“German people know very little about Poland. Many have never been to our extensive Baltic coast, for instance. In fact some aren’t even aware that Poland is an immediate neighbour. That’s what I have discovered time and again since working with the German-Polish Youth Office, or GPYO. I want to convince the people I get to know here that we are separated by very little indeed.
There are a lot of important historical connections, especially surrounding the fall of the Berlin Wall. The freedom movement began in 1980 with the strike movement of the Polish trade union organisation Solidarność. Not very many people of my age know that. We young people take life in freedom for granted. Few realise that our parents fought hard for it. Before I started working with the GPYO, I had little interest in the fall of the Wall. Our family rarely spoke about the events, even though my grandfather, a factory worker, had experienced them first-hand. It’s only now that I talk about those times with my family to discover more. I want to share my information about those years with more young people. That’s why, together with my colleague Helena Bernhardt who is doing her voluntary service at the Warsaw office of the GPYO, I have organised a meeting for young people about the fall of the Wall: twelve young Germans and Poles are taking part in a workshop for several days in Gdańsk to discover more about their mutual history and exchange ideas about freedom. It’s no coincidence that we are meeting in Gdańsk. It is the city where Lech Wałęsa signed the Gdańsk Agreement and founded Solidarność.
We’re transforming the results of the workshop into a rap song. In this way we are combining history and music. Helena and I believe this will help us to remember the events of 1989 and our relationship to them. And we think this is the best thing we can do for today’s young people.” ■
ALEKSANDRA PAWLOWSKA // GLIENICKE BRIDGE
Aleksandra, 23, comes from the Polish capital, Warsaw. She is pictured here in front of Glienicke Bridge between Berlin and Potsdam. In the Cold War era the border between East and West ran through the middle of the bridge which was used by the Soviet Union and the United States to exchange arrested agents. Aleksandra is doing voluntary service at the Potsdam office of the German-Polish Youth Office (GPYO). Founded in 1991, the organisation brings together young people from Germany and Poland in projects, workshops and sport. The GPYO has an office in both Potsdam and Warsaw.
Text: Clara Görtz, Helen Sibum; photograph: Stephan Pramme