WFWP Austria/Russia,Angels of Peace, Part 2, June 14
An overall report about the recent ‘Angels of Peace’ Tour in Austria, the Russian children’s dance group singing and dancing for Russian-Austrian reconciliation:
The "Angels of Peace" tour in Austria took place from June 20th to June 30th, and included 5 cities and one village: Graz, Linz Salzburg, Vienna and Neckenmarkt!
The purpose of the tour was to build a "Bridge of Peace" through music and dance 100 years after the beginning of world war I. The date of the first event in Graz - June 22nd has been 100yrs anniversary of Berta von Suttner, the great Austrian pacifist, author of "Die Waffen nieder” (‘Weapons down’) and the first women to receive the Nobel peace price in 1905.
June 28th has been the tragic date of the assassination of Crown Prince Rudolf and his wife Sophie, which led to the beginning of world war I (July 28th 1914).
In two cities the event became successful because of the strong cooperation with the "Austrian Russian Friendship - Society", and in Graz the children received a recognition from the city council;
In two cities they were greeted by the official representatives of their country: in Salzburg by Mr. Sergeij Smirnov- Gerelconsul, in Vienna by Ms. Olga Schalaeva, Attachee of the Russian Cultural Institute of the Embassy.
In each city the were received with much warmth an appreciation for their performance of various dances from different parts of Russia, and songs, some of them quite famous in Austria. The group consisted of 10 Girls and 4 boys from age 9 to 14.
A very special ceremony took place in the village of Neckenmarkt in Burgenland (Eastern part of Austria). In Neckenmarkt was the biggest prisoner-of-war camp inside the monarchy during WW I. The camp has been more than 2 km in length and over 40.000 persons had lived there during the war. It was a war camp, but otherwise the prisoners experienced some kind of freedom - they were able to work on farms and other places, sometimes even without a guard. it is said that some of them even wanted to marry a girl from the village, but that was not allowed.
Of course many of them died, also as a result of sicknesses - over 700 soldiers died, Russians, Italians, Serbs, and more.
So the idea was created to hold a flower ceremony at the Russian cemetery with the dance group. They had even brought soil from Russia, and they also took some local soil home again. Short speeches were given, and the children sang two songs (with support of the mothers and teachers), tears were flowing and the sun came out.
The Mayor of Neckenmarkt, Mr. Iby, was present, and later he invited the whole group for a meal to a restaurant "Gasthof Traube”, the venue for the event.
Mag. Dr. Oswald Gruber, who teaches history with great empathy at a nearby school gave an overview of WW I. Dr. Mihalkovic then explained about the prison camp. (He had earned his doctorate degree after he retired!)
The three of them received an Ambassador for Peace Award afterwards, they were very moved by that!
The group once more had to dance on the ground (the stage has been to small) but that way they faced the guests, who were moved to tears! The "Bridge of Peace and reconciliation" did happen again.
A journalist witnessed the evening, and she wrote an wonderful article in the local newspaper, with pictures on the pages, and published many photos on the website.
Each city has been special in its own ways, the conclusion came in Vienna as a cooperation between UPF an WFWP Austria.
After one more day of sightseeing and shopping, the group left for Moscow again to start their well deserved holidays!
Reported by Renate Amesbauer, WFWP Austria
And a video link: