2nd Festival of the Dialect of the Borderland. Speaking your own language is no longer a shame, but something to be proud of Julia Szypulska December 8, 2023

2nd Festival of the Dialect of the Borderland

Speaking your own language is no longer a shame, but something to be proud of
,,Po Swojemu" I Festiwal Gwary Pogranicza

Do you know what BBC is? Not what you think… In our language, it’s baba babi skazała (woman told woman). The event was full of anecdotes and everyone spoke po swojomu. This proves that the dialect, as a language, is alive. Fortunately, there are still people who use it. There are even those who want to learn it.

The 2nd Festival of the Dialect of the Borderland in Hajnówka “Po swojomu” is a celebration of the local dialect and a tribute to local identity. This year it was organized by the Foundation for Development and Educational Initiatives from Nowoberezowo, known for many projects cultivating local culture and tradition. The second edition, like the first, took place as part of the “Hajnówka ReNewal – Green Transformation” project.

What was the motto of this year’s edition?

We, the girls from Hajnówka, met with you to tell you (especially the young ones): - don't be afraid to discover it, - look at it bravely, but above all with curiosity, - don't be afraid to speak, to try, to invent, to create; even - in common parlance - to make mistakes, - language is not about being correct, having a rigid framework; life will blow it apart anyway. Language is life. And let it be that.


The people of Hajnówka reacted to this appeal with great enthusiasm. The turnout was good this time too. The festival, like many other activities within the project, once again brought generations and environments together. Not only the audience, but also the performers.

Experienced singers Walentyna Klimowicz and Nina Jawdosiuk from the band from Dobrowoda sang on stage together with Amelia Pietroczuk, who found her passion in traditional singing a few years ago. It became a way for her to learn about her roots, cultivate her identity and old traditions. There was the KOLEBKA band from Kindergarten No. 1 in Hajnówka and girls from the KRESOVKI group.

The originator of the festival is Anna Nikitiuk, author of the blog ‘Po swojomu’, which presents contemporary trends in the dialect of the Polish-Belarusian borderland, a linguist and translator of English and Russian. And on top of that, she is local girl, a Podlachian from Zwodzieckie. She speaks her own language every day, proudly, and encourages others to do the same. For her, the dialect is a part of her identity and at the same time an interesting material for research. Thanks to such enthusiasts and events as the festival, there is a good chance that we will not become indifferent to the speech of our ancestors and will use it.

It used to be that in Hajnówka the local dialect could be heard every day on the street. Today it is increasingly rare. This makes it all the more pleasing that the festival participants spoke the dialect quite well. It turned out that they were not unfamiliar with all sorts of sayings and anecdotes, which they willingly exchanged.

In her own way, with swagger and humour, the host Natalia Boltromiuk spoke. By day, she is an orchestra woman – a specialist in dental prosthetics and weaving on old looms. As she jokes, she is an experienced entertainer, because she speaks to people every day and they often listen with an open mouth. Female panellists also spoke po swojomu.

They were:

  •     Paulina Siegień – journalist, writer, ethnographer and translator
  •     Joanna Troc – actress, director, founder of the Czrevo Theatre
  •     Anna Nikitiuk – linguist and translator
  •     Daria Sienkiewicz – fascination for the heritage of ancestors and folk handicrafts, restoring the memory of folk art, folk handicrafts, restoring the memory of old rituals, traditions and customs.

The conversation brought interesting conclusions. Firstly, dialect is no longer something embarrassing. Secondly, there is no single correct pronunciation – each village may have its own. Thirdly, there is no shortage of people who want to learn it. Fourthly, young people know how to speak in their own language and are not ashamed of it.

Daria Sienkiewicz, for example, belongs to the generation that was forbidden to speak the dialect, “she was supposed to learn and make a career in the city”. In the meantime, she returned to her hometown of Dobrowoda and decided to learn to speak in her own language. Learning went differently, sometimes better, sometimes worse. The fact that everyone in the village speaks the dialect helped, so it was not difficult to practice. Certainly to learn, you have to try and not pay attention to mistakes. Fluency, as with any language, will come with time. To speak your own language is to feel fully part of the community, that you really are a local.

And the fact that young people can speak the dialect is no joke.The first place winner was Tristan Leoniuk.

Local culture and tradition is a constant source of inspiration. You can draw from it, singing like Amelia Pietroczuk with her band from Dobrowoda. And you can like the stars of the evening: SwÅda , Niczos and MAXIM.

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