From 2 to 9 September 2015, the Polish city of Olsztyn welcomed fifty young Europeans from 19 countries for the Second Baltic Sea Youth Dialogue “Homeland reconsidered – new loyalties and redefined identities in Europe”. Seventy years after the end of WWII, the aim of the Baltic Sea Youth Dialogue was to gather young Europeans in border areas of the Baltic Sea region, to create a sense of shared belonging and identity based on a critical approach towards the local and regional past.
The 16 to 19 year old participants came from Belgium, Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, France, Germany, Israel, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, the Russian Federation including Kaliningrad, Slovenia, Slovakia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Ukraine and the United Kingdom. Forty-two were recruited from EUSTORY and eight from the networks of the CBSS.
How did experiences of flight and expulsion affect the concept of identity? Is nationality significant for people's identity when borders are moved? Which impact did the forced silence have on your own experiences? The young people got different answers: "Doing your best is the one thing that counts – communism or democracy are just words", “Home is an inner mindset”, “Peace and quiet is all I need to feel at home”, “The difference between people is fading”. You can find the creatively composed results online in the exhibition #regionaleye.
The young people's research was mainly focused on the Baltic region states. Several short videos and selected photos show the results of their investigations. In the videos and photos the participants visualised terms such as “identity”, “homeland”, "future" and “past”, keeping in mind the regional characteristics of Olsztyn. Their focus was on the multi-cultural history of the Warmian-Masurian Voivoidship. Posters with integrated quotations from conversations with contemporary witnesses and younger citizens can be seen in the exhibition #regionaleye which was presented for the first time at the close of the programme in Olsztyn.
The city of Olsztyn provided the perfect microcosm for the Second Baltic Sea Youth Dialogue: 2015 marks the 70th anniversary of the end of the Second World War and also the geographical and political reorganisation of Europe. Seventy years ago, the Potsdam Conference redefined national borders. Millions of people had to leave their home and were forced to move according to the newly defined borders of their national states. Until 1989 it was next to impossible in some countries to talk publicly about the experiences of resettlement and expulsion. The Polish Warmian-Masurian Voivoidship, in which Olsztyn is located, was such a region.
Discussing regional identities motivated many participants to set out on a hunt for traces in their home regions. One participant sums up her experiences gained in the programme: "I feel much more like a European now; thanks to the seminar I feel connected with so many other European countries". Another participant from Wales sees a connection between regional and national identity: "We Welsh people feel European because it allows us to be Welsh at the same time".
With this Second Baltic Youth Dialogue the Körber Foundation and the Council of the Baltic Sea States (CBSS) continued the cooperation they successfully started with the First Baltic Sea Youth Dialogue in Estonia and Russia in 2014. With additional funding from EUSBSR, the 2015 programme in Olsztyn was run in partnership with the Warmian-Masurian Voivodship and was implemented by the Borussia Foundation in Olsztyn.