"History begins in the family..." Polish-German-Ukrainian youth project

The international non-governmental organisation Foundations for Freedom (Ukraine), the International Youth Meeting Centre in Oświęcim/Auschwitz (Poland) and the Lower Saxony Memorials Foundation/Bergen-Belsen Memorial (Germany), in cooperation with the Friedrich Ebert Foundation Office in Poland, invited 24 young people to take part in the second edition of the international project “History begins in the family…”, the first part of which took place in Lviv on 3th to 9th July 2017.

In the course of the project, which consists of three seminars in Ukraine, Poland and Germany, we are looking at the topic of family and history from two perspectives: families in history as well as history within the family. Our family is one of the most important social structures that we belong to. Families consist of many different generations and, based on social interactions, they are communities of (shared) memories. We put our focus on the memory of World War II, with particular attention paid to Nazi crimes.

We started our work at the seminar in Lviv with several questions: why is history important to us, what do we find most interesting in historical research, which events arouse our particular emotion and why? The participants presented family souvenirs that they brought with themselves – relics of history that form symbolic bridges between the memories of different generations. Together, we explored the similarities and differences between our family stories. Among the similarities, there are memories of school, hobbies, free time activities, travel, family celebrations, childhood and youth during (German and Soviet) occupation, fear and uncertainty, loss of home, difficulties with finding food and guaranteeing the safety of the family, but also hopes and dreams of a better future. Many of the participants’ family stories include life in the countryside, participation in civil or military resistance movements, forced labour, imprisonment in labour and concentration camps; the moment of liberation and the end of war is very strongly present in the family memories. In order to analyse our family stories more deeply and present them to the entire group during the second part of the project in Poland (5th to 11th November 2017 in the IYMC Oświęcim/Auschwitz), the participants were introduced to the theory and practice of conducting interviews in the course of oral history workshops. The first practical experience for the entire group was the interview with the witness of time Mr. Stepan Horechyi, born in Rava-Ruska in 1929, a participant of the civil resistance movement against German and Soviet occupation in Ukraine. In 1949, he was arrested by the NKWD and sent to the “Brygidki” prison in Lviv, then sentenced to 25 years of imprisonment and detained in numerous forced labour camps until 1955.

Historie rodzinne warsztaty
Workshop on family stories
Rozmowa ze swiadkiem historii
Meeting with Mr. Horechyi

A very emotional moment for the participants was the screening of the movie “Her Heart” (directed by Akhtem Seitablayev, 2017), the story of Seida Arifova, a Crimean Tatar woman who saved 88 Jewish children during the Holocaust. On 18th May 1944, together with thousands of other Crimean Tatars, she was forcibly resettled to Kazakhstan by the NKWD and never saw the children she had saved again. The movie also triggered a discussion about the current political situation in the Crimea, where an armed conflict between Ukraine and the Russian Federation is taking place, and the fate of today’s Crimean Tatars, who were once again forced to leave their houses in order to escape persecution.

At the end of the seminar, the organising team prepared a urban game in Lviv. The participants discovered the multicultural and multireligious history of the city, following the path of the Jewish people of Lviv, memorial sites and places of worship, fortresses and citadels.

Gra miejska wie Lwowie: poszukiwanie sladow


Gra miejska wie Lwowie: poszukiwanie sladow

Urban game in Lviv: Looking for traces

In November, the seminar group will meet again for the second part of the project in order to share the information and experience gained during the research on their family stories with each other, visit the former concentration camp and memorial site of Auschwitz-Birkenau, learn about the fate of the Jewish families from Oświęcim and explore everyday life, history and  of Poland. The third and last part of the project will take part in Oldau (Germany) in March 2018. The results of the seminar work will be presented on the website of the project: www.dialogue-of-generations.org

Spotkanie ze swiadkom historii
Meeting with Mr. Horechyi

The project, which is planned to be a recurring one, is based on the encounter and mutual learning between young people from Poland, Germany and Ukraine. It aims to strengthen ideas of social democracy and core values both in the participants and in the societies they come from, which contributes to international cooperation and understanding.

Grupa projektowa
Project participants

The project was financed by the Federal Foreign Office, the German-Polish Youth Office as well as the Friedrich Ebert Foundation Office in Poland.

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