Day 4: From zombies to national heroes

Today we kicked our morning off with energizers, as our trip to Ressu upper secondary wasn’t quite as dramatic as our bus ride to Tampere yesterday. After running around playing zombies and toilets for long enough to feel awake and ready for the day, we started the actual programme.

First we got to hear about the Finnish Civil War from a Fennoswedish perspective when our alumni Sofia briefly summarized the competition entry she wrote five years ago for the national history competition. This research about the tracks of the Civil War in the minds of Fennoswedish youth was also her entrance ticket to Eustory in 2008, when the competition was arranged in Finland for the first time.


Sofia’s presentation opened a new perspective on the Civil War, as we had so far focused mainly on the majority’s experiences of the war. What seemed to surprise our participants most, however, was the second part of the research, where Sofia and her co-author had interviewed Fennoswedish youth about their knowledge of the war. The results had been clear: upper secondary students didn’t know or care to know much about the Civil War. Neither did they recognize the tracks of the war in their everyday lives – even if they would be in the form of a huge statue located on a central place, as the Statue of Liberty in Vaasa.

The presentation served as an introduction to the task at hand – to formulate diverse war-related questions, both factual and personal, for the Finnish upper secondary students that would be joining us later. Once the students arrived it became clear that they were attending the IB programme, a high school diploma programme taught in English with an international curriculum that focuses on specialization in relatively few subjects of one’s choosing. Many of the students did not have a Finnish background and several horrified faces could be seen when the topic of the session became clear, as the history curriculum of the IB is international as well. Nevertheless, our Eustorians and the invited guests made the best of the situation. The tables were turned as the participants suddenly seemed to find themselves in the role of being teachers! Here’s what Marina from Bulgaria had to say on the topic:

A well-needed school lunch later we found ourselves following the brisk steps of our guide for the day, Ilkka Kuivalainen, history teacher at Ressu. Kuivalainen took us to various graves and monuments that could be found on walking distance from the school and threw in some trivia about significant places that we passed on the way. Here’s Malte from Germany talking about what surprised him during the tour:

For reference, a picture of one of the German monuments that we passed:

When we got back from our educational afternoon walk it was time to dive deeper into the topic of memorials. The participants had researched WWI memorials in their home countries as a homework before arriving to Helsinki, and we spent the first moments of our afternoon session going through their findings. It became clear that the amount of WWI remembrance varies greatly: while we got to see many memorial statues from Germany and Russia, for instance, all three participants from Spain had chosen to present a statue in Barcelona dedicated to the Catalonian volunteers of WWI, since there aren’t many memorials to chose from.

The participants went on to form groups to explore the remembrance traditions throughout the year in their respective countries. The results – everything between independence days and national heroes – were presented just before we had to leave the school premises in order to make sure that we did not accidentally set off the alarm for being present in the building after-hours. Annete from Latvia had this to say about our closing session for today:

After dinner the participants were given free time to rest or explore Helsinki. We are all set for tomorrow’s topic: nation building and national identity, topped off with a visit to the CMI – the Crisis Management Initiative. A peek behind the scenes at an institution like that does not come by often, so don’t miss tomorrow’s post!

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1 Response to Day 4: From zombies to national heroes

  1. Pingback: La experiencia de la Academia en Helsinki (2013) | Eustory | Concurso de historias para jóvenes

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