"Understanding the pain, enduring the tensions - Eastern Europe today" - International Academy 2023 in Poland

|   Osteuropa, Aktuelles, Veranstaltungen

The KAAD International Academy of 2023, which took place in Lublin, Poland, in early June (June 1-4), focused on the history of the region, starting from the present, under the title "Understanding the pain, enduring the tensions - Eastern Europe today".

45 participants from 13 Central, Eastern and South-Eastern European countries came together in Eastern Poland to "understand the pain" in the face of the war of aggression against Ukraine and to deal with the region's multifaceted web of relationships in the past and present. KAAD President Fr Dr Hans Langendörfer SJ, KAAD Secretary General Dr Nora Kalbarczyk and the Eastern Europe Department of KAAD, Markus Leimbach, Alwin Becker and Sandra Stiel, travelled from Bonn; the event was organized with the active support of the KAAD Partner Committee in Lubin, Dr Jolanta Knieja and Dr Jacek Bednarz. With Martin Lenz and Christiana Hägele, the Eastern Europe relief organization Renovabis was also represented at this Academy.

The Academy was opened by Archbishop Stanisław Budzik of Lublin, who in his greeting pointed out the importance of Lublin for the history of Poland and the region. Fr Langendörfer referred to Poland's rich history and cultural wealth, but also pointed out the darker sides of history, especially the crimes of Nazi Germany. In view of these crimes, the General Secretary recalled that the way past suffering is remembered, the way reconciliation work is lived and shaped, decisively determines how current suffering can be seen and acknowledged. The church and church institutions have a special role and a special responsibility in this network.

The greetings were followed by a lamentatio in the form of an artistic performance that made the horrors and suffering of war palpable. A string quartet of the Lublin Philharmonic Orchestra performed works by various composers, and students of German studies from the Marii Curie-Skłodowskiej University in Lublin, including four Ukrainian women who had fled the war, presented texts from German, Polish and Ukrainian literature on the theme of pain.

The following morning, the group was given a guided tour of the Lublin-Majdanek Concentration Camp Memorial, a site that functioned as a Nazi labour and extermination camp from 1941 to 1944 and was ultimately the first camp to be liberated in 1944. The incomprehensible, cruel history of this place shook the participants.

The afternoon lectures, in turn, brought together the past history with the present and future: Dr Robert Żurek, Executive Director of the Kreisau Foundation for European Understanding and Director of the European Academy of the Kreisau Foundation, highlighted in his lecture the former web of relations between today's Germany and Poland as well as Poland and Ukraine and their path from enmity to partnership. The present and future relations between Ukraine, Poland, Russia and Germany were highlighted by Prof Dr Oleh Turiy, Director of the Institute of Church History of the Ukrainian Catholic University in Lviv and member of the Ukrainian Partner Committee of KAAD.

Another focus of the program was the workshop on the further orientation of KAAD's work in Eastern Europe. After an introductory presentation about the history, the tasks and the goals of the Eastern Europe department of KAAD, the present partners and alumni exchanged ideas about different aspects of this work and gave some impulses to the representatives of the office.

The participants of the Academy also had the opportunity to explore Lublin during a detailed and informative city tour. In the spiritual program of the Academy - the church services celebrated by the Archbishop and the President of KAAD - the participants could not only reassure themselves of their global-church solidarity, but also transform pain and suffering into joy.