Ukrainian Group: The Final Log Entry


Sunshine brang sad realisations as it finally dawned on the Ukrainian group that June 9th 2016 would be their penultimate day sailing down the Danube as part of the 2016 UCL Global Citizenship Programme. We arrived, bleary-eyed and sleepy, at the amazingly air-conditioned lecture theatre after working so very hard the day before. Rebecca Handler, who works for the Home Office dealing with immigration, was patiently waiting at the front of the lecture theatre to give a presentation on Competing Ideas of Citizenship: Legislation and Perceptions. Unfortunately, as a civil servant, Rebecca had already entered purdah, which is a pre-election silence period, so she was not allowed to answer political questions such as those concerning the recent EU Referendum debate.

After a brief introduction by Eszter, all of the Danubians witnessed an eye-opening presentation that covered topics such as the media’s portrayal of EU migrants, the reasons as to why people are worried about migration and what it means to be a citizen. It was revealed that all countries overestimate their level of immigration, and that many migrants are well-educated before coming to the UK. These facts were intriguing and at the end of the lecture, some open questions from Rebecca were raised, such as:

‘Is immigration a “real” problem or is the perception of immigration influenced by fear? How is that fear generated and what can or should be done to counter it?’

A discussion was held after the lecture, where members of the audience were invited to ask questions and comments. Anecdotes were told by various people, mostly relating to the portrayal and view of Eastern Europeans and it was shocking to hear that as soon as some people can “detect” that a person is of Eastern European descent, they will start attacking and verbally abusing them. As a UK citizen, I was incredibly disappointed, embarrassed and ashamed to learn of the attitudes of some other UK citizens towards Eastern Europeans and I feel very strongly that nobody should be made to feel uncomfortable here in the UK because of their heritage and culture. I only hope that in time, changing attitudes in society will make those who belittle and threaten others realise the dangerous and divisive consequences of their actions.

After the lecture and discussion, we had a relaxing lunch break before we met up again in the sunny outdoors to discuss our plans. We argued with a Brexit campaigner before his anger got the better of him and he became very aggressive towards our group navigator; swearing and shaking his finger at her. After he was pulled away by his cameraman, a feeling of shock fell over the Ukrainian group as we realised that we had just seen the anecdotes in the morning discussion come to life. Determined to be resilient, we reeled in our anchors and set off again, this time to see Dieter about our movie. Noémie did a fantastic job with the movie footage and the sound, and as a result, we now have a movie that we are extremely proud of. We can’t wait to share Olga’s fascinating story with you!

On behalf of the Ukrainian group I would like to thank Liisa Tuhkanen, our utterly amazing group navigator; Marta Jenkala, our incredibly patient and supportive Ukrainian language teacher and all the group navigators and staff who made the Danube so successful. We’ve had a life-changing couple of days and as a team, we’ve enjoyed every minute of the cruise and feel fully prepared to sail to bigger seas in the future.

Over and out,

Jade Li

Ukrainian Group – Day Four

In the morning session, we had a lecture given by Professor Wendy Bracewell. It was about how travellers see the Danube and cultural differences between the countries in the Danube region . We also had another lecture about EU’s economic strategy on Danube region given by Edina Csnayi. During language lesson in the afternoon, our language teacher Marta taught us to count from one to twenty-nine in Ukrainian and to name the countries of the Danube basin.

For our video and poster project, one of our group mates Anca managed to interview her friend Olga, who is a fashion design student, and took videos of her amazing work. We are planning to visit the Ukrainian Social Club during the weekend. Hopefully we will find more potential interviewees there. Also many of us are sick due to food poisoning, hope they get well soon!

Ukrainian Group – Day Five

Today started with a lecture about the history of the Jewish community along the Danube. We explored this community using film, music and textual sources. We heard about the importance of Jewish people for the cultures of the Danube. Some of the most influential Danubian Jews include Sigmund Freud, Edward Teller and many very accomplished natural and social scientists. I was surprised to hear that around 80% of lawyers, doctors and other professionals were Jewish in Budapest prior to WWII despite Jewish people making up only 5% of the population. Obviously this changed completely during the Holocaust where around two thirds of the Jewish community in this region were murdered.

