Final Day – Films and Farewells Slovakia

Ahoj!

It is the final day of our journey down the River Danube. The morning started with Johann Strauss II’s music titled The Blue Danube Waltz as groups settled down in the huge courtroom-like Wilkins Gustave Tuck Lecture Theatre. It was time to bid goodbye to our cameras too, which has been our treasure for the past 2 weeks filming various Slovak people and places in London.

After the logistics was done, it was time for each group to showcase their films and blog articles on stage. The judges for the film included academics from the School of Slavonic and East European Studies, a student, an immigrant from Hungary (who is Eszter’s friend) and Dieter, our filming instructor. Groups began presenting one by one according to the direction of the flow of the Danube River, beginning with Austria and ending with the Yiddish group. Austria’s blog included articles about cars and British humour versus German humour. Their film was about a café manager Jules Brews. The next group to present was supposed to be us, the Slovakia group, however, our navigator Stephanie was an hour late and she told us not to show the film without her. Hence, the Hungary group presented before us. Their interview was of a teacher called Rita. Then, it moved on to our turn to present. Gwen briefly described our blog posts before we showed our film. Congratulations to us receiving special mention for our film! We still could have done better though, by focusing only on one interviewee’s story and improving on our shots. Nonetheless, we did a great job overall, and have learnt a lot through the language sessions with Olga, the interviews we carried out, the filming and editing, making our poster and writing up our blog articles.

The next group was Serbia, whose blog included mythologies of Serbia and whose film was about Anja, a Serbian artist living in London. It was then followed by Romania, who talked about their language sessions, Jewish life in Romania and children who thanked their beautiful cooks (their mothers) for the good food. Their film, which was the winning entry, was about Chris, a Romanian Chef working in London, but has a longing to go back home. He has a remarkable story to tell, I particularly liked the choice of music and how the group managed to film various footages of him preparing different types of traditional Romanian cuisines – impressive! After Romania was Bulgaria, whose blog posts covered cultural and political issues. Their interview featured people from the Bulgaria Embassy in South Kensington. Next in line was Ukraine, their blog posts included Ukraine’s victory at the Eurovision and a description of a Ukrainian church just beside Bond Street. They had also cooked Ukrainian food together. They discovered that it was particularly tasty with soya sauce! Their film was of Olga, a university student from Ukraine who moved to London when she was 15 and furthered her education. The last group to present was the Yiddish group, the only group named after a language rather than a country. Their blog post included Yiddish tango, which created a positive impact on Jewish life during the Holocaust. Their film was of a blind yet sharp and talented woman in her 90s who migrated from Odessa to London in 1939.

After the plenary session, feedback forms were handed out for us to complete while more folk music played in the background.

We had a break for a couple of hours before moving to Friends House for the Closing Event, where all the various strands of the Global Citizenship Programme came together to present the best works over the past 2 weeks. Professor Anthony Smith gave his closing remarks. He described it in 3 words: “Wow”, “Awesome” and “Inspiring”. After which, we proceeded to the North Cloisters to view the posters. Our group in particular stood out because it was the only one printed with a green background and it contained all the yummy goodies we bought from Halusky, such as chips, wafers (called Rodinne) and Kofola (Slovakia’s version of coke). Refreshments were served in the main quad. Overall, the Global Citizenship Programme has been a remarkable experience for all of us, we met new people, both in and out of UCL, tasted authentic Danubian food and gained a wealth of knowledge through our project works, lectures and language sessions with our Slovak teacher Olga. Sailing down the Danube River has been an extraordinary journey in the past 2 weeks. It is bittersweet to have come to the end of it but I’m sure it is a voyage we will never forget. 😀

Ďakujem and Dovidenia!

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The penultimate day – Slovakia

Ahoj!

Today began with an intriguing lecture held by Rebecca Handler, the policy team leader on immigration, focusing mainly on the impact of the migrants in the British society. The workshop started with mention of the referendum, an event that will decide the destiny of UK. Having introduced the situation between the UK and EU, this was the trigger of the following debate about immigrants. As lots of people complain about the problem with the population movement – for example Eastern Europeans coming in the UK – we have to clarify the differences between perception and reality when it comes to understanding immigration. We discussed the differences between EU and non-EU migrants and refugees and what their political and social rights within British society are. We have also discovered that worries surrounding immigration are actually backed up by statistics. Therefore, we have to ask ourselves whether Eastern Europeans and other migrants actually contribute to, or only benefit from, British society. However, different statistics show different outcomes; some say that the immigrants have a positive, negative or no impact at all over society, the economy or employability in British society. Moreover, we finished the workshop by sharing some fascinating personal experiences, as non-UK citizens living in England.

