Final Day – Films and Farewells Slovakia


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!

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

Bulgarian art and the globalised World

In a small gallery room underneath the Bulgarian Embassy at 188 Queen’s Gate in South Kensington, Valchan Petrov displayed his latest art to a crowd largely made up of one of London’s newest immigrant communities, the Bulgarians. In this latest expression of Bulgar culture in London, deep Orthodox symbols fused with images of the naked form and vivid tones of blue, orange and green adorned the modest gallery room. The wood and canvas blended seamlessly with ornate frames, becoming an extension of the art itself.

creationPictured: Creation by Valchan Petrov

Art such as this, with heavy religious influence, would have been restricted under Bulgaria’s communist regime, which promoted the aesthetic of socialist realism. The liberalisation of modern Bulgaria as well as its further integration into the EU is reflected in its art scene, causing a surge in cultural output from the country. In 2011, The Museum of Socialist Art in Sofia was opened to showcase state sponsored propaganda from the era, as did the Sofia Arsenal Museum of Contemporary Art, the first of its kind in Bulgaria and funded by grants from the governments of Luxembourg, Norway and Iceland. EU grants have also funded new Bulgarian language films, allowing local screenwriters to exercise their talents.

Bulgarian culture reflects massively on its history, from Bulgar and Thracian tribes to Byzantine orthodoxy to Ottoman suzerainty. The newest influence on Bulgarian art will seemingly permeate from Western Europe. However, according to Valchan Petrov “we are influenced by a few massive cultures at the expense of the small countries like Bulgaria, and there is a danger for us to lose our authenticity. Many of my colleagues, especially the younger ones, are doing artworks which can be done by a painter from Belgia or France.”, it appears Bulgarian culture must find its place within the greater European sphere while simultaneously maintaining its unique character, a daunting task in the age of mass global media. Whatever challenges lay ahead, Bulgarian culture proves to shine now as much as ever, at home and abroad.

Ukrainian Group- June, 9th

It is the penultimate day of our journey and it has dawned on us all that we must part ways soon. We’ll each travel forward to various places across the world- some closer like France and some farther away, like Hong Kong- but wherever we go from this point on, we’ll all carry with us a little piece of Ukraine. As we learned with the help of our wonderful language teacher and navigator  -Marta Jenkala and Liisa Tuhkanen- about a culture that values friendship and human connection as one of life’s most enriching experiences, we found that we ourselves turned from a group of complete strangers to one of dear friends.

As the Ukrainians would say:

Людина без друзів — що дерево без коріння.

A person without friends is like a tree without roots.


The penultimate day – Slovakia


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.


By: Ioana Buzelan

A week of Ukrainian – Ukraine group

These seven hours of Ukrainian with Marta Jenkala were the best language classes I have ever had. She managed to give us an insight into a language that seems so complicated at first in a such a little amount of time. She brought us on a journey around Ukraine, presented us the words, the food and some festivals and, in the end, a bit of the Ukrainian culture. The first difficulty that we students had to overcome was the alphabet and therefore that was the topic of our first session. To be honest, I found it really frightening at first : “a whole new alphabet, that I know almost nothing about and that I cannot even read !” What a challenge ! I went home and practised it, using the huge frustration that I had – because I could not read – to practise it as much as I could. Once you stopped struggling with the alphabet difficulties, understanding Ukrainian becomes much more accessible, as Marta kept repeating. Ukrainian Slavonic roots, but with a significant number of loan words from other languages, including Latin, and in the end, once you can read, there are a lot of words for which you can guess the meaning. Now, at the end of the week I can introduce myself, say what I am doing in life, where I come from and ask someone about those things. I can also tell the date and count, but also order in a restaurant or ask for the price of things. I was so surprised with all I learnt that I wondered how Marta managed to teach us so many things so quickly especially in that particular context where we do not have the pressure of exams ! So the real question is: how is she conveying her passion for Ukrainian? I had the chance to conduct an interview with her that could give some answers to that question.

Marta started to teach Ukrainian at SSEES in 1999. But how did she come to Ukrainian? It is important to underline that it is her mother-tongue : it is her roots and her story. She grew up in England and so English became the language of her environment. She then decided to learn French at UCL. For her, who was already bilingual, it was a thrilling experience. At the same time she started to teach Ukrainian at the Ukrainian Saturday School of Ukrainian in London. After she graduated, she became a French teacher and was then recruited by UCL as a Ukrainian teacher. She realised that teaching a language made her love it even more. It must be the main reason why it is so interesting for us to learn it from her! Her teaching philosophy can be summarised in three main points. First, she likes to remind students how things can be easy. Instead of focusing on how things can be difficult, she prefers to point out the easy side of things. For example, instead of explaining to us that the alphabet was really hard, she kept insisting on how easy it was to understand so many words once the alphabet is mastered. Her second belief is that a class needs to be challenging for everyone. In order for everyone to stay focused and interested, it is important that different students who have different levels in a language work on something that requires a bit of reflection. Everyone does not arrive in a class with the same background, and therefore not the same level in a language. It is actually a thing that she really likes : working with international students creates this diversity of backgrounds which allows to appreciate different ways of approaching the same language. In our Ukrainian group, some people already had a Slavonic background, some already knew the cyrillic alphabet or also knew a Romance language. Finally, she likes to regularly check with them if they are following well and making progress individually.

