From childhood tales to a historical research work

noeliaAuthor: Noelia Blas Guillén
Country: Spain
Competition Topic: “My Family in History” (2012)
Research Title: “Tales of My Childhood.”

Noelia loved the times she stayed at her grandparents and she loved to listen to the stories they told her. When she got involved in a school project about the democratic transition of Spain from the Civil War to the present, something clicked in her head and she went and interviewed her grandparents.

Part 1

I still remember very clearly that feeling of excitement and pure illusion that I experimented each time I had to stay at my grandparents’ house. There were special moments, there were ours and that was enough. I could spend hours and hours listening to any of the stories they were willing to tell me. They were mostly their own experiences, but I enjoyed each second of them. I now think that they make me curious about life, and that is such a positive thing! I never get tired of their little talks and when I was proposed to do the work, I took that as the major base of it. My grandmother was born two days after the Civil War had started. It was perfect, it was like listening to a thrilling novel, and it felt close, honest. My grandparents came from very different atmospheres, but life and circumstances put them together in a sunny day of May. I chose both of them because I wanted to contrast both situations and how the historical events that were taking place at that time had an impact on their lives.

My grandfather was nine years old when it all started; he was forced to move to the country in order to avoid the explosions in the capital city. His parents stayed in Madrid and he got used to living apart from them. It was necessary. Ricardo has still today a very clear memory of it, he remember the planes on the sky, the feeling of isolation, the chronicle sadness. It is a hard topic to debate for him, and there is one thing that captured my attention and that was his “impartiality”. “Nothing…we were not republicans nor nationals. We didn’t have fanatic ideas. As in every place, there people with different points of view. But everyone was the same. There was too much criminal negligence, too much blood”, he once said. His generation needed to be quiet and “not think too much” about what was happening if they wanted to remain alive.

My grandmother had barely started breathing. Life far from the capital at that city had its advantages and disadvantages. For instance, I remember that my grandmother told me that her family used to have a special machine to make pasta, they couldn’t prepare more than four or five dishes and they had to control very precisely what they had for the week.

If the three years of war were tough and rough, harder were the days of postwar. They were no means or resources, my grandmother said “Well, we had what we needed: a bed, a chair, a table and the possibility to eat, that was it”.However, they always managed to put a smile upon their faces, my grandmother used to listen to soap operas on the radio and my grandfather tried to catch up with the political issues. They didn’t know who The Beatles were: “a group of hairy men with sunglasses”, they would say. The democratic transition, with all the changes in the political level made them hard to change their habits, their opinions. Those things – demonstration, the roll of woman in society, a non-dictatorial system- came very fast. It started a period full of music, cinema and art in general, liberated after the strict censure.

“Yes, the Eurovision contest was very popular at that time, everyone had an opinion, they were better back then”, she says. There is a constant sentence in the whole interview “I wish I were you honey: speaking Spanish, English, German, French; travelling around the world,…” It is true that they have experienced a very intense life, a life full of changes, full of fear, full of highs and lows, but they were very limited to their circumstances. They had no scope for action, and they now see us, our grandchildren with that hope in their eyes. For me, this work was a way to thank them all those good times, and it was one of the most enriching things that I have done.

noelia_photoPart 2: It all really started in a History class, two years ago. We were close to the end of the academic year and the teacher was preparing “something big” for the final term. She wanted us to really get involved in the project. The topic was pretty clear: “The evolution of Spain from National Civil War to the democratic transition”.

I had to become a kind of journalist, in order to explore the political and cultural background of it and make it realistic. All of a sudden something clicked in my mind, those stories of my childhood deserved recognition. I’d make my grandparents the main roles on my work and I would try to do their stories justice. Stories and thoughts that I had never considered, events that marked their past and help to understand their postures towards life.

There were intense hours of work, but they were always very positive about it, and they never gave up. Nerves came along sometimes because it seemed like a third grade of their own experiences but it all turned to be a fantastic work, of which I’ll always be proud. They make me think differently, with a wide open vision about those years. However, it’s always amazing to see their smiles every time I mention those times together. Some things are truly priceless.

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“Just live!” – Aurélien from France about life, art, music and being French

IMG_7220Name: Aurélien
Age: 18
Hometown: Le Lardin Saint Lazare (South West – Dordogne)
Country: France
EUSTORY experiences: Slovenia 2013 “The End of Empires: New Borders, New States, New Loyalties?”
Actual occupation/studies: Student, in graphics, internet, communication and audiovisual.

