Welcome to our blog. Here you can find all current informations and (during the trip) daily reports about our project.
In less than four weeks our project starts. Right now we are preparing everything: Program, Visa, Hostel, etc. :)
We have founded various working-groups for our topics.
Currently the East-West-Group is looking for texts about the following questions: What does "East and West" mean to you? Have you made any experiences with prejudices yourself?
If you have some texts or ideas send it to us through the contact-formular.
We are glad for all kinds of support about the program. If you have any ideas please contact us as well.
Or: The day were finally Kyiv went Leipzig!
Our dear Ukrainian guests arrived today and after long weeks of preparations we were all really excited to have them here at the beautiful city of Leipzig. As you can imagine, it isn't that easy to coordinate such a large group of people, but happily everyone found their way to their hosts. Most of us had a lot of free time till the "Welcome-Evening". Others, mostly the members of the organisation team, had to run some errands like going to the supermarket, planing the evening, cooking the meal, etc. Throughout the afternoon all our German and Ukrainian guests arrived at our headquarters: the building of the protestant student's parish (ESG) located in the south of Leipzig. We were then able to plan and cook a really yummy tomato-soup for almost 40 hungry students! (thanks again Miriam!). After a few welcoming words of our organisation team, the meal started. Everyone was eating, laughing, talking. Everyone was excited and happy to be finally here. Maybe the most impressing moment of the evening for me was just to listen to the sounds in the room. I could hear lots of different languages (German, Russian, Ukrainian, Parsi, and even some Spanish), a little bit of music, laughing people, etc. It was definitely a great start.
Later on, after eating and cleaning, we talked about some organisation-related things, that will ensure the success of the exchange. After that, Sophia, Fabian and Elena had planned some "get-to-know-each-other" games, that were really funny. The goal of the games was to interact and connect with our Ukrainian guests. Sometimes it's difficult to get yourself out there and break cultural barriers. Such games can break the ice between members of such an heterogeneous group.
At the end of the evening, the group left the headquarters to chill and relax at the park.
So: chin-chin and good night!
P.S. Photos are going to be uploaded soon, stay posted!
A day about the peaceful revolution
Today we had a very interesting, but quite exhausting program about the peaceful revolution. I think, it's nearly impossible to discuss this wide topic in just one day, but we tried.
We started with an guided tour through the city of Leipzig. Our guide showed us many places which were important during the GDR like the church St. Nicolas or the university, and she illustrated the progress and the restoration of the buildings with some photos of the city in 1989. We were very impressed about the transformation! All of us (even the people from Leipzig) learned a lot of new things about the city and the order of events in 1989, when the GDR were brought to an end.
After this tour we visited the canteen at the university where we had lunch, an then we went back to the ESG-house.
There we saw the film "Goodbye Lenin" and later we had a talk to Rainer Müller, a contemporary witness. With him we talked about everyday life, the environmental pollution, the Stasi and many other questions about the GDR. It was very interesting to hear his opinions about these topics, mostly about the peace prayers which took place every Monday at St. Nicolas from 1982.
We would had liked to discuss much longer, but we had to leave and to go by bike, train ans tram to the Cospudener See, a lake next to Leipzig. There we spend the evening with barbecue, a nice sunset and a lot of fun. For student's from Leipzig it's a typical summer-evening-event to visit one of the many lakes, so we had to show our Ukranian guests!
Now we all are very tired and looking forward for tomorrow!
Have a good night!
European Union - and Ukraine?
"The EU is a big project", this is one of our results of our morning topic today. We met Nadja Sthamer who gave us an introduction into the system and institutions of the EU. She works as an assistant for Constanze Krehl, a representative in the EU-parliament. Nadja explained to us the basic principles of the work.
Fast we switched over to a discussion about the EU: Is it mainly an economic institution, or is it more a cultural based community? Is there space for "national identity" and what shall this even mean?
A big topic also was the growing gap between the left and the right wing of the parliament. We talked about the orientation of different parties, which let us to the German politics, explaining
the positions of the new party AfD. It seems to be a broadly known phenomenon that the more one part of a population calls for connection with other countries and cultures the more motivation has
another part to form national parties in order to defend the traditional values. We see this in the EU as well as in Ukraine. Wherever this occurs there is the danger of national and ideological
interests blocking important discussions.
The morning ended with a talk about the big question if Ukraine should become a part of the EU. We didn't find a solution, but discussed chances, difficulties and possibilities and learned many things about the different views of our Ukrainian guests about this challenging topic.
Jakob, Tabea and Miriam
The Ukrainian Evening
Thank you very much for the great evening with such good food and so many nice people we had today in the beautiful rooms of Dresdner59! Here are some first pictures, a report will follow soon.
1st of September
First thoughts about the exchange...
After the days full of activities and discussions, our Thursday started with time for a self-organized exploration of Leipzig. Everyone was asked to take his or her time for being attentive to the stories, questions and experiences the city would offer; sit or walk somewhere, also talk to people and think about all the topics we touched in our program until now.
