting their request. If in 1921, in the just constituting Polish state, the aspirations of the Lemko leaders representing a community of about 130 thousand, living in a compact territory, were judged not to have any features of an activity posing a threat to the interests of the state, then now, when the Lemkos have been reduced to a 10,000 minority, dispersed, subject to drastic acculturation, to put forward the argument of territorial integrity is such a gross mistake that it amounts to abuse.
  6. Putting up a plaque commemorating a symbolic event in Lemko history which was a proof of the readiness of the Lemko elite to take responsibility for their community does not in the least entail any whatsoever negative social or political consequences. But to the Lemkos, struggling with the effects of Operation Vistula, it would be an important identity-related act of civic coexistence—free of fear or accusations, in a country where not only cultural differences are accepted, but which also allows for different visions of community memory as an important component of ethnic identity.

Bearing in mind the above, we appeal to you to reconsider your decision regarding our request and to grant us permission to put up the already prepared plaque in the place to which it refers.

Yours sincerely,

Olena Duć-Fajfer

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