an international youth project

FROM SOLIDARITY to DEMOCRACY is an international educational and social project aimed at teenage Europeans. In October 2016 and April 2017, the European Solidarity Centre in Gdańsk hosted 4-day workshops for two international youth groups. The project involved a total of 60 participants from Poland, Germany and Ukraine. Their meeting was made possible thanks to the cooperation of the Maximilian Kolbe Reconciliation and Meeting House in Gdańsk as well as funds provided for the project by F.C. Flick Stiftung.

The young people discussed interpersonal and international solidarity, democracy and freedom, learned history and how to cooperation, all in order to better understand each other and acquire new social and civic skills.

The background to their workshop work was the recent history of Central and Eastern Europe and the current situation in Europe and the world. By exchanging knowledge, views and reflections, the young people created two educational pathways for the ECS permanent exhibition, two exhibitions on freedom, and a film and a demonstration on democracy. The work took place under the guidance of European Solidarity Centre staff.

According to the opinion of project participants, the most important thing for them was the opportunity to work and spend time in an international team. They met new friends, broke language barriers, and many learned to appreciate the value of human solidarity, freedom and democracy.

Sława Wyrwicka, Project Coordinator, ECS Department of Educational Projects

The workshop participants who worked on the theme of solidarity had a very difficult task. The students had to play the role of mentors and tell their colleagues about solidarity with a big and small ‘s’ in an interesting way. Their work was related to the ECS permanent exhibition, presenting the history of democratic change from 1970 to 1989 and the birth of the Solidarity movement. At first they did not even think they would have fun! Participants created two educational paths.

Group leader Anna Zielińska from the ECS Department of Educational Projects speaks about the activities of the group:
– The young people working in the Solidarity group were initially withdrawn and fearful. Their concerns were mainly caused by communication problems and fear of work related to the exhibition. Fortunately, all their fears were quickly allayed, and they began to enjoy what they were doing. As they said, they wouldn’t create anything interesting if they didn’t have fun. Communication problems were solved through shared explanation as well as a lot of laughter. After completing their work, they discovered with astonishment that the idea of "solidarity" had in fact been with them since the beginning, so they finally understood its true meaning and value.

The aim of the work of the participants was to jointly create an exhibition on freedom. The participants worked with different methods – they took part in short lectures, presentations on the use of photography exhibitions, discussions and substantive consultations with archivists. In creating the boards, participants selected archival photographs, created drawings and calligraphic designs, took pictures, and created collages, all with the help of Iwona Kwiatkowska, Agnieszka Bacławska-Kornacka and Ewa Konkel of the ECS Archive and Exhibition Organisation Department and under the supervision of Agnieszka Wichrowska from the ECS Department of Educational Projects.

Group leader Agnieszka Wichrowska from ECS Department of Educational Projects speaks about working together:
– Freedom has many faces and many aspects, and it does not come on its own, so you always have to keep it in mind and be careful not to lose it – such were the observations of the group of young people working on a photo exhibition about freedom. Their task was to show their personal understanding of freedom through photographs, artwork, speech or animation. They had many ideas, and their perception of freedom was very broad and comprehensive. Participants worked together and tried to communicate in any way available. They made every effort to be understood by the entire group. In addition to the photography exhibition, enriched by author commentary, there was also an intangible and very precious value: common working space and fun.

The aim of the workshop for this group was to characterise the notion of democracy both locally and globally. The final result of the work was: in October 2016 – a film report depicting the concept from the perspective of casual residents, tourists, and visitors to the ECS permanent exhibition, and in April 2017 – a spectacle combining theatrical etudes showing how the participants themselves perceive democracy. Piotr Grdeń, who also performed in the spectacle, assisted in the preparation of the film report. Both groups worked under the direction of Dominika Ikonnikow from the ECS Department of Educational Projects.

Group leader Dominika Ikonnikow from the ECS Department of Educational Projects reflects on the work of the group:
– Working on the project with a group of participants was a major challenge. First of all, on a linguistic level, as their English skills were quite varied, so meetings and workshops had to be multilingual. It was an interesting experience, and at the same time it facilitated the faster integration of participants, conditioned by understanding, appreciation of their efforts, and by the curiosity which resulted from the diversity of concepts.
A fascinating phenomenon occurred when discussing both the social and political aspects of democracy. Participants were asked to think about the word "democracy" in the context of cultural differences and soft skills and in terms relevant to their own experiences. This paved the way for the birth of a dialogue between the participants and successful attempts to read the cultural cues of their countries of origin.
At the same time, differentiated approaches to group work, time and interaction could be observed. Yes we integrated, but we often disagreed, and then we voted to make decisions. Thus, the project, which was supposed to develop the concept of democracy, became democracy in itself.


photo: Katarzyna Granacka, Dawid Linkowski, Sława Wyrwicka / ECS