Erfahrungsbericht Study Camp “Memoric – Heroes of peace and pacifism remembered” 2015

Verfasst von Hanna Rask

This year collaboration of SCI Österreich and its long-term partner organization Dolomitenfreunde got a new addition to the yearly work camps in Carinthian Alps: the very first World War 1-themed study camp was organized in Kötschach-Mauthen, Carinthia in July. My EVS-volunteer project with Dolomitenfreunde being also supported by SCI, I got a privileged opportunity to follow this new kind of collaboration as a “part-time participant” besides by work in the war museum of Dolomitenfreunde in Kötschach.

In mid-July, a group of 11 young Austrians and Italians settled at Fit&Fun youth hostel in Mauthen for 10 days in order to learn about the history of World War 1 with the emphasis on their home countries and other topics related, such as pacifism, heroism and national borders. The camp was part of the SCI’s campaign Memory beyond Rhetoric, which aims at remembrance of WW1 and raising awareness about the history of pacifist movement in Europe and the diversity of perspectives concerning issues like war, peace and heroes.

The collaboration with Dolomitenfreunde and the camp took place mainly through the Museum which not only shares with SCI and the study camp the purpose of peace education, but also provided the camp with unique resources when it came to information, material and expertise about WW1. The whole group visited the museum on the very first day of their program to get an overview about the WW1 events in the area. Everyone being filled with the enormous load of information from the permanent exhibition, it took yet another visit later to see the special exhibition and to get more deeply engaged with artistic aspects of war.

From the educational point of view, an important aspect of the study camp was to let the participants learn not only by being given workshops and educational sessions, but also by giving them to other people. The first opportunity for that took place when the group of SCI volunteers working in the open-air museum of Dolomitenfreunde up in the mountains visited us in the village. Timelines, map puzzles, quizzes and games got a positive reception, and the best part was of course to get to know with these new people from six different countries. At the end of the camp the group also organized a workshop for the local community, which turned into a bit of improvisation – the program was planned mainly for an audience of younger people with not that much knowledge about the war history, so there was some confusion in the air when the small audience turned out to consist only of people with more age and knowledge than us. Eventually the expected roles where turned upside-down, the locals sharing their expertise with us instead the other way around.

The life during the camp in itself was no doubt an experience for all of the participants: spending 10 days intensively together with a multinational- and cultural group had its ups and downs from the new, emerging friendships to occasional language- or cultural barriers. Those days required flexibility from everyone when it came to decision making within the group. Disagreements or misunderstandings happened at times, was it about the type of cheese to be provided with pasta or just about time schedules or division of tasks. Especially for the youngest participants the camp was also both an experience of excitement and a test of independence while being far from home in a completely different environment. Some hypocrisy may, though, be noticed here in-between the lines – participating only part-time, I had myself the opportunity to take some breath of the intense socialization by sneaking to sleep at home and “relaxing” part of the day in the Museum.

Once more back to educational point of view. I find that the area around Kötschach-Mauthen provided the camp group with a unique scene for learning about WW1 events and life of the time. It definitely gave the participants some more concrete touch concerning the dates on a timeline and names of the battles to first see the huge collection of original photos and remained material items in the Museum, and later to walk in the middle of the remains of trenches, caverns and fortifications up in the mountains. A colorful addition were also the pieces of local “oral history” heard during the community workshop and the guided tour in the Museum.

This Finnish addition thanks and bows (as we say in Finland) the camp group, SCI and Dolomitenfreunde for the educational and entertaining 10 days.

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