How can we build a common constructive future in which trust and goodwill towards the other prevail?
The above is a challenging question for everybody and a deep desire for everyone to attain. Over the New Year holiday, a group of people from all walks of life came from Central and Western Europe - Poland, Ukraine, Germany, Austria, Switzerland as well as Canada and Japan – to meet in Ujazd, Poland, in order to discuss this topic. We as neighbouring countries have different relationships to one another formed by history or politics, and yet a quest for a common constructive future is vital for us all.
So, one day while we were together, we looked at the question of our feelings, emotions, unresolved conflicts, thoughts and events in our life which we cannot talk about freely and why they have become a taboo for us. We also discussed the question of the perception we have of our country and our neighbouring countries, and how these have been formed. This resulted in rich and fascinating exchanges.
For example, an Austrian participant was able to trust us enough to share about Austria’s relationship to Germany and the consequences of WWI, which brought an end to their monarchy. Another participant expressed his gratitude for the fact that during the gathering he was able to meet real people who talk about things which make sense. A Polish participant shared that it was a moving experience for her to realize that Germans still feel a deep trauma after the tragic events in German history. We concluded that because there are still many unresolved issues and unhealed wounds from the past, we have become a target of manipulation caused by fear, false truth and false promises, whether it is in politics, media, or at work. One is often unaware of it.
Visiting Poland at the time when the president of Russia, Vladimir Putin, declared that it was the Polish people that were co-responsible for WWII and then when a German diplomat stated that the responsibility for WWII lies fully with the Germans, was an experience felt deeply by all who were gathered. We are taught to think in terms of enemies. We all wondered how to bring an end to such thinking. One way is surely through organizing such gatherings as this and listening to one another. And since we were in Poland, we did take time to listen to the deep worries and concerns that the Polish people hold about their future, we asked questions. In trying to understand their history better when visiting Krakow on one of our days together, through listening to their personal stories, singing their folk-songs, celebrating the New Year together and sharing quiet time for reflection, we could live into the heart of this country and its people more.
A Ukrainian participant from Crimea shared the following thoughts, which can be a good summary of our discussions and conclusion too: ‘Me and my generation carry a lot of emotional, behavioural "bricks." These bricks were taken on by our grandparents during the war and post-war times and are the bricks of that difficult bygone time, but they have been stored and passed down from generation to generation. These bricks are not felt physically and are not often seen. They are at the level of the subconscious; they are often embedded in the system of thinking, a reaction to a situation, in the system of our mentality. Perhaps these bricks are perceived as natural and native, but I consider them foreign. These are unspoken emotions. This is pain.’
‘The worst for me is the constant expectation of another war. These bricks will not be destroyed in the present, you will not get rid of them until there is a feeling that you no longer need to defend yourself, until you are sure of your sense of security, until there is trust in others. Geopolitical events of the present do not contribute to developing a sense of security, a sense of optimism about the future. But if everyone feels a part of the global structure in which relationships are built on trust, goodwill and responsibility for today and tomorrow, it can be the beginning of a life without the "bricks of the difficult past." A trauma or a taboo keeps a situation, an event in darkness, in the unknown and influences our decisions, our behaviour, it affects life in families, relationships at the working place, with friends, to one’s own country, and to the future. Listening to the inner voice, and discovering one’s own “make-up,” is a step towards understanding how relationships work.’
At the end of our time together we expressed our wishes and hopes which we trust will be our guidelines for a common constructive future without old divides. Our wishes are:
- to continue what we have just started.
- to build relationships with strong personal connections which are based on the desire to understand the other,
- to have patience to listen,
- to have hopes and dreams,
- to share experiences and fun,
- to be curious and humble,
- to build friendships upon which trust and goodwill can grow by investing ourselves fully, by connecting and reconnecting with friends,
- to have the trust that the other one has the same goal for a common constructive future
- to re-introduce IofC in Poland to the younger generation.
We also all shared a conviction that we want to continue to build a foundation for our work, to form a team in Central Europe which will be a source of strength and mutual support for each other, to plan visits further to the east of Europe and to create a strong network of friends and collaborators across the national borders.
Report: Ulrike Keller
Photos by Marta Dabrowska/Franz Vock