This week was a special time for us: an online program within the project “History Begins in the Family” has been launched. It all started from warm, cozy sessions during which we were able to meet in our national and international teams. The project, together with organizers and the participants, gathered more than 40 people together! Due to the current situation with Covid-19, the changes were introduced into the project, so we gathered in Zoom for an online-meeting instead!
At the beginning, the participants from each country had its own meeting, in Ukraine and Germany we used Zoom for an online sessions and in Poland we were able to meet in person in the International Youth Meeting Center Oświęcim. These sessions were full of pleasant feelings, laughter, deep talks and interactive materials. It gave the sense of connection, a meaningful human communication, possible even through Zoom.
After the national meetings, the first introduction session took place. Many Zoom slides later, we finally were able to get to know each other more. We were excited and scared at the same time, as from the side of participants and from the organizer’s team side. We gathered with the main aim: introduce ourselves, start the relationships which will last for a couple of months during the project, and who knows – maybe even a lifetime afterwards.
The first session was a very special session because it did not take place in presence but – with so many participants – online. You could see that many things were new. Both using the many new tools and communicating with one another was not easy. But I think it will work out better and better in the future sessions. I think it was also exciting for the participants to see how the first meeting goes, what works well and where there can be improvements. Here it is important that the participants give us feedback so that we can continuously interact better and better.
MARCIN SCHINK, Coordinator, Germany
Having discussed organizational issues as well, we started preparing for the second session. It was the first study session on memory and narratives about the Second World War. We presented our prepared materials, talked in the national groups and discussed a little bit more about the importance of memories, especially in history.
We have successfully launched an international online training program for project participants. This is inspiring as this format of this project is not that simple. We had several challenges of cyberspace that we managed to overcome. Verbal: This was solved by professional interpreters who translated from English into Polish, German, Ukrainian, and vice versa. Technical: Everyone worked on the Mural virtual board, which was quite easy for young people. Emotional and mental: Acquaintances and conversations in breakout rooms helped to establish this first contact. For me personally, there was a noticeable difference in our mentalities and the high level of excitation that usually occurs in the beginning. I think it is good, as we have a wonderful opportunity to build bridges of understanding with each other in order to build a peaceful future for our countries through the knowledge of the Other. After all, what it will be depends largely on us.
LIUDMYLA LEVCHENIUK, Education coordinator, Ukraine
To prepare the project correctly, the international team of organizers has been working hard and solid for many months. Everything from the program to the website, to gathering the experts and facilitators and to the development of communication strategy – all the team worked intensively to provide perfect quality content for our participants.
The first few sessions of the History Begins in the Family project have been really interesting. It was great to not only get to know new people from your own country but to also meet people from other countries and cultural contexts. The online structure of the project is definitely something new and challenging, but it was actually also fun and rewarding to try out new online tools to connect with each other, and the translators did great work to help us all connect with each other. What I found most interesting so far was to hear the impressions of people from other countries of German memorials in comparison to memorials and remembrance politics in their countries. It was really eye-opening. I’m very much looking forward to the sessions where we get more in-depth knowledge of the histories of other countries and get to have more discussions between the participants. I’m also very curious to hear about the family histories of other people.
– Linh Mueller, German participant
All in all, the project seems to have had a jump-start! Even though new measures should have been taken to ensure participants’ safety, it only enriched the project and gave us even more space for discussion, respect and dialogue.
The project is being developed by the International non-governmental organization ‘Foundations for Freedom’ as a part of the ‘Ukraine Action: Healing the Past Programme’ (Ukraine), the International Youth Meeting Center Oświęcim (Poland) and Lower Saxony Memorials Foundation/Bergen-Belsen Memorial (Germany) under the support of German-Polish Youth Office (DPJW).