Impressionism made him love art and his aspiration to become a journalist drove him towards the studies of communication. As a musician, Aurélien is interested in audiovisual and as an art lover he discovered graphics. He chose communication, because he says we’re all living on the same planet, so we have to meet people, communicate and share. Silence and separation are a no-go for Aurélien. However, he isn’t quite satisfied with the direction he ended up with. People often reconsider their decisions, their chosen paths. Many of us do not even need to be completely satisfied with the direction we have.

Even though Aurélien knows few points in audiovisual, he also needs scientific skills to study the sound. “In music you need both, the scientific perspective is important too.” Aurélien however decided not to push this situation too far and to keep his safe distance from sciences as he doesn’t feel scientific. On the other hand he kept on his studies in literature also in Limognes, middle-west of France in any case.
Aurélien devoted himself to creativity. He seems to be so resourceful, that he has a hard time to find some time to realize all the ideas he comes out with. He takes his inspiration from everywhere. He identifies with these various patterns of influence from the French poets like Rimbaud all the way to artists like Jim Morrison.

“It will spread Love all over the World Just like a « upper Love » Killing what we’ve done Thanks to your only sun... If I haven't got strength to take off this mask It could become your face.”

“It will spread Love all over the World
Just like a « upper Love »
Killing what we’ve done
Thanks to your only sun…
If I haven’t got strength to take off this mask
It could become your face.”

I asked Aurélien to give us a hint, what his art is like, and he sent me a part of his lyrics, I would like to share:
“It will spread Love all over the World
Just like a « upper Love »
Killing what we’ve done
Thanks to your only sun…
If I haven’t got strength to take off this mask
It could become your face.”

It seems that music is a big part of Aurélien’s life and his devotion shows he is doing it right. He also has his kind of “idol” who would be Slash, who started playing guitar in the same age as he did. However it isn’t really the lyrics, or the music he creates, that guides him. The former guitar player of Guns N’Roses influences him in the way to think about music: music as feelings, as just taking the guitar and playing, listening. People live music and connect it to their life intuitively. “Send Me An Angel” by Scorpions is for Aurélien a song that reminds him of a sad part of his life he will not forget. Also “Something In The Way” by Nirvana, the first song he has played with his first guitar. Music certainly brings back memories, and it seems it means a lot for many people.

Aurélien proving his creativity during the production of a music video during the EUSTORY seminar in Slovenia in October 20013

Aurélien proving his creativity during the production of a music video during the EUSTORY seminar in Slovenia in October 2013

For Aurélien music is like freedom, a space that nobody can disturb. Music helps people to live, illustrate their joy, or sadness. “Music is like dream for me. When I’m alone I’m writing songs, hoping that I will be listened to one day, because music also means sharing.” When I asked him, where he wants to be in 5 years, he said he has no idea. The only thing he is sure of is that he wants to travel a lot, all around the world. He wishes he will be able to do what he likes, and he wishes he will be happy. Aurélien is happy when surrounded by unknown, it seems like he enjoys the challenge that you don’t understand anything what’s happening around you. He just understands how to appreciate the consequential motivation flowing out from new people, sounds and new topics. In this challenging way of living there is a great deal of courage which we should all try to follow.

It is inspirational, that Aurélien disregards the ease of contentment we often fall into. He calls it “staying in that pervert comfort which makes us dying” He confirms, that being happy isn’t always easy. Aurélien likes people when they’re not complaining all the time. “Just live!” he says. He doesn’t like people who try to look at the other to criticize them. He sees it as the carnivorous side of humans, which is sneaking out sometimes. It is very valuable to know yourself to know how to live. Aurélien is very direct when I ask him. “My strengths would be the patience, the creativity and generosity. Whereas my weaknesses would be the trust in me, and the desire of discover everything, which makes me dreamy.” He adds that what people think of him isn’t what defines him. He says, that when he seems slow he is often just thoughtful and rationalizing.“ So, to be dreamer or a Cartesian person depends of the situation and we just shouldn’t mix the situations.”

Memorial visit during the academy in Slovenia

Memorial visit during the academy in Slovenia

After the seminar, he keeps in touch with the Eustorians he met, and he is starting to get used to speaking English. “The seminar had a huge influence in my personal development for that point”. He knows today that he will never forget the Eustory week. “It was the best week in my life,” he continues dreamingly, “meeting 25 new persons is just huge! It’s what everyone should do!” He told me he realized something when he was in Slovenia: “I’m French and I’m talking English with a Polish guy in Slovenia about a Russian topic! When I succeed in sharing something coming from my country with the others, and when we found common point between us, then we feel like real Europeans. The culture makes us European.” He just loves Eustorians. “They were funny, intelligent, enthusiastic… I miss them so bad. This week has been wealthier than one year of my “normal” life.” he continues.

