“I remember some discussions with my French friends when Germany wanted to be united together. I feel when I speak with them I feel there is something. There is something they speak, don’t speak about.“
Jutta studied Civil Service, in Stuttgart. She worked in Esslingen as the leader of the office of International Relationships. “My work was mainly with twin towns, Esslingen has a very good tradition in Town Twinning. And I also worked with European programmes, foundations etc. I worked directly for the mayor, no other chief above me so that was very good because I only had to ask one person. If I wanted to do something.“
“The friends asked: how do you think about those this big Germany East and West Germany together. How do you think about it, I say, oh yeah, it’s okay. For me it’s okay. These are Germans and we want to be together. And we are very happy that the wall fell down. And Jean-Francois said to me: yeah I understand but do you understand that we have, we are a little bit anxious about that. I couldn’t understand why anxious. Why? He said because I think it’s not so good that Germany is whole, is together and I say: do you think about what happened in the Second World War? Yes he said, I think Germany should not be as big as it was. That was hard, hard for me to to understand and we talked a lot about that and I don’t know what why they were anxious about. This, I could not believe. Do you know why?”
“When we were in Norrkoping, that society turned out to be so much more emancipated than with us. I immediately thought I would like to live in Sweden. That’s how equal men and women are there. We went there too, that was funny, because Sweden of course did not participate in NATO, we went to the army, the air force as an outing. They just had, they were proud of that, the new planes they had purchased. We went to that army base and got a tour and then we were allowed to view the inside of those planes. And there were male pilots and female pilots, I’m not very familiar with ranks in the army, but those women also had quite a lot of those (stripes) those things on. So I thought that was great that it was so easy there, that was not possible with us at all!” (Connie from Schiedam)
Bråvalla Wing, also F 13 Norrköping, is a former Swedish Air Force wing with the main base located near Norrköping in south-eastern Sweden. In the 1970s they flew with the Swedish developed Saab 37 Viggen. Youths are still able to experience of Swedish Air Force’s capabilities, this time by flying in the simulator of the Saab JAS 39 Gripen at the Swedish Air Force Museum at Malmen Airbase in Malmslätt, just outside Linköping, Sweden.
Stane lived in Velenje, Slovenia, and hitchhiked in Europe since he was 17 years old. Due to his extensive travel experience he was asked to become a group leader for a Yugoslavian youth exchange organisation. Velenje had been a town twinning member of a circle of towns since 1970.
“Whenever I wanted some sources like getting buses or getting money for lunches and things like that, I always had to go to the committee chief. He wanted to know details and he was trying to persuade me that we should do more political. Yes, I did it once. When the group from Schiedam was in Velenje in ’77. They were invited to the town hall. And I said to this politkomisar, I said, “Let’s do a special thing. Give these kids an Honorable Membership Cards for the Socialist Youth Union. He was proud that, and later on, he was speaking about that, that we have now new members of the Yugoslav Socialist Union from outside the country. It was fun for me. It was the biggest fun for the Dutchmen. Otherwise, no, as I said, I never accepted that politics would interfere with this kind of exchange, exchanges.“
Friends in a Cold Climate: on youth exchanges and Europe.
In 1970, the town of Velenje from former Yugoslavia took part in a youth exchange. From that moment, Velenje was part of a small circle of towns from all over Europe who where twinned with each other. Connie, an organiser from Schiedam, a Dutch town that also took part: “Everyone thought that was special. Look at Sweden and England and Germany and France: you liked meeting each other, but that was not unusual. But a group from behind the Iron Curtain, that was something, of course. Those people from Velenje, those participants had the feeling: we are now in Esslingen and in Schiedam, we Yugoslavs are free because we are now allowed to do this. But there were so many restrictions that applied there that we just thought, what is happening here?”
