Young leaders

at the RYLA seminar

Today we hear a lot about the things, that divide us in Europe. The participants of the Rotary Youth Leadership Award seminar under the title “Set Piers – Build Bridges” met on 10th-14th May in Frankfurt (Oder) to discuss what unites us in Europe and how the European community should develop in the face of current challenges.

The RYLA seminar as well as the European Youth Parliament of Neighbouring Countries (Poland-Germany-France) was initiated by a longtime friend and a member of the Foundation Council of the International Youth Meeting Centre Dr Richard Pyritz. Unfortunately, on 12th May we received a sad news from Lübeck that he passed away. Dr Richard Pyritz not only started the aforementioned projects, but was also with his whole heart involved in their realization and will remain an integral part of the RYLA as well as the Honorary President of the European Youth Parliament of Neighbouring Countries.

Young leaders from Germany, Poland, Ukraine, and France came to participate in this edition of the project. It was not easy to memorize all the names on the first day, but we coped with that and had a lot of fun. We also got to know, that only two persons in the group don’t like chocolate and that the majority of the participants speak at least 3 languages.

On the second day we had to get down to a more serious work. We started the day with a walk along the streets of Frankfurt (Oder) to the European University Viadrina, where we had a meeting with its President Prof. Dr Alexander Wöll, who spoke about the activity of Viadrina in the international and interdisciplinary scope.

During the subsequent program points we dealt with the post-war history. We had a walking tour around Frankfurt (Oder), which was conducted for us by Dr Mark Keck-Szajbel and Dr Frank Grelka from the Centre of Interdisciplinary Polish Studies as well as a lecture on managing communist enterprises in Poland, Hungary and Czechoslovakia in the years 1945-1970 by Prof. Phil Scranton from Rutgers University. Towards the end of the day the participants presented their countries and cities – from the French Nice to the Ukrainian Dniepr.

On the next project day we proceeded to the topic of Europe and the European community by discussing the conflict in Eastern Ukraine with the President of the European University Viadrina Dr Alexander Wöll and the Brigadier General (ret.) and former Director Academic Planning and Policy at the NATO Defense College Dr Klaus Wittmann. During a lively discussion the young leaders asked many questions about the conflict itself and the reaction of the European countries as well as the possible solutions and ways of its de-escalation.

Although the conflict in Eastern Ukraine is one of the most urgent challenges for the European politics, young people from outside of Ukraine possess scarce knowledge about it. That is why we found time in our fully packed program to watch the film “Maidan” by Andriej Losnitsa. After the film the participants from Ukraine answered questions and illuminated the reasons and consequences of the Revolution of Dignity in the Ukrainian society.

These program points were followed by thematic workshops, during which we could discuss such issues, as the development of the European community, the foundations of Europe and Polish-German-Ukrainian youth cooperation. On the penultimate day of the project the young leaders presented the results of their work and talked about their post-project activity. Hence, the RYLA seminar achieved one of its main aims – serving as an impulse and inspiration for young people to stay active and engaged also in their lives back home.

After the summarizing of the project the young participants returned to their home cities and towns to meet again in a year and present the activities they have managed to realize.

We could realize this meeting of young leaders thanks to the financial support of the German-Polish Youth Office, Rotary District 1940 as well as certain Rotary Clubs.

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Nataliia Tkachenko, the IYMC

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