Aurélien with his European friends

Aurélien with his European friends

When people travel, they see the tones of Europe that differ, and they are capable to define themselves as a fragment of it. “Of course that also the French type of personality exists!” he says, “French people are really strange… it’s like another type of human!” he declares with a small grin. But then Aurélien says it’s too hard to explain it thoroughly: “To give you an idea, when I was in Slovenia, during the seminar, everyone came to me, and tried to say a word in French! I guess a lot of people like French, or France. Then, when I said something ‘abstract’, I mean a nice idea with fine words, they reacted: ha-ha, you’re so French… romantic, you speak well.” Aurélien is pretty proud of his country: “We have so many nice cities, good food and all that stuff.” The thing he regrets a lot though is the concept of racism growing stronger in France.

Interviewer: Jasmin from Slovak Republic

Interviewer: Jasmin from Slovak Republic

Unfortunately various forms of radicalism also appear in many other European countries increasingly. Therefore Aurélien doesn’t have any proposition but one: “What about a Eustory seminar in France? We could focus on immigration in Europe because of the last two World Wars and have a deeper look into issues connected with racism, of which I am really afraid of in my country.” Eustory already affected Aurélien’s view on history a few times. It could be interesting to see, what a group of young motivated people can do with another major European problem like this one proposed by Aurélien.

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7777 – From Ravensbrück to Kristianstad: Traces of History

Fanny (18) from Sweden

Fanny (18) from Sweden

Author: Fanny Jonsson
Country: Sweden
Competition Topic: “(E) MIGRATION – Emigration and immigration in a local perspective” (2011/2013)
Research Title: “From Ravensbrück to Kristianstad.” (2013)

Fanny has been learning a lot about WWII in school. So much, in fact, that she believes it has made her and many others feel numb about the topic. In order to fight that numbness, she decided to look at the fate of prisoners of Ravensbrück Women’s Concentration Camp.

Ever since she was a child, her grandma has been telling her about three women who stayed with her family after WWII. All of the three women were survivors of the concentration camp Ravensbrück in Germany. They came to Norway, Sweden, and Denmark by way of the white busses that the Red Cross organised. One of the cities in Sweden that took refugees was Kristianstad, Fanny’s hometown.

Fanny: “In the newspapers the Red Cross called out for help from families, and many were willing to help, one of those families was my grandmother’s. Her family took care of three women for a summer. They helped them to get on with their life and to found missing family members. My grandmother told me so much about these women that gave me a better view of the suffering the women experienced than from any book.” 

“FREE AGAIN. 800 freed Germans have arrived in Trelleborg with the Red Cross leased ships “Lille Matheissen” and “Magdalena”. On the picture you see French women come ashore and the picture on the bottom to the right Frenchmen at the railing”

800 freed Germans have arrived in Trelleborg with the Red Cross leased ships “Lille Matheissen” and “Magdalena”. On the picture you see French women come ashore and the picture on the bottom to the right Frenchmen at the railing”

Through her grandmother stories, Funny got a better view of the suffering the women experienced than from any book. Fanny interviewed her grandmother, read a lot of testimonies of prisoners and of people who drove the busses, and looked at original articles from the local newspaper “Kristianstadbladet”. Fanny: The most interesting source I got my hands on were original articles from  “Kristianstadbladet”. I got the opportunity to browse their archive and take copies. I never thought I would be as moved by this as I came to be. I sat with the books and cried while reading. I cried while writing. And I cry when I read the essay again. But that is to me a good sign. Because it means I finally stopped being numbed  which was my biggest goal.”

Fanny Jonsson’s paper was among the 10 best in the Swedish history competition 2012/2013. The topic was “(E) MIGRATION – Emigration and immigration in a local perspective”.

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“History is not about facts, but about people.” Talking with Zuzana from Slovakia

zName: Zuzana Jungerová
Age: 23
Hometown: Spišská Nová Ves
Country: Slovakia
Current country of residence/study: Slovakia
EUSTORY experiences: Youth Academy Berlin 2007,  Alumni Seminar Minsk 2010 (Chernobyl), Alumni Workshop Berlin 2011 (Chernobyl), Alumni Workshop: Desire for Freedom Berlin 2013
Actual occupation/studies: European studies – final year (5th)

Zuzana is one of those people you are just amazed by. First of all, when you are in company with her, you will certainly have a good laugh, mostly due to Zuzana’s witty comments and observations. Since intelligence is somehow a prerequisite of a good sense of humour it is obvious that Zuzana has that too. After taking part in four Eustory activities since 2007 she perceives and defines Eustory as “a way to express myself and share the opinions”. She enjoys taking part in various serious and controversial debates that come up during the seminars or afterwards, when the daily programme already ends. As an open-minded student of European studies, which she is currently finishing, she appreciates and values projects like Eustory, which are “a unique opportunity to discuss different, sometimes even sensitive and compelling topics. They provide us with an opportunity to challenge one´s views and to be challenged.”

