Workshop “Same Event, Different Stories”

By Helen Sophia Müller

On Saturday afternoon the participants took part in a special class in history: In the workshop “Same Event, Different Story” they shared their very personal memories and perceptions of specific events in the past with the group. The participants chose the topics they talked about themselves and it turned out that there exist certain events in the past all participants have heard of but the knowledge on what has happened was partly very diverse. In an ongoing process of trying to define what history is, this workshop pointed out that it is not simply an objective chronological order of events in the past. Perceptions of history in this workshop were strongly shaped by personal memory and collective narratives. People worked in small groups to share those memories and narratives with each other. A Polish-Ukrainian group worked on how borders between their own countries had been changed in the past. Despite the common notion that this topic belongs to the past and has no current influence, for many it was a very emotional discussion. On the contrary, a German-Estonian team reflecting on narratives in their countries about the recent assassination of journalists working for “Charlie Hebdo” in 2014 felt no strong personal connection to the event they picked but rather perceived it as a common milestone in their countries’ histories. An Estonian-Polish group compared their knowledge on the beginning of the Second World War, finding out that in their school education different aspects were highlighted. A Moldovan-German team worked on the memories of the nuclear catastrophe in Chernobyl (in today´s Ukraine, as not all participants have been aware of before) in 1986. Moldovan participants were surprised to hear that in Germany the events in Chernobyl have an impact on environmental and energy policy until today, while in their country it is perceived as a past event without effects on the present, even though they were much more affected personally by what happened in 1986. The workshop related a theoretical debate on what the term history actually means with personal experiences and raised the awareness that the stories and narratives being told in one country must not necessarily be told in the same way in other places.

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