A group of 20 young Europeans continue their journey through Eastern and Central Europe to trace the events of 1989, and Europeana has joined them. The Freedom Express study trip most recently stopped in Hungary and Romania, where the participants learnt about the revolutions of each country, and how the events in Hungary sparked the bloody revolutions in neighbouring Romania.
Through this trip, the participants have been lucky enough to meet the protagonists from each revolution and gain first-hand insight on these historical events. The group has also been encouraged via their collaborative blog to discover and share their meaning of freedom, and discuss the impact of the events of 1989 on Europe today, 25 years on.
Participants of the Freedom Express engage in discussions with members of the Hungarian Parliament. Images: Paweł Karnowski, European Network of Remembrance and Solidarity.
Hungary was the second satellite state of the Eastern Bloc after Poland to switch to a non- communist government. Participants spent a number of days in Budapest and Sopron. While in Budapest, the group was invited to the Hungarian Parliament to discuss the political changes in Hungary in 1989. The group had many questions for László Kövér, Hungarian politician and the current Speaker of the National Assembly. The meeting quickly turned into a debate regarding current international affairs, and media from around Europe reported on this debate and the reaction of the hosts, forcing László Kövér to publicly apologise to the Freedom Express participants for his response to the questioning.
The Pan-European Picnic
Participants explore the location of the Pan-European Picnic on the border of Austria-Hungary. Images: Europeana (CC-BY-SA)
In Sopron, the group visited the location of the Pan-European Picnic and talked to the organisers of the event. The peaceful demonstration was held on the Austrian-Hungarian border on 19 August 1989, an important event during the Revolutions of 1989 that led to the fall of the Iron Curtain and the reunification of Germany. In the scenic setting, participants stood between Austria and Hungary; only the symbolic barbed-wire fence and monuments serve as a reminder of what was imposed previously.
After Hungary, the group boarded the Freedom Express again and progressed to Romania where they visited the Museum of Revolution and met a number of witnesses to the Romanian revolution in December 1989. The participants also visited the city’s art museum where they were introduced to Romanian art. They explored the impact that the communist regime had on the work of artists during the 20th century
A story from Romania
While in Romania, Europeana was able to record their first story from that country for 89 Voices, an oral history project that aims to preserve 89 first-hand accounts of events in 1989. In the story, Brindusa Armanca describes the memory of how her family got caught up in the Romanian revolution in Timisoara. However, at the end of the recording she shares her most emotional memory, when she bore witness to the death of a woman on the streets during the protests. She recalls; ‘When I worked as a journalist, I researched who she was, and now I know. I went to the cemetery and put a flower on her grave. Even if only one person had died in the revolution, somebody has to be punished for that death.’
Next stop, Bratislava…