YEN‘s Easter seminar took place in Oberwart, Burgenland, Austria, between the 31st March – 6th April 2023. It is the largest event of the Youth of European Nationalities (YEN) and the second YEN seminar in 2023, after the Kick-Off Seminar in Kruševo, North Macedonia in February. It was co-hosted by YEN and the Hrvatski akademski klub (HAK), with both the YEN Board members and office and members of HAK sharing the organisational roles.
The Easter seminar is a place where youth and young adults from minorities from all over Europe meet to discuss minority youth issues. This year’s Easter Seminar was supported by the European Youth Foundation of the Council of Europe, the German ministry of Interior and Funds from the Austrian Federal Chancellery for the promotion of autochthonous minorities (Volksgruppenförderung). Based on the feedback from our participants in the past year and a membership survey we conducted in 2021, we decided to focus on the topic of Tradition in 2023. This year’s topic was “It’s all around you” and focused on the role of traditions within minority communities. The Easter Seminar hosted 26 participants from 12 different member organisations, along with other guests interested in the topic.
Once the participants had arrived, we began with some fun introductory games to get to know each other. It was great to see some brand-new faces at the seminar, with participants travelling from near and far to attend (Slovenia, North Macedonia, Wales, Russia and beyond!) Amongst the newbies were many familiar faces, who have been attending YEN seminars for many years. It is always great to see members who we have not seen in a while, and to see the member organisations keen to get involved and participate again, particularly after some difficult pandemic years and many YEN events getting cancelled.
YEN’s annual motto „Keeping traditions alive! Since 2023!“ was the focus of a busy activity-filled week, and the event started fittingly with an opening ceremony at cultural centre in Oberwart, OHO. Host organisation HAK welcomed everyone to the Easter Seminar under the slogan „It’s all around you/Sve okolo tebe“, with various speeches made, performances from a Burgenland Croatian folklore dance group the HKD and local politicians joining the celebrations. Afterwards, the „World Café“ allowed everybody present to go from table to table to find out more about the history and life of the Burgenland Croats, along with being able to discover more about the history and goals of YEN and the new project RISE UP: Revitalising Languages and Safeguarding Cultural Diversity.
What are traditions, what elements make up a tradition and why do we have traditions at all? These were some of the questions reflected upon and delved into throughout the week of intensive workshops. Led by two skilled trainers, the workshops took place at the Bilingual Grammar School in Oberwart (ZBG), who kindly offered their rooms to us. Participants looked at the impact that traditions have on minority communities and were encouraged to reflect on the role of traditions within their own communities, including the challenges and benefits they bring. The young people were provided with teambuilding activities and non-formal education tools and given the opportunity to learn more about topic of traditions, how to analyse, challenge, hold or not uphold them.
They also learned about minority and human rights, investigated some legal documents, and shared their experiences coming from different minority communities from around. YEN’s seminars aim to encourage their member organisations to create a strong and supportive network and try to supply skills and guidance which will help their members to increase the levels of participation. YEN is all about supporting personal development, strengthening connections to each other and learning from one another. At the end of each workshop-day the participants had a reflective research session, to look back on their day.
Alongside the workshops, participants and team spent a day in Vienna visiting the Hrvatski centar Beč (Croatian Center Vienna) and Klub slovenskih Študentk in Študentov na Dunaju (KSŠŠD). We were lucky enough to have a tour of the beautiful Austrian Parliament building, learn about its history, and take part in a discussion on Tradition as representation und Minority representation & politics (especially youth) moderated by Viktoria Kuzmits (also formerly active at HAK). Participants included Andor Barabás (YEN president), Alexander Wukovits (YEN/HAK), Prof. Mag. Dr. Eva Vetter (Uni. Vienna/RISE UP), Lea Vouk (KSŠŠD), Lydia Novak (Initiative Minderheiten) and Carina Reiter (Member of the Austrian National Council, ÖVP). It was a highly thought-provoking discussion, and a great opportunity for YEN’s members to take part in a debate in such a grand political setting.
Host organisation HAK organised an evening to showcase Burgenland Croatian culture, including a presentation from a local Burgenland archive Arhiv Stinjaki, a performance of traditional songs and costume, and a chance to try out famed traditional (and surprisingly difficult) activity “Eierkratzen” (scratching intricate patterns into an egg with a knife). During the “YEN evening”, participants had the chance to suggest their thoughts and wishes for the future, including activity ideas for YEN’s 40 birthday celebrations in 2024. There was also a chance for the participants to input some feedback to YEN’s new partner project RISE UP, which focuses on endangered languages within 5 case study communities in Europe. The infamous “Exchange Market” was an evening of tasting, talking and later much dancing and merriment, as the minorities present at the Easter Seminar got the chance to present their history, culture, music, dances and their local delicacies from their region. A travelling exhibition detailing various minority movements in Austria was provided by Initiative Minderheiten. There was also an afternoon for the participants to learn about YEN’s General Assembly, and get a bit more of an idea about how the organisation, Board and voting functions.
Directly after the seminar, on 6 April, the YEN GA (General Assembly) took place for the interested representatives of YEN member organisations.
We were so pleased at the positive energy throughout such a busy week. Participants shared their stories, ideas, and cultures, networked and discussed, and were motivated to try out new things. We learnt a lot! We hope you did too! Thank you to everyone who took part, to all participants and organisers. We can’t wait to see you at our next event.
More information about future YEN events will be announced soon.
the YEN Board and Office
Event supported by/funded by: European Youth Foundation of the Council of Europe the German ministry of Interior and Funds from the Austrian Federal Chancellery for the promotion of autochthonous minorities (Volksgruppenförderung).