Even today, in an era of cheap travel and constant connection, the image of young people backpacking across Europe remains seductively romantic. In Backpack Ambassadors, Richard Ivan Jobs tells the story of backpacking in Europe in its heyday, the decades after World War II, revealing that these footloose young people were doing more than just exploring for themselves. Rather, with each step, each border crossing, each friendship, they were quietly helping knit the continent together. From the Berlin Wall to the beaches of Spain, the Spanish Steps in Rome to the Pudding Shop in Istanbul, Jobs tells the stories of backpackers whose personal desire for freedom of movement brought the people and places of Europe into ever-closer contact. As greater and greater numbers of young people trekked around the continent, and a truly international youth culture began to emerge, the result was a Europe that, even in the midst of Cold War tensions, found its people more and more connected, their lives more and more integrated. Drawing on archival work in eight countries and five languages, and featuring trenchant commentary on the relevance of this period for contemporary concerns about borders and migration, Backpack Ambassadors brilliantly recreates a movement that was far more influential and important than its footsore travellers could ever have realised.
Those cities had a conference with each other every year. That meant that all those mayors and everything around them, civil servants involved, they then went to a certain city, they had a certain subject there, and a conference was held about that. Often with a theme. Well, that had been going on for years, but yes, Schiedam was slowly involved and then, of course, Schiedam was asked: “Wouldn’t you also like to organize the conference in Schiedam”? That was in 1980! And then it actually started to bloom because then Schiedam really had to organise a conference. I was closely involved in that. That was actually one of the first things that I became closely involved with. We really got a period when I thought now we really can to do something about it. That was actually the impetus for more further cooperation. Esslingen had a whole philosophy behind it. You also tried to transfer that to people who participated in exchanges at some point. In the first instance those people are concerned with: isn’t it nice, we’re going to play a football tournament in Slovenia or we’re going to give a singing performance in Esslingen. If they are working with each other then, those choirs, then you will notice that they come into contact with each other and so on.
My father had been in the resistance and my mother worked at a distribution office of coupons during the war and extra coupons always had to be arranged for people in hiding. So they weren’t very pro-German. We went on holiday to Italy, for example, but not via Germany, then we went through other countries. But because of those exchanges, they had something like yes, this is important: that we will never have a repeat of that situation again. That, bring it on! So we always had two guests at the same time, one from one country and one from the other. We from the third country, so you always had those three countries at least at the table. And that led to many, yes often fanatical conversations. Germans were very driven to make it better and never to fall into the same mistakes as they often called it. And the Italians and the French were all very driven by that as well. But, you shouldn’t exaggerate it either, because during the day on the bus to activities it was of course about completely different things, they were busy with each other and love was born.
The kind of reflection on the WWII, began later, during those years. During the 50’s you couldn’t hear anyone remembering, but during the 60’s it started to be discovered, to recall what had happened. The first time in Italy I was 14 years old in the first class of the grammar school, it was 1960, no, it was 1965. It was the twentieth anniversary of the Liberation. What we called the Liberation of Italy, that is, the end of the war in 1945 the partizan movement had won. And the Germans had been thrown out and so. But that year, twenty years later, it came from, there was a new government in Italy, a centre-left government. And the Ministry of Education sent a message, it was rather a directive: “In every class it must be remembered the anniversary of the resistance movement.” In my class, we where together, the teacher didn’t want to speak about it. He said: “I have nothing to say about it. Nothing good to say about the resistance movement. And so, if anyone of you want to speak about it, you can”. And I raised my hand and said “I will like to say something about it.”
Anna, pensioned professor Italian Literature: “We all knew the same songs, the same singers, we all liked, loved the Beatles. I remember that a Swedish girl wrote to me “Blowing in the Wind” on a towel, a paper towel. The lyrics. So we could sing all together in the bus when we went to the city, the town, the factories, coal we visited during the period of our exchange. I remember I laughed all the time! There was always something funny to laugh about! And I was very curious, especially the first time. I was very curious about the family who hosted me. The father was a worker in a factory. But he seemed a gentleman, with a pipe (laughs). He spoke slowly with a fine voice. It was very different from a factory worker, an Italian factory worker! I imagined me because I never knew a factory worker at the time. But it was so kind, so eh, ospitale, that I felt really friendly…”.
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