Quo vadis, Europe? German-Ukrainian-Russian Youth Exchange on Building a Safer Future (Weimar). Part I

CGE Team started to prepare for “Quo Vadis, Europe” the moment it got approval from the Foundation Remembrance, Responsibility and Future. The arrangements has been made for the youth exchange to take place in a picturesque town Weimar right in the heart of Germany, in a fantastic youth education center “Europäische Jugendbildungs- und Jugendbegegnungsstätte Weimar”. Together with the partner organisations “Youth NGO MIKS Ukraine (UA 🇺🇦)” and “Academy of innovation (RU 🇷🇺)” CGE created the program and the outline of the project to support young leaders from Germany, Ukraine and Russia to come together and learn from each other.

Welcome Evening at Quo Vadis, Europe 💬

On the first evening of the Quo Vadis, Europe? German-Ukrainian-Russian Youth Exchange began: with welcome words from the organisers’ team and getting to know each other games 😜
If you ever though that shoes 👠 are just accessorises to an outfit, you haven’t asked people to tell the stories about them. That’s what we first did with out participants and got to know so much incredible information that one can even write a book about it 📖. Then we had a some what of speed-dating 👀, where the groups of participants shared over the tables several facts from their life. After learning about each other we decided to take a walk and explore Sunday night life in Weimar. Interestingly, there was a tango show 💃🏽 just on the Theatre square right next to the glorious monument of Goethe and Schiller. The warm August night and sensitive Argentinian music lured us to the centre of the crowd. So, of course, we joined it to show our skills 😉 The arrival day finished with the love-sharing performance and a ton of shared laughs from all participants.

Introduction to the program 📋

The first official program day of the Quo Vadis, Europe? German-Ukrainian-Russian Youth Exchange started with establishing common rules for the exchange, developed by the participants, proposing extracurricular activities and also looking to the future and imagining learning outcomes of the whole project. Last but not least, we described our fears in order to identify them and be prepared to face (and also for trainers to find a way to deal with possible challenges). Every group presented their posters 📝 and the other had the chance to add anything they think it was needed.

City Rally with ActionBounds 🏃🏻

Probably one of the most satisfying moments in the life of a trainer is to use the outcomes of one project during another. And such unique possibility happen to be on the Quo vadis, Europe? German-Ukrainian-Russian Youth Exchange! The participant explored the city of Weimar through Actionbound application and the tours-bounds, created by the Erasmus+ Training Course “Expedition” of Nerijus Kriauciunas and Evelina Taunyte.
The treasure hunt led our participants to incredible hidden places, such as a mysterious pond, a secret entrance to caves, an alternative coffee shops with tailor-made drinks. Weimar holds a lot of mystical enigmas 🔮 and we have just started to reveal them. There is more to come! Keep an eye on us 😉

Reality Check at Quo Vadis, Europe? 🔎

In order to be more prepared for the talks about the future, the participants first concluded reality check ✅ – an exercise to understand what is happening around them and in their countries.
Four groups presented their knowledge and findings in the form of posters on the topics of International Relations, Security, Economic Development and Social Sphere of Germany 🇩🇪, Ukraine 🇺🇦 and Russia 🇷🇺. What we aimed to achieve is to see the interconnection of economical and political spheres, dependency on economical growth for a sustainable social development, foreign policy and diplomatic relations from the position of country’s security stance. These provided the participants with the comprehensive understanding of European affairs and showed a holistic picture of what is happening in the world. Also based on this knowledge we will move on to explore political spectrum and the influence of particular group of interest on the governmental policies.

Team-building at Quo Vadis, Europe? 🙌🏼

You truly learn more about yourself and about your friend when the challenge comes – a challenge in the form of a dangerous bog 🐍 that you need to cross.
This task was given to participant to see their creative approach in problem-solving and also to find a way to communicate and create common strategy to achieve a goal. Such a team-building helped to unite everyone, explore own strengths and weaknesses for later to successfully cross a tricky swamp. Once again we proved that effective collaboration between Germany, Ukraine, and Russia is very much possible and effective.

Session on Political Theory at Quo Vadis, Europe? 🎉

On 8th of August we started right away with the political theory! 📚 For a youth leader it’s important to be aware of the political environment in the country, so first of all, we looked closely at the political system.
One of the structural element of the political system is political organisations, such as political parties. In order to have a comprehensive understanding on what they proclaim we explored the political spectrum 🌈 on a simple left–right axis. It originally referred to seating arrangements in the French parliament after the Revolution (1789–1799).
What specifically was interesting is that after discussing the core ideas of each segment of the spectrum (Communism, Socialism, Liberalism, Democracy, Libertarianism, Conservatism and Fascism) we tried to put the existing parties in our countries to these axis. The outcome is visible on the poster. Even though we filled the space with those parties, many agreed that the ideology the parties are claiming to promote not always correspond with the policies they propose nor statements they make.
But the traditional left-right line doen’t represent the complexity of nowadays politics. One axe spectrum deals with economics, but neglects the social dimension which is also important in politics. For that matter Marina Bykova brought the attention to another tool for political analysis – The Political Compass (politicalcompass.org). There the x-axis looks at economic ideology, while the y-axis is social ideology. And with Compass it became easier to see who is ranging in positions from extreme authoritarian to extreme libertarian.

Parliamentary Debates and Session on Nationalism & Populism at Quo Vadis, Europe? ⛵️

After sorting through political spectrum and political ideologies we went for practise of the aquired knowledge and played a around of parliamentary debate. The participants were divided into five groups and argued from the position of randomly distributed political party on the following urgent social topics:
1️⃣ Every human has the right to marry other person no matter of gender and the state has no right to interfere;
2️⃣ Increase of retirement age will solve the problem of budget deficit;
3️⃣ Legalization of marijuana will not only decrease the crime level, but also enlarge budget receipts from its taxation.
The debates turned out to be intensive and highly engaging and the participants also practised their public speaking 🗣 skills.
Later in the afternoon we started with the session on Nationalism and Populism. There the participants were trying to identify the roots and consequences of such notions. By the means of theatre performance they also realised the engrossing danger of mind manipulation with the nationalistic and populistic ideas. “It’s very easy to go down the road with the populistic statements and discard yourself from your civic responsibilities”, such is the conclusion of the session.
One of the aims of the Quo Vadis, Europe? German-Ukrainian-Russian Youth Exchange is to prepare young leaders to be ready to face such challenges and distinguish political will for a change from a pure populism.

Intercultural Evening at Quo Vadis, Europe? 🎉

Mahatma Gandhi once said: «A nation’s culture resides in the hearts and in the soul of its people». So on the evening of the 8th of August we opened our hearts ❤️ and souls ✨ to share traditions, food and drinks, dances and songs with our fellow participants. The quizzes with generous gifts, some unexpected dance performances and just warm atmosphere of the event created a miraculous environment of exchange of the thoughts, feelings and happy moments, that are going to be remembered for life.
«Culture makes people understand each other better. And if they understand each other better in their soul, it is easier to overcome the economic and political barriers. But first they have to understand that their neighbour is, in the end, just like them, with the same problems, the same questions.» – wrote Paulo Coelho.
We followed Coelho’s advice and did your best at succeeding in understanding each other. We found out that the similarities that we have are way more great in the amount than differences. And with that a long-lasting peace ☺️ settled in our minds.

The project is supported and financed by Foundation Remembrance, Responsibility and Future (Meet up: Deutsch-Ukrainische Jugendbegegnungen Німецько-Українські зустрічі), Robert Bosch Stiftung, Auswärtiges Amt, Thüringer Ministerium für Bildung, Jugend und Sport.
Photos: Marina Bykova, Grisha Grigori Grigoriev

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