The first Symposium of the European project “Dissent, Conscience and the Wall”, organized by EucA (European University College Association), the European University College network of which even Cuir Association is member, in partnership with the “Thomas More Institute” (TMI) took place on Saturday 29th of November in London.
The event, hosted by Netherhall House (hall of residence for London Universities’ students, also member of EucA) gathered 72 students from 10 countries, selected by the organizers after a tough application process.
Students, that have been asked to submit a paper on the project subject, came from a wide range of countries and of studying fields: from Germany to Italy, Poland, Greece, Lithuania, Hungary, Spain, Romania, and from faculites ranging from Philosophy to Medicine, Classics, Engineering.
The Symposium was opened by Edward Lucas’ speech. Lucas is a senior editor of “The Economist“, and he is an expert on the Soviet and post-Soviet world.His contribution was titled “The Power of Powerless. Past Struggles and their Teachings for Today”.
This speech has been an outstanding opportunity to focus on the tools adopted by the dissenters, on both sides of the Wall, who were not a huge amount of people, but who still contributed to the crumbling away of the totalitarianism from inside.
Participants, who were pariticularly interested both to the topic and to the experience of the keynote speaker took the opportunity to ask a lot of questions about the implications of the fall of the Soviet Union concerning the situation of Central and Eatern European countries. A particularly tricky but intriguing question was focused on the end of the Cold War in itself: has it meant only the defeat of the USSR or even a victory for the Western Bloc?
The following part of the day was devoted to students’ papers presenation, which had been previously split up in three different panels of three (up to a maximum of four) students each. All the papers were particularly interesting, mainly because they focused on the subject of the fall of the Berlin Wall from the different perspective of each one’s field of study. Thus, for instance, a molecular biology student focused onto the scientific research on the two sides of the Curtain, the philosopher or political theorician was more concerned abou the symbolic and political meaning of the Wall, which has been defined by a student a sort of “Gates of Even”, referring to the image of a Lost Paradise (rebuilt by the Soviet Union, as the regime’s propaganda was used to state). Furthermore, another student took up the topic of Western Berlin students who made up a group in order to bring fake passports to the Eastern part of the city and to allow a lot of citizens to escape from Eastern Berlin to the Scandinavian countries, members of the Western Bloc.
An intense day, which was full of starting points for further discussion, which will be carry out throughout the next Symposium, which will take place in Brussels on February 27th.
However, the key point of the event has been the main role given to students, on both sides of the stage: the speakers, for their interesting presentations, and the spectators, for their involvement and fascinating questions.
The event ended witha dinner in a typical Italian restaurant in the Hampstead and a piano concert hosted by Netherhall House, which has been a very good opportunity even to get to know Netherhall’s students, and so to have a deeper comprehension of how the English academic system works.
As a student said, this occasion has been “life changing”, and all the attendees really hop te meet each other in the future, maybe at the next Symposium.
This enthusiasm is a good proof of the fact that trusting students and putting them at the centre of the debate is a very important opportunity, both for young people and for grown old.