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“Why Should We Remember” – Sofia Platform’s Summer School

During our summer school on the topic of democracy and memory in the city of Belene at the end of June of this year, 24 young participants, through discussions, field work on the territory of the former concentration camp, and work with archives, had the chance to speak with lecturers and researchers from the nongovernmental and public sectors about the history of the communist regime. For almost everyone, the meeting with concentration camp survivor Halil Rasim was particularly stirring. The program included the following lectures:
  • “Why should we live in a democracy? How does communism differ from democracy?, Hristo Panchugov, political scientist, and Dr. Momchil Metodiev, historian
  • “The repressive apparatus of the communist regime and the Belene concentration camp’s place within it”, Dr. Momchil Metodiev, historian and Borislav Skochev, author of “The Belene Concentration Camp: 1949 -1987”
  • “The role of secret services and Christian churches”, Father Paolo Cortesi and Dr. Momchil Metodiev
  • Workshop: How do we work with archives?, Associate professor Dr. Mihail Gruev, chairman of the National Archives Agency and Marinela Yordanova, head of the National Archive in Pleven
  • Meeting and discussion with survivors from the Belene (Persin Island) concentration camp, Halil Rasim, Kurdzhali
  • „Who should remember and why: education, politics, and heritage“, Associate professor Dr. Daniela Koleva, History and Cultural Studies Department of the Sofia University and Ralitza Kirilova, culturologist
  • How do we plan and create projects dealing with memory?, Mariana Asenova, journalist and founder of the New Culture Foundation
To add variation to the academic part of the summer school, participants had the opportunity to go to a guided tour of the Roman ruins in the city of Belene, to go to the site of the concentration camp on the Persin Island itself, and to go on a boat tour of the islands around Belene on the Dunabe River. Here are some of the most remarkable aspects of their experiences that students shared with us: “It was a superb experience which changed my viewpoint on many aspects of the periods before and after 1989.” “The incredible lectors managed to kindle an even stronger flame in me to be a vocal participant in democratic society. The brilliant organisation of the summer school brought about a good emotional and social experience.” “[I liked the r]eadiness of the lecturers to answer any and every question and their level of competence regarding the topics at hand.” “I fell in love with the bonding activities and the periods of reflection, which turned us from strangers into a cohesive unit.” “I particularly liked the selection of different teaching methods.
The meeting with Halil Rasim was an incredible experience.”

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