The project ‘’ Learning from Our Past to Build the Future’ takes place between October 2019 and July 2021 and marks the 30th anniversary of the fall of communism. Freedom House Romania offered 150 unSettled scholarships to young people between 18 and 25 years old interested in participating in a series of summer schools taking place at the Sighet Museum – The Memorial of the Victims of Communism and of the Resistance. The summer activities were part of the unSettled Ideas Festival at Sighet Museum.
The biggest challenge of the Freedom House project and its biggest attraction for young students was the summer school organized in September 2020. The pilot school was the first educational event of this type ever conducted at the Sighet Memorial. The courses could also be accessed and viewed online.
The unSettled Scholarships covered all participation expenses (accommodation, meals, transport, materials, coffee breaks, etc.).
„The school in Sighet is organized with the support of the Civic Academy Association. There are art workshops, film screenings, guided tours of the Sighet Museum, seminars on the history of communism and attractive civic education courses, gaming sessions. This is the pilot year. The long-term plan is to provide a curricular structure for school teachers so that future generations can acquire the germ of participatory citizenship.”
Backing us up is poet and communist dissident Ana Blandiana, who parodied dictator Nicolae Ceausescu in the poem ‘Motanul Arpagic’ (‘Arpagic the Tomcat’) and in 2016 received the title of European Poet of Freedom.
„We live in a historical and socio-political period with contradictory features, from which the post-communist options can be perfectly defined. How long can post-communism last? Is history capable of reversing? I always said I do not think so. In the past I have seriously doubted this. Now, I believe there is a certain danger. The fight is not over, we must defend our freedom every day and be careful not to be manipulated.”
In order to organize the presentations within the summer school, Freedom House Romania coordinated the drafting of a Curriculum , prepared by experts in the field of history of communism and civic activism, which will serve as a basis for the educational process of the participating students.
Marius Stan (Research Director at the Hannah Arendt Center, University of Bucharest) , lect. univ. dr. Vlad Mureșan (Faculty of European Studies, Babeș-Bolyai University, Cluj-Napoca) , Germina Nagâț (Member of the National Council for the Study of Security Archives) , Elena Calistru (president and founder of Funky Citizens) and Ciprian Cucu (lecturer at the University „ December 1, 1918 ”from Alba Iulia, vice-president of Forum Apulum) were the ones who designed the initial curriculum, which was and will continue to be tested at Sighet School.
As part of organising the school in Sighet, Freedom House Romania selected 10 lecturers to deliver the presentation of the Curriculum and the essence of communist memory. These exceptional teachers participated in a Training of Trainers event between July 31 and August 2, 2020, in Predeal.
„Freedom is of very many kinds. It’s a polymorphic notion. For example, in 30 years after ’89, we obviously won our freedom – a freedom that represented both the freedom to steal and the freedom to protest. It is very difficult to say to what extent these two have taken society forward or backward. Especially since it is very difficult to realize how different the freedom that was received is compared to the freedom that you have gained. The difference is huge because the freedom you receive as a gift – the freedom you have, for which you did nothing, you were simply born after ’89, you were born free and you have the right to do whatever you want – is in fact a freedom not fully used. This happens when you are not involved in the society in which you live and are not using this freedom against those who pervert society. This non-use of freedom seems to me, personally, an offense to those who fought for freedom; even to the young people who died in ’89 and who died without even knowing it was not quite a revolution, the one they died in.”
Following the training, a Working Group of lecturers was created, a network that worked together on presentations for the summer school, creating a common teaching fund, gathering each lecturers’ contributions.
The Romanian Film Days Caravan , an initiative of Cinemascop and Voodoo Films, was a partner of the event. They address the general audience and bring the latest Romanian films in cities where there are no more cinemas, but also where the habit of going to the cinema has been lost.
The file of Mugur Calinescu (1965-1985), a student in Botosani
Mugur chalks up anti-communist messages for which he is pursued by the Securitate (here it is interesting to see how many agents dealt with him: dozens).
He died at the age of 20 of leukemia, with the suspicion that he was poisoned or irradiated during the Securitate investigations. His file inspired Gianina Cărbunaru’s play and Radu Jude ‘s film : Tipografic Majuscul .
The discussions in Predeal also established the format and duration of the student training event in the context of the COVID-19 epidemic.
Within the same project, Freedom House Romania organized, together with its partners, a commemorative march in Bucharest, on December 22, 2019, which was attended by approximately 2,500 people. The purpose of the event was to mark the moment of the Romanian Revolution 30 years ago and to pay homage to the victims of that time.
Our partners were civic associations concerned with making the younger generation aware that the 1989 Revolution did not guarantee freedom, although back then was the hope of all Romanians.
Even if the people who fought in the streets 30 years ago wanted Romania to be free of totalitarianism and communism, these dangers continue in other forms: undeserved privileges of the ruling class, corruption, subjugated justice, misinformation, but especially lack of civic education and culture.
„Last year we organized the march from Victoriei Square because for us, the younger generations, this is the place where we defended the rule of law and fight the ” war „with those who thought that they had won the election and that they could send us back in time. On December 22, we will say the names of the revolutionaries and their descendants in front of the Ministry of Interior, the former CC building, from where Ceausescu flew by helicopter in December 1989. We must not forget. We, the young generation, must defend the democracy won at the cost of heroes’ lives. It’s harder to defend it than to win it. „
In order to promote the unSettled scholarships, Freedom House Romania was a partner of Les Films de Cannes à Bucarest within the section Romania- 30 years later . Through this collaboration, Freedom House Romania participated in organizing debates with directors and guests and promoted the scholarships for students in Bucharest, Cluj-Napoca, Iasi and Timisoara .
The project ” Learning from Our Past to Build the Future” is developed in partnership with the Civic Academy Foundation, the Institute for the Investigation of the Crimes of Communism and the Memory of the Romanian Exile, Geeks for Democracy, Forum Apulum, Funky Citizens, iTeach.ro and supported by Radio Free Europe and www.PressHub.ro , a network of 30 local publications in Romania.
This project is partially funded by a grant from the US State Department. The opinions, findings and conclusions presented in this project are those of the organizers and do not necessarily reflect those of the US Department of State.
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