C5 – Austria visiting Poland

In August 2019 we had our C5 Meeting in the lovely city of Gdansk with a very nice and hospitable host.

Reflection on C5 Visit to Gdansk by Bernd Herger and Gerhard Seidl

The C5 meeting in Gdansk took place from Saturday, March 9 to Wednesday, March 13, 2019 in Gdansk. Bernd Herger and Gerhard Seidl from Wiener Bildung visited the organization River Cities represented by Magda ZD and Wenek .

On Saturday, March 9, we started with a trip to Sopot, the neighbor town of Gdansk. There we visited the museum of the city Sopot „Villa Ernst Claaszens “ with the director Iwona Zajac. Iwona Zajac is an artist as well as a director. She presented us one of her most important works, in the shipyard of Gdansk she designed a wall. After several months of work, she asked former shipyard workers about their experiences and memories of their life at the shipyard. Many workers have been active in the yard all their lives and have rarely seen the city outside the yard. She designed the wall with stencils of the quotes and motifs of the shipyard. We were very impressed with the overall idea and find the way memories stay alive very well. It is a great way to work up the history and the lives of ordinary workers and to preserve the following generations. We also think it is good that this wall was right on the scene and not in a museum, for example, so people who passed it can read about and experience the experiences, feelings and memories of the workers. Iwona told us that the wall had to be removed after a few years and she was suggested to store it in a warehouse somewhere and eventually put it back somewhere else. As a result, she did not agree as an artist and painted over the artwork before the wall was destroyed. We found it inspiring that she mixed all of her existing colors as the topcoat and used the resulting very dark color for it. We had a long discussion about whether this was a good idea or whether it would be better to conserve the wall. Which right does the artist have? Or. Would not it be for the environment to preserve this story in public space and not just online?

Then we went to see the museum, the story of the Claaszen family is interesting. The museum tells the story of the city on the basis of a family and thus one can imagine imagining living at that time.

Later in the day we have the town of Sopot besichtiigt intense and Magda told us many stories and historical facts. We passed many historic but also contemporary buildings.

On the second day we met with Avril, Wenek , Iwona and Magda in the House of European Solidarity. The building is very impressive and we think it’s great that you can just walk around in the hallways and use the meeting rooms. Actually, we wanted to look at an app that tells the story of women in the shipyard. The app did not work, which we found very pity. Multimedia guides can be of great benefit to historical places and can tell the story vividly. It can be seen here that such technical possibilities are always associated with a risk. After visiting the roof of the building, we reflected on the past day with Avril.

Then we met Iwona and she led us over the shipyard and told us the story of the artists‘ collective. In conversation with Avril, we compared the situation in Vienna several times to the situation in Gdansk. We think it’s a shame that there are hardly any possibilities for artists to be active in the yard. The terrain would be very suitable for it.

After dinner, we visited the Church of St. John, which is used not only for religious purposes but also for art. We were very surprised about that because we think that it would be very difficult to do that in Vienna or Austria, of course the historical connections are completely different.

In Magda’s office we had another reflection with Avril, this was a new experience for both Bernd and Gerhard. It is unusual for us to talk so much about learning experiences. Afterwards we had a drama / theater workshop with Rita. This was a completely new but very interesting experience for both of us. Rita has been working with the group of women for some time and conceived a play on 100 years of women’s suffrage in Poland. We took a look at 13.03. Excerpts of it and are even more impressed by the group. It’s unbelievable how much the women on stage are affecting us, even though we do not understand the language. The most emotions we felt when we had to go through the group of women and they made different sounds or sang songs. After the workshop, we were eating with Rita and her partner and were entertained. We will present this project in Vienna within our organization and maybe there will be cooperation or we can do something similar in Vienna.

On the morning of Monday, March 11, we first talked to Avril about our experience with the workshop. At 11:00 we started our walk through an old part of Gdansk. The organization in which our guide is active organizes such walks to revitalize the less known and less touristy parts of the city and bring them closer to the people. We think this is a great idea. The fact that witnesses or people who are really grown in the district and live make these tours makes it very authentic. This kind of information is not obtained by a “ hop on – hop off tour“ in a bus. We liked the project for greening a street especially well, such actions are wonderful.

Outside the official program, Bernd, Gerhard and Wenek spent the afternoon together. This was a great way to get to know each other better.. We consider it essential for this project that the project members also have such „private“ opportunities to bring the project to a positive conclusion.

On the morning of March 12th, Wenek , Magda, Bernd and Gerhard had a video conference with Avril to reflect on the last days and to do a storytelling exercise . We jointly considered the history of River // Cities and came up with a very creative solution based on the Avril guide. We found this very funny and productive. We would like to take this exercise or task to Vienna in order to write down the history of our organization. In the last few days we have learned how important stories can be, we now think that it is really necessary to write down the history of the SPÖ Viennese Education and work together with the department.

On the evening of that day and Bernd Gerhard was the second World War in the museum, also a story is told. We were impressed by the technical realization of the museum and found it exciting and sometimes irritating how the story from 1930 to 1980 is told here.

Wiener SPÖ-Bildung

Gdansk hosting Vienna, C5 Activity