Studying and developing skills in the framework of university education is certainly important, however one can learn so much more in life, outside the faculty walls and programmes. Zuzana agrees with this with her activities in the last year, when she visited Paris, where she participated in a French language course and when she moved to Freiburg for a month to study German. In addition, participating in Eustory activities as an alumna gave her important lessons too. Eustory “helped me to improve many skills such as research or argumentation, and also to better analyse the world around me. Secondly, it enabled me to discover topics about which I had incomplete or even incorrect information, such as the Chernobyl project”, Zuzana says.

As an alumna, Zuzana took part in three Eustory projects and as she stated with a smile, her biggest contribution to them is herself. Due to the devotion and enthusiasm to the work she does, especially when it comes to the topics and issues of freedom, gender equality, LGTB rights and human rights in general, I do not see any ground to disagree with her statement. The feminist campaign she prepared with fellow Eustorians during the Desire for Freedom workshop in Berlin, and in which they highlighted and exposed the labels, expectations and unequal treatment that society imposes on women nowadays, is so far her all-favourite moment in her Eustory past.collageFinishing studies and making decisions for the future is quite hard in the nowadays period of instability and uncertainty. However, Zuzana hopes that in five years she will be pursuing her career in one of the international organisations “possibly the European Union”, she adds with a smile. Taking into account her determination to learn German and French and her desire to gain knowledge about the unknown and undiscovered topics on her own, and adding of course also the support of her girlfriend, who inspires and motivates Zuzana, there are great prospects that she will indeed fulfill her dreams and goals for the future.

When we moved to the question of her career-plans and the connected question of the meaning and role of the EU in European and international environment Zuzana expressed her strong belief in the concept and the institution of the EU: “the values of the EU and of united Europe are the one we should and have to strive for. Nothing will bring us more prosperity and more understanding than tolerance, acceptance and freedom to pursue one’s rights.” as she later added, her Eustory experience contributed to her position and opinion about the EU, since “Eustory taught me the most important thing about history: history is not about facts, but about people.

Interviewer: Tamara from Slovenia

Interviewer: Tamara from Slovenia

It is not about what happened, but to whom, how and under what circumstances. We should avoid perceiving history as something given and definite. Interpretations of history are so different, so colourful that one cannot say that there is only one true history. This idea has helped me to understand the fact that Europe, though culturally heterogeneous and different, shares the same values, and that maybe one day we will together embrace the EU´s values: freedom, equality and tolerance.”
Knowing Zuzana, her views and her optimistic vision of the EU, I can merely conclude our conversation with adding that she would certainly be a more than a welcome change to the European and EU’s politics.

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Rapping citizens

The alternative and artistic environment of our hostel in Metelkova inspired our participants to deal with the topic of minorities and borders in a different way…

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Window painting the End of an Empire: The Fall of Yugoslavia

Without any further ado…

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You can leave your map on

IMG_6773aAmong many other interesting  – and before unexperienced – challenges, our participants also took the roles of geography/history lecturers, who presented shifts in the borders of their countries as well as the reasons, causes and the consequences created by changing the borders. Our national border experts contributed to our knowledge and awareness about the meaning and influence of state borders. IMG_6801aWe realised how third-party’s (usually the war-winners) decisions about the size and shape of the losing states can cause severe consequences for the people living in territories. Nationalities changed, homes were lost, families separated…

Once great and extensive multinational empires slowly shrank in the course of history and new nation states were created. IMG_6738aPeople living on the very same territory sometimes changed their citizenships multiple times due to the often changing border-lines. Some decided to stay and accept their new citizenship, while others decided to migrate; to follow the sometimes very elusive border-line in order to once again live inside the borders of that country, which represents the fundamental part of their national identity.

What exactly happened with Poland, the Austro-Hungarian empire, focusing especially on the later established states of Austria and Slovakia and how Finland’s development into an independent state is presented by our participants in the following videos. Enjoy an interesting and original history lessons, as we did here in Ljubljana.

Poland between the 3 dragons:

The end of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and the beginning of new states

The Finnish independence

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