Thursday, June 7, 2012

Unhealed history tends to repeat itself…

In view of the latest events in Ukraine, we can understand the importance of the steps towards mutual understanding concerning national issues, especially those conditioned by or related to our historical past and its perception. Lack of understanding or lack of a constructive dialogue in the society regarding sensitive, complex, or not fully investigated or unveiled issues has always been fertile ground for manipulations.

During four days May 17-20, 2012 in the suburbs of Lviv city (Ukraine) in the framework of the Ukrainian Action: Healing the Past project, there took place a Dialogue-Seminar for the Foundations for Freedom and ally organizations from Ukraine and Romania on historical memory and healing the past.

The Dialogue was grounded on such core principles as respect towards the right of everyone for their own outlook; seeking for what is right rather than who is right; getting to know the past through life stories; understanding that shaping the future involves taking responsibility for the past; realizing that we should start the changes from ourselves. The Dialogue was moderated by the F4F members Diana Damsa (Romania) and Olena Kashkariova (Ukraine).

The seminar brought together 18 activists from different cities and regions of Ukraine: Kyiv, Kharkiv, Mykolayiv, Odesa, Ternopil, Lviv, Khmelnytsky region, Luhansk region, the Crimea, as well as several representatives from Baia Mare (Romania) and one participant from Tiraspol (Transnistrian Moldovan Republic). Such a broad geography of participants together with sincere desire to build a constructive dialogue have paid off. Four days turned out to be enough to create a truly friendly atmosphere among the Dialogue participants and establish a qualitative and effective communication on sore subjects and issues participants wanted to discuss.

The first day of the seminar started with the presentation of the Ukrainian Action: Healing the Past project, the goals of the dialogue, and self-introduction of participants. This day was devoted to preparation for the dialogue, interpretation of the very notion 'dialogue', trust-building, listening skills, and team-building activities.

On the second day of the Dialogue, participants had the opportunity to hear the report of the historian and journalist from Kharkiv (Ukraine) Oleksandr Zinchenko about the mechanism and functioning of the collective memory. The participants did identity activities, drew their family trees and presented them in small groups. The day ended by viewing and discussion of "Merry Christmas" (2005), French drama film based on real events that happened during WWI.

The third day of the Dialogue seemed to be one of the busiest: the participants had a task to do a mini-research project on the subject they were interested in. They formulated topics by themselves and interviewed other participants according to the set rules. Among topics raised were: historical stereotypes, Crimean Tatars, UPA (Ukrainian abbreviation for the Ukrainian Insurgent Army), interethnic marriages, modern borders of Ukraine, the Moldovan-Transnistrian relations, Soviet holidays, national identity. In the course of this little research, each participant was able to look at his subject with the eyes of each respondent and thus expand their own vision of the problem as well as to train the ability to listen and hear. Importantly, each Dialogue participant suggested a number of ways of addressing the problems. Despite the tight schedule of the Seminar, after reporting on the mini-surveys we found time for an evening walk downtown, we continued our conversations in cosy Lviv coffee houses and parks.

On the last day of the Dialogue, apart from the summary of the previous days, there also took place an informal presentation of the ‘Letting Go’ book of life stories collected during the first phase of the Ukrainian Action: Healing the Past project in 2010. Each Dialogue participant received a book as a gift, along with a notebook and a T-shirt. Finally, everyone had a chance to share a symbolic burning candle and words of gratitude with everyone who made a difference in their heart during the meeting. Tears in the eyes of the participants indicated that we managed to experience ease and depth in communication, necessary to manifest sincerity and trust – important prerequisites for a dialogue. No wonder one of the participants shared her concern at the beginning of the seminar: "I am afraid I’ll want to come again" :)

To be continued...

For more pictures of the meeting and project news, visit the project page in Facebook.

Halyna Bunio,
Dialogue-seminar participant,
Responsible editor of the ‘Letting Go’ book of life stories,
Ukrainian Action: Healing the Past project activist

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