In the afternoon, we met in front of the mosque in Leipzig Schönefeld, which is one of the five mosques in the city. We were invited to visit the room for eating, watching films or just being together and talking of the people belonging to the community. Then, our guide allowed us to sit down on the floor in the mosque, and he told us a lot about the room, the ideas and structures of Islam. Also Lema, who is part of our group, added many information about her understanding of Islam and questions like wearing a hidschab. We continued our discussion outside of the mosque with cookies and juice from the special shop in the building.
Being confronted with cultural diversity and the topic of "integration", we went to the city of diversity and contrasts: Berlin. On the trip, some of our discussions, for example about "East" and
"West", were continued. There, not only the various means of transport and range of prices made us feel the different dimensions of this city. We are looking forward to the upcoming
1st - 4th September 2016
Trip to Berlin
We went to Berlin for the last four days. Here are some impressions, we will upload more informations in the next few days.
As you can see on the photos we went to the Bundestag and had an amazing guided tour, after which we went through Berlin by bus, to Potsdamer Platz where the wall was and lots of interesting
parts of the city center.
In the bpb - the Federal Agency for Civic Education (Bundeszentrale für politische Bildung) we had a lecture on the economic differences between East and West Germany after the unification and discussed about whether East Germany had a privileged situation in terms of becoming economically strong again compared to other eastern countries. In the evening we went to take a walk through Friedrichshain.
The next day we separated in two groups. One group went canoing in the Spree in Köpenick, an eastern district of Berlin, and the other group went hiking on the Teufelsberg.
We met again at "Platz der Luftbrücke" where Lutz showed us around in his childhood's environment. First we went through the pilots district Tempelhof and then to the Kreuzberg, there we spent the evening in the park.
On our last day we visited the Jewish museum with a guided tour through that amazing building and the history of Jews in Europe and America from the middle ages until post war times.
3rd September 2016
A Morning On The Water
We, the part of our group which were more interested in canoeing than in modern art and graffiti, had a very nice morning on the water. It was the best thing to do against the heat!
Our guide showed us the district of Köpenik by paddling on the rivers Spree and Dahme. We learned many things about the buildings which are situated at the riverside: Old factories, beautiful mansions, churches, bridges and the city house.
Many participants never sat in a canoe, but all of us had a lot of fun and learned how to paddle and to navigate. While canoeing we had the occasion to talk, to get to know each other, just to have fun - in an other way than while lectures or discussions.
After the trip we had some time to swim and to relax before we started to go to our next activity.
Our trip to the „Teufelsberg“ in Berlin
On Saturday in Berlin our group made a trip to the Teufelsberg – this means, the part of the group which felt too unsportive to go kayaking… After 20 minutes on feet we arrived at the top. The Teufelsberg – translated he would be called “mountain of the devil” – is one of the highest points in Berlin. It isn’t a natural mountain but he was created by pouring on rubble until the 1970s. Because of the height, British and American Allies installed aerials on the top. They should help them to spy. The so called “Field Station Berlin” was created. Until the end of the cold war in 1989, the western Allies tried to observe the radio connection of the Warsaw Pact, of the army and departments of the GDA and of the USSR. After the reunification, the area was sold.
Since 2006, on this place was made art. And this was very noticeable! All over the place were strange modern-art objects, for example an old satellite dish in which a mirror, shattered in 100 pieces, was installed so that you could see yourself 100 times if you took a look. The tower, which was built for putting the instruments of spying inside, was full of graffiti from various artists. All the, I don’t know, 4 metres?, high walls in each floor were sprayed in a colourful, artistic, sometimes for me a bit strange and/or social policy way – just impressing. Some nice and funny photos have been taken there by us. But in my opinion, the most interesting thing was the dome on the top. It was made of tarpaulin, I guess, and all noises we made were intensified a lot of times. It was really interesting to hear which sounds changed in which way. We tried a lot, whispering, shouting, some kind of body percussion and then singing polyphonic songs, especially Taizé-hymns. The effect was overwhelming. I had the impression that the mood was changing, nearly a devout atmosphere arose – in this place that was less than 30 years ago a place of war tactics.
30 years, in history, that’s nothing, but for me, it’s a long period. Often, I forget that only a few years before I was born, some kind of war existed in Germany, even if it was “only” a cold war. In every-day life, I cannot really see traces of war – luckily! The war is a theme in history lessons, not a thing which touches me in real life. The more, I’m very fascinated about the things the Ukrainian students told about war – just because it’s so far away for me. I cannot think that it’s reality to live in a country in which houses and churches were bombed, in which people from eastern region cannot escape to other parts of the country, because they aren’t able to rent an apartment just because in their passports is written down an address of the eastern part, in which the corruption is rife. In march, when the Germans were in Kyiv, I had to make myself realizing sometimes that I spend my holiday in a country in which bombs are falling! I think it’s really important for me to see that in numerous regions all over the world are worse conditions than here in Germany. And I think it is very impressing that the Ukrainians don’t lose their optimism and that they have a lot of great ideas to change their country (this could be seen in some discussion we had this week), even if politics and economy stagnate.
