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Krakow 2022

Compact for Europa – united with Ukraine

“We choose peace”

International youth meeting in Krakow and establishment of the Kommende Foundation “socioMovens. Giving Europe a Soul”.

90 alumni of the socioMovens project weeks from Central and Eastern Europe meet for one week near Krakow. Under the motto “Compact for Europe – united with Ukraine”, the young people are primarily concerned with the war in neighboring Ukraine. Through exchange, song and dance, they gradually form a community – across language barriers. The meeting concludes with the founding of “socioMovens. Giving Europe a Soul.” as a youth movement.

It has already become dark on the grounds of the boarding school “Liceum Ogólnokształcące im. Josephine Gebert” in the lonely village of Piekary, near Krakow. The students are on summer vacation. At this time of year, there is usually not a sound to be heard except for the singing of swallows and the footsteps of the janitor on her evening walk around the grounds. But on this night in July, everything is different: loud music sounds from the auditorium, spotlights cast light through the windows. The auditorium is filled with young people. They cheer loudly, throw their hands in the air, jump up and down in the hall. It is already the second encore and yet they are full of energy. Their eyes are shining. They sing in unison with the band on stage: “We choose peace.”

We’re gonna / Rise up, rise up / We’re a million different colors dancing to the beat

Rise up, rise up  / We’re a million voices singing as one: / We choose peace!

The concert of the International Performing Arts Group Gen Verde with young people from different countries is the highlight of an international youth meeting, organized by the Kommende Dortmund and its foundation “socioMovens. Giving Europa a Soul.” From July 25 to 30, 2022, 90 young people from Hungary, Romania, Kazakhstan, Poland, Germany, Croatia, Ukraine and Slovakia meet near Krakow (Poland). They are alumni of the youth social project weeks in their countries, which focus on community and spirituality as well as outreach to people on the margins of society. So far, a total of 55 project weeks have taken place, reaching over 900 youth from eight countries. The international meeting, which takes place every few years, is intended to promote networking. This year’s meeting, entitled “Compact for Europe 2022 – united with Ukraine,” thematically focuses on the war in Ukraine and the situation of refugees. Representatives of the Fazenda da Esperança, the “Campus-Weggemeinschaft” and the Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung are also on site. In 2015 and 2018, two international youth meetings with a total of 300 participants took place in Berlin and Budapest.

War in Ukraine as the theme of the meeting

Piekary is located near Krakow on the bank of the Vistula River and is a village with one and a half thousand inhabitants. Between forests and meadows, on the river bank, atop a limestone cliff, sits the thousand-year-old Benedictine Abbey of Tyniec. The town of Oświęcim, where millions were murdered in the Auschwitz concentration and extermination camp during World War II, is just an hour’s drive away. Half an hour in the other direction is Krakow, the center of science, art and culture. Piekary is a place of contrasts.

Contrasts also characterize the meeting: In the evening, singing and party in the auditorium. In the morning of the same day, consternation and tears in the church: Olga Sikyrynska from Ukraine, project week leader for socioMovens, stands at the anvil and looks into sad faces in the pews. She is nervous because this is the first time she is reporting on the situation of the war in her home country. Two days earlier, she had accompanied a transport of medicines to the Donbas. She is 23 years old, but you can see in her eyes that they have seen too much in the past months. “They destroyed a whole generation of Ukrainians,” she says. “Even if we win the war, a whole generation will be broken. I will never be able to live my life the way I used to.”

A community emerges

Besides the preoccupation with the stressful situation in Ukraine, there is also a growing lightness among the participants during the course of the week; one might speak of “small miracles”: Teenagers dance folk dances together without anyone finding it embarrassing. In the workshops with Gen Verde, they practice acting, singing, dancing and drumming in the days leading up to the concert, and three days later they are on stage. Some really blossom as a result – like the group from Kazakhstan: while at the beginning only one participant dares to speak English, by the end of the week almost all of them have made contact with the young people from the other nations – across language barriers.

Candidate for the priesthood Mateusz Marchlewski from Romania says at the beginning of the week: “We enjoy the community with everyone we meet here. We hope to get to know each other better and accomplish great things together.” Through meetings, conversations, singing, dancing and celebrating together, a community is created between the young people. Sightseeing is not neglected either, even if Krakow only shows its rainy side. “It was wonderful to talk with the young people from the other nations – about Ukraine, the war there and how we can help,” says Borbála Nagy from Hungary. “It’s really good that we have similar views and understand each other.”

Before Friday night’s concert, the first order of business is the formation of socioMovens as a youth movement: The individual country groups introduce themselves one by one and then receive their membership cards from Prelate Dr. Peter Klasvogt, director of the Kommende Dortmund – a symbol of the bond that lasts beyond the meeting. As keynote speaker, former Member of the European Parliament Elmar Brok speaks on the topic “Legacy and mission: the vision of Jacques Delors: ‘Giving Europe a soul'”, thus providing the movement with a socio-ethical foundation. “Giving Europe a soul” is the motto of the youth movement. “This one soul of Europe,” says participant Ayoub Abbou at the end of the week, “you can literally feel this one soul here.”