'My heart knows where home is'
During my official visit to Germany I was invited to participate in the ceremony of graduation at John Paul II School of Native Studies at the Polish Catholic Mission in Munich, run by the Redemptorists. In the packed hall at St Joseph's church there was a graduation ceremony, including various speeches and expressions of gratitude for the teachers. The chairman of the meeting Fr Dr Stanislaw Plawecki, the parish priest and the president of the School Board, did not conceal that the school existed and worked thanks to the sacrificial involvement of the fellow countrymen who wanted to have their children know Polish, be enriched by the values of Polish culture and be educated in the Catholic spirit. On the occasion of the graduation a special newsletter entitled 'My heart knows where home is ...' was printed.
The school, which has eight grades and additional youth class, functions only thanks to the fact that it uses the parish facilities free and thanks to the voluntary work of teachers and enthusiasts of the Family Committee. Prof. Piotr Maloszewski, Vice-President of the Christian Centre for Promotion of Culture, Tradition and Polish Language in Germany, which is a registered association, and which co-ordinates teaching Polish in Polish parishes, told me that in Germany the access of Poles to the treasures of culture, including teaching the native tongue, was limited. I want to mention that the Joint Senate Commission on Culture and Mass Media and the Commission on Immigration and Poles Abroad discussed that issue during two sessions. Some representatives of the Council of Polonia organizations in Germany were invited for the meeting.
The occasion was the 15th anniversary of the Treaty between the Republic of Poland and the Federal Republic of Germany on Good Neighbourliness and Friendly Co-operation, issued on 17 June 1991, and precisely the report concerning the implementation of the treaty. Since it appears that although the treaty speaks about equal treatment of the Polish ethnic minority in Germany and the German minority in Poland there is a big asymmetry in granting financial means. The numbers are meaningful. According to the data of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs about 2 million people of Polish background live in Germany, including 1.5 million with Polish citizenship (1.2 million have two passports: Polish and German and ca. 330,000 have only Polish citizenship and are legal residents in Germany). According to the German statistics about 180,000 people with dual citizenship, German and Polish, and 1,000 German citizens live in Poland.
Annually the Polish state grants a total of 3.5 million euros to the German minority, this sum includes 3.1 million euros for education, ca. 60,000 euros for free school manuals, 65,000 euros for social and cultural meetings and 100,000 euros for publishing periodicals for the German minority. Moreover, the amount of the grant, which the Ministry of Culture allots to cultural projects of the German minority, is ca. 220,000 euros. In general, schools teaching German as a native language are financed completely from public money. This form of teaching embraces over 32,000 children and is carried out in over 320 units. The salary of 500 teachers of German is paid and the language is taught on average 4 hours per week. Thus about 80% of children and young people belong to the German minority in Poland learn their native language, which is financed by the government. Furthermore, about 2 million pupils at Polish schools learn German as a chosen foreign language.
Whereas the federal authorities in Germany give ca. 250,000 euros for the Polish ethnic minority of 2 million people. However, that does not concern teaching Polish. In Germany children learn Polish as their native language at schools belonging to the Christian Centre for Promotion of Culture, Tradition and Polish Language (units within the structures of the Polish Catholic Mission in Germany), to the Polish Educational Society (Macierz Szkolna) in northern Rhein-Westfalen, to the Polish Society 'Education' in Berlin and the consulates. (the Polish Educational Society in northern Rhein-Westfalen and the Polish Society 'Education' receive some symbolic subvention from the German government, which does not exceed 20,000 euros per year). Apart from that the German government does not give any more money for Polish schools. Consequently, due to lack of finances only 2% of children, belonging to the so-called Polish ethnic group, learn their native language.
One can ask: What is the reaction of the Polish government? What has been done for 15 years? Nothing or very little. Poland has implemented all regulations of the treaty and in Germany they exist on paper only. Having that in mind the senate commissions appealed to the Prime Minister and President of Poland and ask the government to work out an active and long-term policy concerning the Polish minority in Germany in order to guarantee suitable conditions to teach Polish in various forms: as a foreign language in the German system of education and as a native language in the non-school system, i.e. in the Polonia associations. The government in Germany, like the government in Poland, should guarantee financial support for teaching Polish, development of Polish press, access to the radio and television and should support Polish houses, choirs, cultural groups and Polonia organizations. Will it happen?