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The Eternal Problem of Poland: the National Minorities

Recognition of the rights of the National Minorities’ languages in the eastern parts of the Polish Republic is now being given in conformity with the recent bill passed by the Polish Parliament, aiming to make the problem of the National Minorities less acute.

In the towns and villages where the Ukrainians, the White Russians and the Lithuanians are in the majority, the languages of these National Minorities are being introduced into the local schools. Another step towards the removal of the sharp differences is the establishing of a Ukrainian University at Cracow.

These steps, hurriedly carried out by the Polish Government, do not, however, meet with the approval of the National Minorities. In the case of the Ukrainian University, it is significant that the city of Cracow, the capital of Western Galicia was chosen instead of Lemberg, the capital of Eastern Galicia, which is mainly populated by Ukrainians. The Ukrainian University in Cracow, a purely Polish city, under the influence of Polish culture and the watchful eye of the central authorities is not so great a concession in the eyes of the Ukrainian patriots. They desire to have their university-established in their own capital city, Lemberg.

The same is the case of the White Russians and Lithuanians. Here, beside the difference of language, there are differences of religion and social tendencies. The White Russian and the Lithuanian population of thes regions being mainly land-starved peasants originally, expected to benefit from the Agrarian Reform passed several years ago by the Polish Parliament, calling for distribution among the neighboring peasants and land workers class of the areas of land owned by the nobility. They were, however, disappointed in their expectations, because the Government, anxious to give a Polish character to the region, is reluctant to dispossess the large Polish landowners and thus remove the possibility of influencing the peasant population culturally. On the contrary, a systematic process of “colonizing” retired army officers and officials in this neighborhood is going on.

The situation with regard to the Jewish National Minority is worse. While the National Minorities Languages Bill gave some recognition to the claims of the territorial National Minorities, it gave none to the claims of the Jewish leaders in the Polish Sejm, who are anxious to secure a possibility for the Jews in Poland to cultivate their National heritage and provide instruction in Hebrew and Yiddish for those who desire it. There being no compulsory public school system established in the country as yet, the Jewish schools do not receive any support from the Polish Central and Municipal governments and the possibilities for Jewish youth to secure an education are limited.

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