History begins in the family. Reflexions about the workshop in Lviv from the perspective of the German group

Some day everything comes to an end. Sometimes that’s not bad, but sometimes not quite pleasant and feels much too soon. The latter was clearly the case in the last part of the youth exchange project “History Begins in the Family”.

Like back then in October 2015, in the evening of March 18 the German group met at the central bus station of Hannover. After we had held two meetings in other countries before, we now knew each other quite good. While travelling to Oswiecim, where we should have met the Polish group, and making the part of the route we had already made before, our excitement kept within limits. With discussions about what we might probably expect in Ukraine, we could shorten the time of waiting for the bus. We could exchange about everything, what had happened since October. But we also exchanged about the weather in Germany, which already became beautiful and very much spring-like, while many of us made their first travel in the direction of the colder and unknown Ukraine. Despite the perceived normality, it was still quite a disturbing idea, that this would be our last time departing together with this group.

Our bus left the central bus station as planned at 21:30, parents and grandparents thoroughly waved goodbye to us … and there it was – the journey could start. As far as three participants of us have just started the Easter holidays, in the bus we talked about the preholiday exam stress and our current course papers. Being totally exhausted from the night in the bus, we finally arrived in Oswiecim at noon on March 19. Gradually we met the participants of the Polish group in the International Youth Meeting Centre of Oswiecim. The first reunion after having not seen each other for a while was joyful, but still a little bit reluctant. Above all we had to get used to speaking mostly English again. Finally we went faster than expected from Oswiecim to Ukraine, where we arrived at the Svitlytsia Retreatment Centre, our guest house for the time of the third part of the project. We spent five exciting days here, learned about Lviv on a historical treasure hunt, got to know each other better, met the eyewitness Yaroslava Melnychuk, presented our family trees and exchanged about the current conflicts in Ukraine and Europe. Finally, during our last evening we watched the film about our meeting in autumn, recorded and produced by Olha Shevchuk. It was nice to pass revue the memories of our previous meeting for a while. At the same time a queasy feeling settled somewhere inside, that this was now our last evening with the project group. It is really amazing, how much you can grow together in such a short period of time, thus know each other closer and learn to understand one another. Early in the morning on March 25 came the time for the large farewell. And while tears were flowing, one could hardly believe, that it was really happening. Still I am personally sure, that this was just one of “Goodbye”s.

Johanna: At the beginning of the third part of the project we left the topic of history a little bit behind and according to our motto, “From the lessons of the past into the future”, arrived at the current situation in Ukraine. In the second part of the week we had a splendid opportunity to explore the city, walking its historical routes and paths. Thus, there was definitely something useful for everyone to learn and to experience in this educationally informative yet very joyful week.

Annalena: The third part of the project in Lviv was very interesting for me, because alongside the cruel Nazi history, we kept dealing with all the time before, the Soviet-Ukrainian history with its similarly horrible prisons and labor camps of the Gulag were discussed. I have not as much addressed these topics previously, comparing with other periods of history. In this regard, I was very touched especially by the conversation with the witness Yaroslava Melnychuk. I am very grateful to her, that she has taken so much time for us! Of course, we also had a great week outside the seminars and a lot of fun together with the group. However, this meeting was certainly the saddest of the three, since the end of the project was approaching. But I am sure, that we all will stay in touch for a long time even after this last meeting! I want to say thank you to the organizers for all the valuable experiences, which they have enabled us during this project, and of course, to all my new friends from Ukraine, Poland and Germany for the great time spent together!

Oriana: Through this project I got acquainted with so many interesting people. The meetings with the time witnesses were a kind of an additional motivation for me to maintain history and to fight against forgetting. Within these few weeks we were spending together we all became a group, in which everyone could contribute his or her own part to the common success of the project. It was quite a nice experience to visit all the places together with other young people from Germany, Poland and Ukraine, as well as to learn more about their perspectives on the events of the history.

Helena: I cannot even tell you what exactly I liked most about this project. In the end, it was probably just a perfect mixture of intercultural flair, learning about the history away from the sometimes very abstract history lessons at school, as well as the exchange of the latest news updates and making our own conclusions, while learning the lessons of the past. Besides, we have visited two beautiful cities in two interesting countries – Lviv and Krakow – and made new friends. I will definitely like to remember this beautiful time and look back to it with gratitude! I would like to express gratitude to everyone, who made possible this experience in this form, but also to every one of us, who took part. Because finally we all determine, how we fill the frame, which has been given to us by the organizers.

Work in group

The third and final part of the international project “History begins in the family” for young people from Poland, Germany and Ukraine took place from March 19 to 25, 2016 in Ukraine. The project is implemented jointly by the organisation “Foundations for Freedom” (INGO), the International Youth Meeting Center in Oswiecim/Auschwitz (Poland), the Lower Saxony Memorials Foundation /Bergen-Belsen Memorial (Germany) in collaboration with the Friedrich Ebert Foundation in Germany.

The project was funded by the German-Polish Youth Office, Friedrich Ebert Foundation with the sites in Poland, Belarus and Ukraine, Foundation for Polish-Ukrainian Cooperation (PAUCI).

Translation by Melaniya Lyvka