After the lunch break, we moved to the workshop with Dieter Deswarte. With his help and under his advice, we put all the pieces together and built up the final version of our film.

Dovidenia!

By: Ioana Buzelan

Day Seven – Slovakia

Ahoj!
Our productive Wednesday started off with a lecture from Ezter Tarsoly, which was about the languages and dialects spoken across the Danubian area. The diversity of languages was rather surprising for many of us, I believe! Some of them I had never even heard before, like Ladino and Aromanian. Ezter went on to talk about the connections and distinctions between the languages and how languages can be influenced by history as well as cultural “borrowing” and interaction. It was quite interesting having a peek at the vocabulary and grammar from the languages that the other Danubian groups are studying. Thanks to our knowledge of Slovak, a few of the words seemed quite familiar! The lecture continued longer than usual mostly due to the long, but interesting, Q&A session and the extra time we took to observe all those beautifully foreign words in Ezter’s vocabulary slides.

We then moved on to Gordon Square, a familiar location for us by now, where we got down to business with our documentary. Emily showed us the fruit of her labours last night: a well-paced and nicely composed progression of all of the interviews we did thus far. We were really impressed with the clean editing and smooth transition between key shots. A lot of us were huddling together awkwardly in an attempt to watch the editing process, which was done on Emily’s small MacBook, while dropping suggestions and saying the repetitive: “Can you play that part again?” every minute or so. The following hours included us either continuing the above, typing up blog entries, and looking for background music for the film (which is apparently harder than we thought, or we’re just extra picky). Chips and chocolate wafers were passed around close to lunch time, because we’re gluttonous students. We also discovered our new favorite room – the Senior Common Room in the SSEES building!

After a short lunch break, we had another language session with Olga, who started the lesson by showing off on YouTube a certain Slovak flying car and a comedic ad for Slovak beer. She then showed us more grammar stuff, including imperative forms and modal verbs. Since this was our last language session,we had a brief verbal review of the material covered in the past days. Olga was quite pleased with us, I think. I hope. Slovak was a joy to learn, and we’ll certainly miss having more classes with Olga, who did a brilliant job teaching us the basics of the language. Ďakujeme, Olga!

Finally, we returned to the Senior Common Room to work a bit more on our film and blog entries. The film was looking great by the end of the project tutorial. Everyone contributed ideas and helped with piecing together the film, although Emily was the one who did the actual technical work. We also reached four blog entries today covering topics like sports, history, the Slovak embassy’s garden party we attended, and Slovak trivia.

Dovidenia!

By: Annie Yu

Day 6 – Slovakia

Ahoj!

Today started off with an intriguing discussion by Michael Stewart on Roma Culture and Society along the Danube. After a quickly resolved “crisis” involving incompatible connections between an Apple laptop and the projection facilities of UCL, our lecturer involved a tired 10 am audience with an intriguing quiz. Not only did this interactive exercise reveal I was pretty terrible at making educated guesses, but it also gave a broader insight in the evolving field of anthropology and how Romany communities have been treated throughout the 20th century. One anecdote I found amusing concerned a Belgian anthropologist that was led on a wild goose chase in Brussels because his guide did not find his then-conventional methods appropriate for interacting with the normally “invisible” Roma community. 

In the following tutorial, our group finalised the poster thanks to Annie’s keen eye for a simple yet sleek design. With the completion of an enjoyable selfie taking session in the sunny weather outside, we managed to submit all the elements for our poster display. On the film editing side, we trimmed down the interview to the bits we feel help paint a coherent picture of Slovaks living in London. In the next 2 days, we will hopefully be able to edit in the relevant cutaways to illustrate our interviewees’ points.

