(LT) Samogitia and Aukštaitija and (PL) Warsaw and Mazovia – Reflection by Ray Thorley
The study trip through Lithuania was full of personal enrichment and wonderful new experiences.
Overall the study group looked at communication and participation within communities.
However, my interest and observations were drawn to and, focus on young peoples desires to become involved or otherwise in community activities and projects.
To understand the views and opinions of the younger generation of Lithuania I stepped back to reflect on their recent history of oppression and repression of individual rights and the freedom of expression.
There appeared to be a reluctance to become involved in youth activities lead by local community workers and somewhere along the line a breakdown in communication between the two sectors.
Throughout our study trip there was an emphasis on effective communication within the communities we visited. I am sure practitioners work hard to engage and encourage young people to participate. There is a reticence by the younger generation to get involve in anything which requires them to participate in group activities and participate on a voluntary basis.
I became curious at the lack of enthusiasm by the young of Lithuania and their general attitude towards cooperating with youth groups and leaders.
Moletai – In Moletai we enjoyed the experience of being involved with the ‘Living Library’ and enjoyed the experience of a meeting with one of the young people who expressed his opinion on community involvement. He explained that he goes out to work and aty the end of the day relaxation is browsing the internet and making contact internationally with likeminded people in pursuit of furthering his knowledge of constructing and flying model aircraft. Other acyivities are playing computer games.
The young man argued that his generation are the first to be completely free from the experiences of occupation and oppression in Lithuania. Although he understood what the community arts practitioners were trying to achieve, he felt that they were laying down a code of rules to participate by. He felt that what they are trying to do, dictates how he should spend his leisure time.
There is a melancholy here. Community Arts practitioners are working hard to involve the youth of various communities to engage in activities that will get them talking and communicating whereas, the younger generation, according to the views of my contact in the ‘Living Library, observe these initiatives as a type of oppression.
When you consider the immediate history of Lithuania from the ravages of World War two followed by the oppressive regime of the Soviets it becomes relevant to understand how precious freedom is, in whatever form it comes in. We in the United Kingdom have reach far back in our history to record periods of occupation. The young of today, or for many generations before would find it difficult to understand the conditions whereby movement between towns and cities and the freedom to express a point of view are denied.
However, these views are provided while we were on a brief study trip to Lithuania and to be exhaustive in research we would require to be in Lithuania for considerably longer to gain balanced opinion. What we have obtained provokes comment and stimulates interest in in how freedom is perceived and held precious.
Significantly, it is important to understand the UK’s background and our cultural background which, triggers how we observe and formulate our opinion. We probably take for granted many of the rights of the people, which are newly found in Lithuania. If we dwell for a while on the young man’s views in Moletai, it is possible to appreciate his anxieties and reluctance to get involved in community activities.
Our observations are a snapshot of what we see and experience and we do not have the time or resources to test opinion. Nonetheless, we were invited into communities and participate in activities, to which we were privileged to enjoy that experience. Everything has to start somewhere. We, for our part were impressed by the invitations to get involved in activities and join in. We were welcomed everywhere and enjoyed the hospitality. I was overwhelmed by the enthusiasm within the communities and how well we harmonised with community groups and importantly the UK delegation worked extremely well with the Polish and Lithuanian delegations.
I am full of optimism and enthusiasm for the delegations we have worked with. There is an atmosphere of cooperation and willingness to work together for a common aim. Through the close understanding that has developed between the groups I feel it is important to move forward together and find an umbrella to carry out further project work. There are still obstacles to overcome , in interpretation, translation, understanding and culture/ what is so important, we can and do, work together as a cohesive ONE. By working together we respect and understand differences and gaps in culture.
The EU project as given us an umbrella we can work under as a group and provide an opportunity to fuse and gel together as a group. Backgrounds and cultural differences take a back seat and we meet together as one. What a good project.
There is a contrast here to the study carried out in Lithuania. Whereas, the emphasis in Lithuania, primarily was on the youth culture, Warsaw seek out avenues of exploration to combine the younger and older generations to work together, wherever possible. This common ground was never more so evident than in Praga. This vicinity was deprived on many things, in particular, investment in the community infrastructure. There were many derelict buildings and a requirement to invest in the community. On the positive side there was a lot of art musical initiatives which encouraged the community to come together and give it an identity.
I was delighted that I could be part of and make a contribution to a night of traditional folk singing, provided by the seniors of the community, supported by a young band of musicians with a good atmosphere of belonging. The generation gap was not evident which, was also the case with all the audience. Young and old alike enjoyed the singing and social dialogue. I, aided and abetted by a young Polish girl attempted to sing a traditional folk song, much to the merriment of others.
This occasion was typical of a total community involvement and a lesson in how to bridge the generation gap.
Once again, it was evident how well the delegations worked together in developing an understanding.
The Polish appeared to generate projects which offered something for everyone and therefore attracted all members of the community, in a successful manner.
Whereas, from our evidence and observations we found the Lithuanians concentrated on offering projects which may, or may not appeal to the young.
Overall, each study trip was educational and offered opportunities to construct professional relationships with both the Lithuanian and Polish delegations. Moreover, there was ample prospects to understand and participate in local community activities and bridge the cultural and language gaps.
We recognized that sometimes interpretation offers different meanings and there is a need to be aware and rectify any differences.
The studies were, and are, a success and, we look forward to the future with optimism and a desire to promote community arts together.