We are living an era of high speed and often superfluous information. At times like these history can often seem remote and incidental. Believing in the capacity of young people to immerse themselves in the past in order to understand the present and anticipate the future, the Real Maestranza in Ronda (RMR) has launched the Eustory competition. Originating in Germany, the competition urges youngsters to “dig into their own regional histories, be more critical about the past and to become aware of what is happening around them today,” explains Gabriele Woidelko, managing director of the Eustory Association in Hamburg. Eustory was founded in postwar Germany to give children the chance to analyse and study why Nazism came about and counter the abuse of history as an ideological weapon.
Gloria Román, the 2008 winner in Spain, immersed herself into the mid-19th century of her hometown, Iznatoraf (Jaen). “I wrote a chronicle of how they lived, worked, played. About how they lit their homes, their water supply and clothes,” she explains. She conducted her research using old photographs, letters and even an old sewing machine instruction manual. Román also used some very special sources: her grandparents. “Without them I wouldn’t have been able to do it. My grandmother is one of those people who keeps absolutely everything. When I won she was even more excited than me!” confesses the winner. From Hamburg Woidelko argues: “These are not the histories of heroes and victors. The Eustory competition has nothing to do with subjects that are discussed at school or in text books. The competition underlines how ‘big history’ affects the lives of ordinary people and tries to create a mosaic of thousands of different histories that form a European narrative”.
More than 110,000 young people from the 22 countries that make up the Eustory network have taken part since the first competition was held in Germany in 1994. This network is made up of civil society organizations that run competitions in their home countries initiated by the Körber Foundation, a German institution born to foster dialogue within and between societies. The success of this first competition instigated its spread to countries such as Poland in 1996 and the Ukraine in 1998. Spain joined in 2008 and has its head office in Ronda. “We are particularly happy about Spain joining the network. The country has had to deal with a complex past and is now one of the major players in western Europe,” comments Woidelko. And why Ronda? “Ronda has a history that goes back over 2,000 years. Historically a layover city, Ronda has experienced all of the many cultures that have resided in Spain, except for the Tartessians,” comments Ignacio Herrera, director of the Real Maestranza in Ronda.
Herrera describes the fundaments of the competition: “To learn how to conduct a historical investigation, value your past, acquire knowledge of your roots and to understand your life in the context of your local and familial background.” For Woidelko, another factor is the self-confidence participants gain. “The competition gives children a huge amount of independence as well as a better understanding of their identity. And courage. The courage to ask questions, research and overcome obstacles,” she explains. Paradoxically winners are not necessarily at the top of their class. Eustory gives them free rein and motivation, rather than heavy books to be memorized from cover to cover.
In 2001 the Eustory network published a common charter that described how to approach with history to help build bridges and overcome divisions. Within this document words such as ‘peace’, ‘understanding’ and ‘cooperation’ aim to motivate the next generation to use history as a means of communication rather than as a weapon. This objective is ever present in the Eustory Academies whose doors are open to winners from each of the participating countries. “I’m went to Berlin to study the fall of the Berlin Wall throughout a week-long workshop, all expenses paid,” explains Román. Gdańsk in Poland and Ronda (specifically in the Algaba de Ronda) were also locations for the 2009 academies. In 2010, winners of the 2009 Eustory competition attended history academies in Berlin (Germany), Skuol (Switzerland) and Sofia (Bulgaria). In 2011 they visited Brussels, Berlin and Madrid where they tackled difficult subjects including Exile, The Chernobyl Disaster and Brussels: City of Minorities.
“These days young people are qualified for just about anything, as long as they are motivated, have support and the means needed to achieve their goals,” concludes Ignacio Herrera. Gloria Román is living proof: “It takes a great deal of time, patience and dedication. I put in a lot of hard work. If you make the effort it will turn out all right in the end. Eustory has been one of the best experiences of my life. During the award ceremony, I even got the chance to meet the King! Imagine that!”
- • Official website for Eustory in Spain
- • Eustory Competition 2009 in Tertulia Andaluza
- • Documentary 50 años no es nada in Tertulia Andaluza
- • Interview with Germán Jiménez, winner of second prize in 2009 in Tertulia Andaluza
- • 2010 Eustory Winners in Tertulia Andaluza
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