Warsaw: Presenting His Holiness the Dalai Lama with the honorary citizenship of the Polish capital Warsaw Thursday morning at an official function in the city’s famous Royal Castle, the Mayor of Warsaw Hanna Gronkiewicz-Waltz expressed to the gathering of government officials, members of parliament, heads of institutes, representatives of various non-governmental organisations, and guests, including the small Tibetan community, the Polish sense of pride in having the opportunity to honour the Tibetan Nobel Peace Laureate.
“We Varsowians, the residents of this indomitable city, are proud that as of today the 14th Dalai Lama is one of us,” Warsaw Mayor Hanna Gronkiewicz-Waltz declared during the ceremony that was also attended by former President and Solidarity leader Lech Walesa and Poland’s first non-communist prime minister, Tadeusz Mazowiecki. Outside the Royal Castle, hundreds of people watched the ceremony live on a big screen.
The Mayor said it is a great honour for the citizens and the authorities of Warsaw to again host “the Nobel Peace Prize Laureate His Holiness Dalai Lama XIV“. She said the moment was also important because this year marks the 20th anniversary of Poland regaining its independence. The Mayor also expressed words of utmost reverence for His Holiness’ peaceful struggle and for his teachings of respect for others.
The Chairwoman of the Warsaw City Council Ewa Malinowska-Grupińska, in her speech gave a brief background on how His Holiness had to escape from Tibet following China‘s occupation of his country and how in exile he has led the Tibetan struggle for freedom through non-violence and in the process won numerous international awards, including the Nobel Peace Prize in 1989.
“As Councillors of Warsaw, the unique city so severely tried by history, we have the moral right and duty to express our respect and honour a person who strives for his people and his country for freedom and sovereignty we have been enjoying for twenty years,” the Chairwoman said.
His Holiness the Dalai Lama, who got a standing ovation when receiving the medal and citation with the title of the honorary citizenship from the Chairwoman and Mayor of Warsaw said that the honour bestowed upon him reaffirms their recognition of the contribution he has been trying to make to promote basic human values, inter-religious harmony and the just cause of Tibet.
“I am moved and feel it a great honour to become a citizen of this great city,” His Holiness said after receiving the honour, adding that “I have always admired the Polish people’s spirit and strong determination despite facing difficulties”.
His Holiness said that no matter what the superficial differences, we are all basically the same human being “mentally, physically and emotionally“ and that we all want happiness and do not want suffering. He therefore expressed his appreciation for the Polish people‘s sense of solidarity and support for the just cause of Tibet and the Tibetan people. On a lighter note His Holiness said that now that he has been awarded the honorary citizenship of Warsaw, they should closely watch his future actions to check whether is deserving of the honour.
After the ceremony, His Holiness, the Mayor and Chairman of the Warsaw City Council jointly addressed the assembled media in an adjacent room. The ceremony and the meeting with the press was broadcast live. As His Holiness was escorted out to the waiting motorcade by the Mayor and other top city officials, hundreds of people had gathered outside to greet the Tibetan spiritual and temporal leader. Even the police officers manning the motorcycle escorts also did their bid in honouring His Holiness by their special formation of an inverted Victory sign to escort and provide a protective cover to the special government car in which His Holiness was driven from the Royal Castle to the hotel.
Mr. Tsering Tashi, Representative of His Holiness the Dalai Lama, who accompanied His Holiness on this visit said that the security cover provided to His Holiness was foolproof and highly professional.
“The Polish government security officials escorting and guarding His Holiness round the clock were highly professional and easy to work with. They also had high regard for His Holiness. And like the officials and others involved with the visit they too cherished the opportunity to take their photos with His Holiness and sought His Holiness’ autograph on books about or written by His Holiness,” said Mr. Tsering Tashi, adding that apart from the success of the visit programmes, the overall response from the Polish people to His Holiness’ visit was extremely positive and moving at times.
This was His Holiness’ second visit to the Polish capital after a gap of six months. His Holiness last visited Poland in December 2008 when he was met by both the Polish Prime Minister and the President. At the time, His Holiness’ visit programmes took him to the cities of Gdansk, Krakow, Wroclaw and Warsaw. In Wroclaw, His Holiness also received an honorary citizenship of the City of Wroclaw from the Mayor and Wroclaw City Council that had arranged a public talk especially targeted at students and the youth to draw inspiration from His Holiness’ universal message of compassion, non-violence and tolerance.
–Report by Office of Tibet, London