In the end, one of the major reasons she is such an amazing teacher is her passion for our work and for Ukrainian itself. As she said, she loves it even more now that she needs to make other people love it and learn it, but her strongest feelings come from the fact that Ukrainian is the language of her mother. When I asked her what was her favourite word in Ukrainian, she hesitated for a long time. She explained to me that there are so many that are so interesting that she could not really pick a single one which would reflect her linguistic passion. But if she really needed to pick one, she would go for ‘mama’ or babusia’, the words mother and granny.


Day Ate: but we are still Hung(a)ry

Dear Log Book,


This marks the final entry for our voyage down the Danube.

Today was particularly stressful. In the morning, we attended a lecture by Rebecca Handler on the topic “(Un)welcome in the Promised Land? Competing Ideas of Citizenship: Legislation and Perception”. Her talk largely surrounded the trending topic of immigration to the UK (from the EU). She laid out the scope of discussion in succinct terms, and provided the context in which the EU Treaty was drawn up. The stats that are relevant to the discussion was also clearly stated, all of which suggested that there is a disparity between real numbers and the estimation of the number of migrants in the UK.

Rebecca also outlined the profile of immigration in the UK, and suggested that there is a fear among people towards migration. Surveys show that the perception towards immigrants from Eastern Europe are generally negative, and that from the “western world” are generally positive. The Government is committed to restrict the number of people moving to the UK. To name a few: (i) the number of visas issued by the Home Office is capped; (ii) the criteria in which the spouse of an applicant have been made more difficult to meet; (iii) the criteria in which graduates on point-based tier 4 visa are also made harder to meet. All of the above seemingly aim to resolve the fear and worry people have towards migration. However, it seems to have a greater effect on immigrants from outside the EU than on immigrants from within the EU. What follows was an interesting story sharing session.

Next up, we (allegedly) just started working on the film that are due this evening. Team Magyar once again showcased their astonishing ability to put in 110% of effort into producing work of quality. Among them, some worked on the artefact they wanted to display during the exhibition, and some worked incessantly on editing the short film. The poster team managed to create an amazing piece of art(efact). The film team was also brilliant in pulling off the task. Currently they are still working on it. Let’s all anticipate what they are capable of!

It’s been a truly wonderful journey. We barely know each other two weeks ago; we know nothing about Hungarian; eventually we bonded in vowel harmony. It still seems rather odd now that we have to go cold turkey on the language sessions. But fear not, we are almost there – it’s day Ate! Lettuce work berry hard and produce eggcellent wok! We are team Hung(a)ry!

donut know what I’m writing anymore. I butter stop.


Thursday 9th – Serbian Group

Wednesday 8th – Serbian Group

Today opened with a talk from Estzer Tarsoly on the stream of structural-linguistic complexity that characterises the Danube region, touching on a plethora of languages from German to Romany to Ladino.  As the lecture overran, we proceeded straight into the project tutorial where we continued editing our film.  It’s coming on well, and is surprisingly stress-free.  Perhaps the meltdown moment lies ahead and we shouldn’t tempt fate, but we even seem to be grappling with the complexity of MP3 imports into Premiere Pro.  Jelena was en route to the Faroe Islands but her colleague Svetlana filled in excellently with a very interesting lesson on Balkan music – from turbofolk to Starogradska muzika!
All the best,

Ukrainian Group – June 8

We had a lecture about languages on Danube region by Eszter in the morning. It was the most academic lecture we have had during the programme. We found out that there are a lot more languages spoken on Danube than we think. Other than official languages of countries (German, Ukrainian, Hungarian etc.), other languages such as Ladino, Hebrew, Romani are also spoken by large populations. We learnt that Aromanian and Greek are also widely used.

In our last Ukrainian lesson, Marta taught us some beautiful poems and songs. We all love a traditional folk song called дунаю дунаю (Oh Danube, Oh Danube). It describes a girl standing by Danube and fall in love with a boy.

For video project, Noemie did a very great job in editing. Movie supervisor Dieter gave us some advice on how to improve the video, and he will get back to it tomorrow.