In our penultimate language lesson, Olga played a little bit of light Slovak music in the background while we covered how to describe members of the family or rodina. It was enlightening to know we can call a brother a brat. In addition, we were briefly introduced to the somewhat confusing world of possessives. We were told that Slovak is one of the languages where people’s names needed a suffix attached when describing an item belonging to that person, such as Robertova izba or Robert’s room. Olga related the amusing story of a British hotel that inadvertently booked a Slovak married couple to separate single rooms because their surnames were not matching!

Dovidenia!

By: Iman Yahya

Day 5 – Slovakia

Dobrý večer!

Monday has arrived and we opened our second week with a lecture on ‘Jewish life (and death) along the Danube’ given by university teacher Gwen Jones. The hour-long presentation began with an extract from an amateur film called ‘The Danube Exodus’ which documented the Slovak and Austrian Jews fleeing the Nazis just before the Second World War. Then, the Danubian countries were described one-by-one with regards to their Jewish communities amongst which many prominent figures were mentioned such as Hungarian composer Rezső Seress or Serbian writer David Albahari. Finally, we learnt what the difference is between the words ‘there’ and ‘then’ in terms of the Holocaust as many survivors referred to the genocide as something which happened ‘then’ (and is now over) while others pointed out that it happened ‘there’ (and therefore can happen again).

Following a fairly entertaining tutorial, where we discussed the weekend’s happenings and made further plans on how to edit our film and poster, we decided to make use of the nice weather and continue our work in Gordon Square’s central garden. We used the time sunbathing and enjoying traditional Slovak wafers and sweets. And our project is really gaining shape now!

During the afternoon’s language session we expanded our vocabulary by learning the names of the Danubian countries and their capitals. After that, Olga took the whole group to a culinary trip around Slovakia where we got to know the most typical Slovak national dishes. In addition to that, we learnt some really useful expressions that might come in handy when ordering food in a restaurant.

We finished our day with a joint conference where all strands of the Global Citizenship gathered with the aim of producing a declaration that enables a better implementation of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Each discussion group came up with interesting ideas and recommendations in the hope that these would be worked into the text of a UCL Declaration, which will be displayed in visual form at the closing ceremony on Friday.

Deň štyri/Day four – Slovakia

Ahoj!

Friday has come upon us and we have reached the end of the first week of our journey along the river Danube. Today began with a bright and early start, a lecture from Wendy Bracewell titled ‘Up, Down, and Across the River; the Danube through Travellers’ Eyes’. It was a very thought provoking lecture, which raised many questions that I, personally, had never thought of before. One such question was whether travel writings are reliable and trustworthy accounts of a specific place or region. When a travel writer is describing a place, they are not necessarily telling us facts, rather their own interpretation of it. This heavily depends on their own preconceptions of the place, which naturally would differ from person to person. We also spoke about the West/East divide, and where the ‘unknown’, ‘uncivilised’, ‘barbaric’ East really begins, and in fact if it exists at all. There is a sense of “the East begins to the East of me” in the region that has come to be known as ‘Eastern Europe’, which raises more questions than answers whilst trying to define what is and isn’t Western, Central, or Eastern Europe.

Following an academic tutorial where we discussed the morning’s lecture, and outlined our plan of action for the film and poster, we had a lecture from Edina Csányi from the European Investment Bank on project and diplomacy skills, with advice on how to be successful. Amongst the suggestions were communication, commitment, and a very thorough plan. We spoke about different communities along the Danube, and how the communities along the river have interacted successfully and unsuccessfully, and Edina’s advice on how they could better their relations. She spoke of two groups involved in a project who didn’t speak for two months after negotiations went south, and how to avoid this!

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Víno biele

Next was our language class, where we pretended to be on a loď (ship), ordering food or drink at a reštaurácia (restaurant). We learnt how to ask for something, by using ‘Prosím si’, and about how to use the accusative. We also got to try some víno biele (white wine), provided that we asked for it. We then moved on to numbers, so that we could order five white wines! Dobré zdravie! (Good health)

After the Slovak lesson we stayed to work on our various projects, such as the blog posts, poster, and half of the group went to interview and film at a Slovak restaurant. It’s the end of the first week and things are moving along nicely in the Slovak group.

Dovidenia!

 

By: Gwen King

Day Three – Slovak Group

Ahoj!