After the lecture we split off into our groups to discuss the themes of the lecture. We discussed how best to commemorate the Holocaust and how to learn lessons from it. Everyone expressed their sadness at the destruction of a community that had contributed so much to the region and to the world.  We also discussed contemporary anti-semitism and its link to the Israel – Palestine conflict. We largely agreed that it is important to be critical of political beliefs with which we disagree but we should not allow political disagreements to turn to racial prejudice.

During our project session we made some good progress, deciding the subject of our documentary film and collating materials for our poster. After a short break we regrouped for our Ukrainian language lesson. Today we learned about food and culinary traditions in Ukraine. We are now able to order food in a restaurant and know some basic food vocabulary which will come very useful if we visit Ukraine.

At the end of the day we split up to go to different conferences and create a charter on how UCL can ameliorate human rights. It was good to spend some time with students from other strands discussing some of the biggest questions that face humanity today. Despite having very little time we managed to think of a few ways how we can improve human rights around the world.

In my group these ideas focussed on the individual. We decided it is most important that we understand the basic concept of human rights and that we appreciate our membership of a larger human community that transcends national, religious, political and ethnic differences.

Despite being slightly fatigued we are excited to learn more about the Danube and continue to make progress with our group projects.

Ukrainian group: 31 Tuesday 2016 – Day 1

Today was the first day of this amazing opportunity : the Global Citizenship Program at UCL. In the morning we attended a speech that presented us with the main features of this summer school : why it is great, interesting, why we were right to come ! Three students told us about their previous year in the program and it was very exciting. After lunch, it started to get real. Whereas the morning meeting was for all the students in the program, the afternoon one was only about the Danube-on-Thames topic. So we found ourselves meeting our danubian colleagues for the two weeks to come. The first lecture was dedicated to the river itself : where it is, which countries it crosses and why it is such an important river. I was so surprised at the number of countries that the Danube crosses and touches : Germany, Austria, Slovakia, Hungary, Croatia, Serbia, Bulgaria and then finishes its way in the Black Sea touching the frontier of Moldavia, Romania and Ukraine where it splits into a delta. Tim Beasley-Murray introduced us with the concept of a river as a paradoxical feature : a zone of contact and exchange but also a border and a place of war. About the Danube itself, I think it is important to remember two things : first it is linked to the Rhein by a canal and therefore creates fluvial link between the North sea and the Black sea, secondly the particularity of the Danube is that it is ‘in the wrong way’ : it flows from the west to the east and because of economical and political reasons, it would have been easier if it flew the other way around. It finally rises all the questions of political and economic Europe : where is the limit between East and West ? Who are the migrants along the river and beyond ? Who is truly European ?
Ukraine being the last country that the Danube passes through, it is there that it becomes a delta and goes into the black sea. It is a European country at the end of Europe, bordering Russia. It is therefore a place for political conflict but also a good place to start when reflecting on European identity. Studying the Ukrainian language allows – to a certain extent – a better understanding of this conflict. For instance, the letter Ґ is a very political letter as it represents a part of the history of this country : it was removed by Stalin, because it only exists in the Ukrainian style of the Cyrillic alphabet so the generation of Ukrainian who lived under USSR does not recognise the letter. It was reintroduced after the fall of the USSR in 1991 marking the emancipation of the country. So we learned to read Cyrillic today and I’m sure we all have to work on that !  Then we were introduced to the tasks we will have to focus on : a movie, a poster and the blog. As I said, Ukraine is an interesting country for identity and this questioning around identity is illustrated by the Ukrainian community that lives in London in a broad perspective : How is it to be a migrant ? Why do we feel at home somewhere ? And what is it to be European in a more global way ?
Па-па !
– Noémie Gaulier