Miłosz’s 100th Birth Anniversary Marked in EP


On Wednesday, November 9,  Leonidas Donskis MEP and the Permanent Representations of Lithuania and Poland to the EU organised the 100th birth anniversary event of Nobel Prize Winner, VMU Honorary Doctor, poet and essayist Czesław Miłosz in the European Parliament in Brussels.

The welcome speech of the event was delivered by President of the European Parliament Jerzy Buzek, after which Lithuanian and Polish intellectuals discussed Miłosz’s creative heritage during the discussion "The native realm, or scearching for the Europe of Czesław Miłosz". A documentary film directed by Vytautas Damaševičius and Juozas Matonis "The Vilnius of Czesław Miłosz" was also shown. Finally, the participants had a chance to view an exhibition made by Vytautas Magnus University. The exhibition was in three languages – Lithuanian, Polish and English, thus named "Sugrizimas/Powrot/Return," and was focused on the writer’s return to Lithuania after 52 years.

Honouring the event and commemorating the poet, President of the European Parliament Jerzy Buzek described Czesław Miłosz as a man of two nations. "Czesław Miłosz’s ability to be sensitive to both Polish and Lithuanian cultures makes him a great European", Jerzy Buzek said.

"It is difficult to find a person to whom words like ‘world citizen’ and ‘true European’ would fit better",  Permanent Representative of Lithuania to the European Union, Ambassador Raimundas Karoblis, noted. A welcome speech was also given by Permanent Representative of Poland to the EU, Ambassador Jan Tombinski.

Opening the discussion, which was also attended by Professor at Kraków University Andrzej Romanowski, Professor at Vytautas Magnus University Egidijus Aleksandravicius and Boguslaw Sonik MEP, the host of the event Leonidas Donskis said that Czesław Miłosz responds to most of today’s European dilemmas by his works and the way he lived. "Czesław Miłosz did not believe in the existence of good or bad countries. Europe for him, first of all, was a jointly created sensitivity", said L. Donskis. "Czesław Miłosz does not fully belong to Lithuania or Poland. He is a Polish-speaking Lithuanian attributing himself to the Republic of the two nations, historic patriot of GDL [Grand Duchy of Lithuania] and, as he considered himself – the last citizen of LDK. He was a model of European self-awareness."

Panel speakers from Poland did not stress Czesław Miłosz’s ability not to narrow his origin and works to Lithuania or Poland, but rather his openness to different cultures, ability to live and work in any parts of the world, such as France and the USA. Professor and historian Egidijus Aleksandravicius called the Miłosz phenomenon a big test for both Lithuania and Poland, raising inconvenient questions about how we recognise what is actually Lithuanian or Polish. The Professor also reminded that Miłosz was very critical of any – Lithuanian or Polish – ethnocentrism. 

Czesław Miłosz is a poet, writer, essayist, interpreter, Nobel Prize Winner in 1980 and holder of many other prestigious literary awards. His works are translated into more than 40 languages. The writer was granted Honorary Doctorate in universities of the USA, Poland and Lithuania, as well as named Honorary Citizen of Lithuania and Kraków.

Czesław Miłosz was born on June 30, 1911 in the village of Seteniai, Lithuania. After spending his childhood and youth in Vilnius, the writer lived in Warsaw when the Baltic country was occupied by Germans. After the war he worked in the Polish diplomatic service in the USA and France, where he asked for asylum. In 1960 he moved to California and worked as a Professor of Slavic Languages and Literatures in Berkeley University for twenty years. Since 1989 he lived in Berkeley and Kraków. Miłosz died on August 14, 2004 in Kraków, Poland, where he was buried.

This birth anniversary is included among the dates celebrated by United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). Lithuanian and Polish Parliaments declared 2011 as the year of Czesław Miłosz.

VMU also held numerous events marking the Czesław Miłosz Year.


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