Thursday morning dawned and our lecture ‘The Danube: a History of Highways and Floods’ was led by the enthusiastic Tom Lorman. He discussed the troubled history of the Danube and the different stages of regulations and changes that the river has undergone over the years as humans have tried to control this force of nature.

After a discussion session about our thoughts on the lecture, the group headed down bright eyed and bushy tailed to a skills session on poster design from Chee-Kit Lai. We learnt how to use Photoshop and Adobe InDesign to create high-quality posters which will be assembled as part of a larger installation showcasing each region along the Danube in next week’s exhibition.

After a quick lunch we headed over to our language lesson where we learnt basic orientation. We covered how to ask what and where things in town are and how to instruct others to find places. Our learning was going in the ‘right direction’…

The next hour was spent busying away organising interviews and planning filming for our film project. Everyone knuckled down to their delegated tasks to make sure all bases would be covered and part of our team interviewed our first Slovak interviewee.

In the evening we went to a film screening of ‘Swamp Dialogues’, a film about Romanians living in the Danube Delta. Genuine, funny and eye-opening, this film raised many questions about the Danube and those who have lived and worked there for generations. For example, how best to deal with the conflict of interests which arose between government fishing regulation (for environmental protection) and the need for those living along the river to eat and earn a living from the fish. The character portraits of those living along the river were honest and endearing, raising questions of identity and survival but not rushing to answer these questions simplistically. Another issue hinted at was that of Western dominance, with one girl commenting to the filmmaker that it would be nice to see a film in Romanian subtitled in English since she usually sees the opposite. This subtle way of portraying a broader issue was very effective and hopefully we can bring something similar into our own film.

After the film, there was a talk and questions with anthropology students who compared issues which arose from the film with their own research in other regions of the world. Highlights of the discussion included the problem with top-down government strategy in regulating complex natural ecosystems like the Danube and the need to be conscious consumers.

After the talk we headed over to the Print Room Café for some delicious Danubian cuisine. Overall it was another great and varied day for the Slovak group!

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Danubian Food

Dobrú chuť!

 

By: Rebecca Huseyin

Day Two – Slovakia

Ahoj! Day 2 began with trepidation as one member from each group anxiously stepped up to take responsibility for the cameras we will be using over the next 10 days. All participants from the Danube strand then partook in a 3 hour long workshop on documentary film-making, including a history of documentary films, techniques and tips for filming our own, and an introduction to Adobe Premiere Pro editing software. Each group also took 15 minutes to test out the cameras, which included many ‘is this on’s, ‘i’m worried i’m going to drop it’s and ‘oh god you can hear my voice in the background’s.

In the afternoon each group split off to have another hour of language, which for the Slovakian group included greetings and introductions, and basic conjugations. We spent the last hour sending frantic emails to every Slovak in London, enjoying Slovak dance music (from a mash-up titled ‘party time!’) and cementing our ideas for the film and poster, while delegating roles and making plans for later in the week.

Dovidenia!

By Emily Hounslow

Slovakia Groups First Day!

The first day of the Global Citizenship programme began with registration, after which all participants were directed into a large hall for introductory speeches. These included insightful accounts by students who had previously partaken in the Global Citizenship programme, what they had learned from it and an overview from academic staff of what to expect, in regards to both transferrable skills and the events planned for the next two weeks.

After the lunch break, those on the Danube course had assembled in an auditorium, where Tim Beasley-Murray delivered a lecture detailing the history of regions, whose border was marked by the flow of the river Danube. The lecture touched upon the significant role which the river has played in terms of trade and other aspects of diplomatic relations, and how, due to its geographical disposition, it affects countries alongside which it runs.

And then there were eight of us. Everyone had split into groups, formed on the basis of the language allocated for learning to each group. The remainder of the evening consisted of an hour-long Slovak lesson (for our group) and later some final project-related planning with our navigators. This project entails collecting information from people currently living in London, who had come from Slovakia – in particular, how they were affected by this, their thoughts on current events in either country and how certain aspects differ between the two countries. The Slovak lesson was a crash course of greetings, the alphabet and basic factual knowledge about ourselves, as well as attempts at the correct pronunciation. As well as getting a general introduction to the language, we found out a bit more about who our group members are – almost every person was of a different background to the rest, which makes for an interesting bunch. The programme is off to a promising start and on that note, our first day of the Danube course has come to an end.

By Kate Rykova