Culture News Politics Science Society, 04/08/2017

Touching History to Promote Democracy

Yesterday, on August 3, the results of the German-Ukrainian program of history teachers exchange were presented to Kharkivites in Nakipelo.

A dozen participants were teachers, students and historians from Nuremberg and Kharkiv, sister cities for almost 30 years.

The project for experts teaching and studying history became a part of MeetUp program, supported by the EVZ Foundation (working for “memory, responsibility, and future”), the German Foreign Ministry and the Robert Bosch Foundation.

The project was launched by NGO Dekabristen e.V though it was not their only initiative in Kharkiv. Back in 2015, the organization for the first time brought the Theatre for the Dialogue to the city. In 2016, Dekabristen facilitated the opening of a school of social entrepreneurs.

This year, Ukrainian and German groups of seven people took part in the memory exchange program. First, Kharkivites spent a week in Nuremberg in June. By the way, they were among the first thousand of Ukrainians who crossed the EU border without visas. At the end of July, the German students visited Kharkiv. During a week they were meeting volunteers, visiting museums and monuments, working with documents. The key topics of their interest were World War II and actual war in Ukraine, issues of Stalinism, repressions, Holodomor and Holocaust.

“The main purpose of the program is learning history and facilitating exchange. However better understanding of today’s situation is a ‘side effect’ that we hope for”, specifies Deputy chairman of the Dekabristen and the project director Andrey Ferdinand Novak.

“Ukraine’s history, culture, and even its geographical position is terra incognita for the most German people. But what is really strange, it remains the same for the most historians!” says Cornelia Götschel, a student from Germany. ”Even specialists have only limited information about it, and just a few history experts researching Eastern Europe know Ukraine well and follow the actual events.”

Cornelia states that after the Revolution of Dignity the interest to Ukraine has increased. She was impressed by the visit to Drobitsly Yar in Kharkiv and by a dark image of “Evil Europe” and “Nationalist” Ukraine depicted by Russian propaganda.

Another German group participant highlighted: “History is not only facts and figures! History is also emotions and feelings which you can’t ‘live through’ only by reading history books. You need to ‘touch’ and understand it by visiting historical places and meeting specific people, the survivors, and veterans.”

“A dedicated history teacher who is searching for knowledge, historical facts and the truth inspires his students and help them develop their knowledge and judgment. I hope we can reach and find the teachers of this kind,” says Andrey Novak.

Therefore, this program raises awareness, promotes an exchange of ideas and opinions on the way to the “true history” and introduces democratic values, say the organizers who hope to carry out similar exchange visits twice a year in the future.

The program participants will publish their research as a result of their visits. But their main gain is an ability to spread “live evidence” to their future students, colleagues and just interested people both in Ukraine and Germany.


Text: Olena Sokolynska

Photo: Olena Sokolynska, Anton Galushka-Adaykin