The way back from the dome we interrupted to have a beautiful view over Berlin, and I could understand why the Allies chose this place – we could see all important monuments and even on the
horizon Berlin didn’t seem to end. I still had this feeling after the half an hour journey by train to only the middle of Berlin, to the wall – also a place of the sometimes forgotten war (I only
speak for myself, of course!). But this story will probably tell another one.
A Trip Across Kreuzberg
In the evening we met at "Platz der Luftbrücke", where a monument remembers to the skylift. From June 1948 to May 1949, while the blocking of Western Berlin, the Allies airlifted foods and relief to the enclosed people.
Our guide, Lutz, who lived his whole life in Kreuzberg, showed us all significant points in his district. It was a very personal guided tour which offered us many special informations about soccer, the cultural life in the Kiez, integration and - of course - it's changing history.
After the walk we sat down on the steps at the Kreuzberg monument with a great view over illuminated Berlin. When the security came to close the gates at the monument, we moved to the Viktoriapark. The evening ended with with a lot of conversation and laughing.
4th of September
5th September 2016
Trip to Weimar and Buchenwald
We went to Weimar in the morning and from there to the former concentration camp Buchenwald. Because on Mondays they don't offer guided tours Ari had prepared a talk about its history and there was a movie about it shown in the information center there. Afterwards we walked over the grounds and talked about what we had heard and how that affected us - emotionally and rationally.
We went back to the city of Weimar where Sophia showed us around a bit. We went through the park to Goethe's house and back to the city center.
On our last evening we had dinner in the parish. Sitting on the floor having an inside picknick we talked about the last week, about when to see again, some discussed again about the situation in the Ukraine, in Europe.
6th September 2016
A Last View Over The City
On Tuesday, our last day together, we visited the townhall of Leipzig. There we had a meeting with Katja Rohloff, who cordinates the partnership to Kyiv. At first she led us onto the visitors'
platform of the tower, which is the highest one of a townhall in Germany. We enjoyed a great view over the city, to the lakes and the countryside around. The wheather was very misty, but the sun
came through the clouds slowly and gave us awesome scenes.
Afterwards Katja Rohloff invited us into a conference room and presented us some facts about the partnership and her work. We came into a discussion about what we can do for it. Our project might be a good way . :)
In the afternoon some of us went to Thomaskirche and the memorial for J.S. Bach and had a little walk through the city. The Ukrainian participants went shopping for souvenirs and food for the long journey.
6:30 pm it was time to say good-bye. We all met at the busstation for the big farewell and promised to meet again soon. The bus, that brought our Ukrainian friends home, left in time and with much tears we had to let them go...
We have to say goodbye
To my mind, the last day is the hardest one. To be more accurate, it is always difficult to say goodbye to those who have already become your family, even for several
days. Anyway, we spend our time with fun and, as usual, with getting new information about the most amazing city in Germany . :)
Thomaskirche is a wonderful place for praying, listening to classic music, and, for sure, to remind that one of the greatest composers in the world was a Kapellmeister here.
Thanks to our German friends, we discovered one more place of interest in Leipzig!
One week later
Hello blog, hello group!
It is now about one week ago that our intensive and colourful program came to an end. One week to travel back to the Ukraine or in different parts of the world (are you all well arrived?), one week to handle all the impressions, to reflect them, maybe to read some further information about topics we didn't totally get. And surely one week to update the facebook-friends-lists (assuming it didn't happen already during the meeting) :D.
So, which things will remain? What do I want to take with me, which facts changed my mind in some way?
For the part of the program, I'd like to emphasize again our guided tour in the Bundestag (already indicated further up). During this hour of walk through the building, I became more and more fascinated. Our guide, convinced of his teaching mission, brought us up to German history, the political system and its members in an illustrative way. Especially interesting for me was to see how the political transparency in our democracy is reflected in Foster's architecture. This transparency is also confirmed in a guided tour that shows us not only the hall of parliament, but also the room of a fraction. Rounded off by a splendid view over the capital, the morning was worth the effort (to stand up reeeally early). That's why we were thankful to continue with a seated bus tour around "such a beaauuuuutiful city" - this, however, is another topic.
But beside the official program, I am really happy about all our conversations and discussions, organized with the whole group or just in the free time, sitting in the park. I explored once more (after the trip to Kyiv in March) so much about my own and the Ukrainian culture. This concerning, we had some intensive discussions if we can distinguish between these cultures as easily as we do - is it possible to define the "eastern culture" in contrast to the "western culture"?
Furthermore, I talked a lot to our Muslim girl Lema (Salem Aleikum, if you read it now :D) and enjoyed the ease to speak with her about our religious similarities and differences, also about her enormous interest in Persian food.
These are only a few examples for our lively and fruitful atmosphere during this week. In the name of the whole group, I would finally like to express thanks to the organisation team again for the immense work and preparation! I don't find a better way than to return once more to our Bundestag-guide and repeat his words (more or less in his sense): "Please do never stop to commit yourself and involve in politics. Every single person has the possibility to change the society."
I am convinced that such an encounter is a magnificent contribution to this change. Thank you very much.