Judge Orders Teresa Sobol to Vacate Polish House in Ivyanets
A district judge in Valozhyn, Minsk region, on February 17 ruled in favor of the pro-government Union of Poles in Belarus (UPB) and ordered Teresa Sobol to vacate the Polish House in the nearby small city of Ivyanets.
Stanislaw Siemaszko, whom Belarusian government officials call the true leader of the Union of Poles in Belarus, sued Ms. Sobol, who sides with the Warsaw-backed "unofficial" UPB, for allegedly illegally occupying the two-story building. The plaintiff insisted that Ms. Sobol was no longer chairperson of the UPB chapter in Ivyanets and manager of the Polish House, and that a new person had been elected to succeed her.
Stanislaw Buraczewski (Burachewski), manager of Ivyanets’ House of Culture, was elected chairperson of the UPB’s chapter in Ivyanets and manager of the Polish House at a meeting held at the House of Culture on January 21, with the leadership of the "official" UPB in attendance.
However, at a meeting simultaneously held at the Polish House, more than 150 local UPB members almost unanimously voted for the reelection of Ms. Sobol.
"We’ll appeal the court ruling, as we consider it unlawful," Andzelika Orechwo, deputy chairperson of the unofficial UPB, told BelaPAN. "The judge refused to hear witnesses that the defendant and her lawyer wanted to present. All the seven motions by the defense were denied. In addition, the hearing started as a preliminary one, but the judge decided to begin a final hearing without asking the opinion of the parties."
According to Ms. Orechwo, apart from Ms. Sobol, 10 people were allowed into the courtroom to attend the hearing, including two Polish diplomats, seven members of the UPB chapter in Ivyanets and Maciej Plazynski, president of Wspolnota Polska (Polish Community), a Polish government-sponsored organization whose goal is to strengthen ties between Poland and the Polish diaspora (Polonia).
The Polish House in Ivyanets, a former city department store, was purchased in a dilapidated state in 2003 and renovated with funds provided by Wspolnota Polska.
Police took control of the House in a surprise raid on February 8. Some 20 policemen and court officers arrived at the House in the afternoon and ordered everyone out, producing a warrant saying that the management of the House had illegally taken possession of property. After Ms. Sobol and other UPB members went out, court officers took an inventory of the contents of the building and sealed it up.
Out of the 16 Polish Houses in Belarus, two, in Baranavichy and Barysaw, are still under the control of the unofficial UPB, Igor Bancer, spokesman for the organization, told BelaPAN last week.
Only those two, as well as two under the control of the official UPB, in Lida and Mahilyow, are really functioning, he added. All these 16 buildings were built or bought and renovated with funds provided by the "Polish state," he stressed.