Inside the Gate of the Dawn
© Vilniaus turizmo informacijos centras

With the centennial of Polish independence nearing, the country plans to release a new passport design. Among over ten graphic elements that are competing to appear on the new passports it is also possible to find the Gate of the Dawn, LRT Radio states. According to a colleague of LRT Radio in Poland Nijolė Drūto, such a proposal has also been criticised in Polish media as well. Nonetheless analyst Virginijus Savukynas is convinced that this could be the best public relations opportunity for Lithuania.

Poland re-established independence in November 11, 1918.

- Ms. Drūto, it is quite noticeable that alongside the Polish eagle, the achievements of the Polish state are also symbolised by depictions of Vilnius and Lvov in the new document. What other events do the Poles intend to reflect in the passport?

Starting last week a campaign was initiated by the Polish Ministry of the Interior and Administration "Design a new Polish citizen's passport with us". The ministry has presented Poles with a number of national symbols they could see in their passports, they can choose and vote online.

The website presents a list of 13 motifs. The six most popular will be printed on the new passport. Among the proposed individuals, locations and signs symbolising the achievements of Poland's 100 years since independence, you can find the first Polish President Gabriel Narutowicz, General Józef Haller, various signs, eagles, symbols, the former Polish vice Prime Minister Eugeniusz Kwiatkowski.

Overall there are 13 options, the Vilnius Gate of Dawn among them, presented as important to Polish tradition and at which Polish Marshal Józef Piłsudski thanked for Vilnius.

- How have Polish citizens received the initiative to release a new design passport?

Regarding the overall reception of the new passports, it is hard to say. The minister promised that these will be more modern passports, made with new technologies. This element is important, but of course national symbolism, based on Polish moods, will receive support. This is already evident from the ongoing voting which will last until September 10th.

It is interesting that the Gate of Dawn has already gathered 14 thousand votes and is one of the most popular motifs that the Poles wish to see in their passports. In the first place there is the symbolic eagle, which marked the hats of J. Piłsudski legion's uhlans. It has gathered 17 thousand votes. All the other motifs have accumulated several thousand votes each.

It is difficult to tell what the voting results will be, but it is clear that the number of votes for the Gate of Dawn will become a clear argument for the ministry to include it into the pages of the passport. This is despite critical statements appearing in the media about including the Gate of Dawn onto a Polish passport, reminding that this is the Lithuanian capital. This was discussed in the weekly Polityka and Gazeta Wyborcza.

The discussion will likely begin, but it is hard to say whether the ministry will pay any mind because the arguments are that the passport is a Pole's business card and with it Poles will travel the world and present Polish history that way.

- Does this mean that Poland intends to change all its citizens' passports?

The passport will enter use, according to announcements, starting from January 1st. The planned amount for the start is 1.2 million units. Of course those who wish will be able to change later. The price has not been specified just yet. Perhaps it will be more expensive for those seeking to obtain it first.

Another matter is that other than the 13 options that can be voted for, there are also 13 already confirmed images. Among them you find the images of J. Piłsudski and Roman Dmowski, as well as other significant Polish figures and symbols such as the Polish eagle. The passport, it has been announced, will contain 19 pages filled with this imagery related to the centenary.

V. Savukynas: the Gate of Dawn on Polish passports is a beneficial opportunity for Lithuanian public relations

If the image of the Gate of Dawn appears on the renewed Polish passports, it would be the best public relations opportunity of our entire independence. This is what analyst V. Savukynas tells LRT.lt. According to him, Lithuanians may find such an election uncomfortable, but if the Gate of Dawn is chosen as a symbol, it would be spread across the world.

- Mr. Savukynas, how do you view that with the centenary of Poland re-establishing independence, there are plans to release new design passports which could include imagery of the Vilnius Gate of Dawn?

That the image of the Gate of Dawn could appear on the new Polish passports is beneficial to Lithuania. It would spread the symbol of the Gate of Dawn across the world. After all, it would be borne by 40 million Poles, this is good. I understand well that it may be painful for a portion of Lithuanians, how could the Poles appropriate our precious symbol?

However I would like to remind that for a few years, the Vytis was the coat of arms of Belarus. If not for Alexander Lukashenko and his decisions that would persist to this day. What should we do to the Belarussians, announce war? It's similar to this case. That said I do not think the Poles will choose this symbol, a pity that.

As I said, if Polish passports came to feature an image of the Gate of Dawn, Lithuania would receive advertising for our neighbour's money. This would be the best public relations event during the history of independence.

- The consideration of the Gate of Dawn for the passport once again displays the Poles' links to Vilnius?

We know that the histories of Lithuania and Poland are closely linked. Vilnius is important to the identity of Poles. The Gate of Dawn, Józef Piłsudski's heart is here in Vilnius, not somewhere in Poland. If it is something that Poles come here for, it is to see the Gate of Dawn and visit the grave of J. Piłsudski's heart. It would appear completely natural that the Gate of Dawn has ended up among the symbols that could be placed on the passport.

- Is it the religious aspect that is more important here or purely the historical? Or both perhaps?

Both. This is because you cannot separate Polish identity and Catholicism. It is a very significant component. Specifically the symbol of the Gate of Dawn is simply "grown" into them. Lithuanians know little about it, but the Madonna of the Gate of Dawn has numerous adoration locations in Poland. She can be found in a multitude of churches. This shows that the symbolism is very strong and means a great deal to Poles.

- You say that Lithuanians may be discontent with such symbol elections.

Yes, if we look at historical hurts, when the Poles took away the Vilnius region from Lithuania during the inter war period. Many concerns may arise now that the Poles wish to take away our symbol. After all the Gate of Dawn is also a Lithuanian symbol. On the other hand symbols cannot be owned. And either way, the Gate will remain in Vilnius, Lithuania.

- Among the entries there is also an image of Lvov. What are the chances it will be chosen?

I believe that the Poles will not elect either Lvov or the Gate of Dawn. This could be a test of Ukrainian and Lithuanian reactions. However this is a matter for the Poles, they are electing their symbols and we cannot ban them.

Of course both Lvov and Vilnius are important to Poles. By including these symbols they have created a full spectrum, this is their entire palette of symbols they can choose from.

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