A musical Bridge of Peace commemorating World War 1 between Austria and Russia took place in 4 Austrian cities and one village from 22 to 29th June: Graz, Linz, Wals by Salzburg, Vienna and Neckenmarkt!
The Angels of Peace Tournee with Russia Austria partnership towards reconciliation, 100 years after the beginning of WorldWar 1 due to the tragic assassination June 28th 1914 of Crown Prince Franz Ferdinand and his wife Sophie (who had attempted to restore Austro-Russian relations while maintaining an alliance with Germany); and The 100 years anniversary, 22nd June of Berta von Suttner, the internationally respected Austrian pacifist; Author of "Lay down your Weapons" and first lady to receive the Peace Nobel Price 1905.
Graz The first event in Graz on June 22nd took off with a cosponsored event at the WIKI seminar centre with WFWP Styria Suzuko Hirschmann , Austrian Russian Association (ORG) Styria President Dr. Presinger and UPF Styria, Johann Pranzl. The Angels of Peace took a city tour sponsored by ORG and afterwards had an ice sponsored by UPF. President Dr. Peter Presinger opened the afternoon performance and received an Ambassador for Peace certificate recognising his years of dedication in Austrian Russian relations and partnership.
A Bridge of Peace was celebrated between Russian and Austrian ladies, introduced by Renate Amesbauer WFWP Austria President who is one of the initiators of these Reconciliation Ceremonies in Austria.
The Angels of Peace dance group initiator Mrs. Olga Vakulinskaya, WFWP Russia President and WFWPI VP moved the hearts of all, as she expressed on behalf of the Russian Peace bringers the desire for reconciliation between both nations. The Angels of Peace and each teacher received a certificate recognizing their dedication to world peace and as appreciation for their long journey to Austria as well as the many practice hours studying the traditional dances. Also a small sweet was given to each participant from the Graz Mayor’s office
‘Reconciliation and peace became more real through this beautiful inspiring afternoon. Thanks to all who have made this possible’. This was one of the reflections.
A cultural Peace message and a special Memorial ceremony with the laying of flower wreaths and sprinkling of Russian Earth at the Soldiers graveyard embraced the village of Haschendorf by Neckenmarkt, Burgenland in East Austria on 23rd June 2014, where more than 700 soldiers were buried- Russians, Italians and Serbs. Short speeches were given and the Angels of Peace sang two songs: tears flowed, the sun shone. The Angels of Peace took some Earth from Neckenmarkt back to Russia. During WW1, the largest recorded Prisoner- of -war camp was in Neckenmarkt being more than 2 km in length but inhabited by some 40.000 persons. However the prisoners experienced some kind of freedom and worked on farms and other places, occasionally without a guard. Hearsay is that some wanted to marry the village girls, but this was not permitted.
The Mayor of Neckenmarkt, Mr. Helmut Iby invited everyone to the "Gasthof Traube" after the Memorial ceremony. Mag. Dr. Oswald Gruber, a local history teacher gave a profound overview of WW1.
Dr. Mihalkovic explained about the prison camp. All three were greatly moved on receiving an Ambassador of Peace Award after the performance.
The Angels of Peace danced directly beside the audience, bringing many to tears! The "Bridge of Peace and reconciliation" revived each heart.
A journalist had attended the evening, bringing an article and pictures in the local newspaper, publishing many photos on the website!
Linz, Upper Austria
Thursday 26th June, the Angels of Peace travelled by coach to Linz. Upper Austria was divided into a Russian and American Zone along the Danube embankment from 1945 to 1955. Engaged Couples living south of the Danube who wanted to marry in the Basilica of Pöstlingberg (a pilgrimage basilica "Seven Sorrows of Our Lady", a spectacular location, the landmark of Linz, a popular church for weddings and now shrine for both World War’s dead) needed permission from the Russian Zone.
In one of the city’s district community centres’ Volkshaus Auwiesen’ The Angels of Peace performed songs and dances conveying the rich cultural heritage of Russia.
The charming appearance of the 14 young artists soon reached the hearts of audience of some 80 who joined in with clapping along to familiar tunes.
Olga Vakulinsky, initiator of the Angels of Peace and WFWP Russia President in Russia expressed her concerns about the wounds Russians and Austrians brought to each other during the two World Wars and conveyed her sincere desire for forgiveness and reconciliation from the part of the Russians.
The Bridge of Peace Ceremony brought 8 Russian and 8 Austrian mothers and 14 young people of both nations asked for forgiveness, voiced their commitment to peace, bowed down to each other entering the bridge and met (hugged) in the middle of the bridge. This ceremony and especially the physical embrace moved the hearts and created a remarkable bond and peacebuilding energy, not only for the participants of the ceremony but to all present.
Appreciative remarks of a Linz city councilor Mag.a Marie-Edwige Hartig originally from Cameroun and flower presentations ended the evening.
Wals Siezenheim, by Salzburg
27th June 2014 The Angels of Peace arrived in Salzburg and had lunch in a WOK restaurant. Afterwards checked in at the Kolpinghaus youth hostel before continuing to the Bachschmiede in Wals (event location).
The Mayor of Wals, Joachim Maislinger opened the evening wishing the audience an enjoyable one.
Official greetings were given by the Salzburg Russian General Consul Sergeij Smirnov, attending with his granddaughter, who spoke on the Motto of the ORFG (Austria Russia Association).’ Friendship of both cultures is good but not always reachable. Important is safety and security.’
Lamprechtshausen Music High School Class 1a (24 children) sang typical Austrian songs in local language without microphones. Accordion music and a fantastic drum group performed. Goeming children’s Traditional dancing group (14 Children from 4-9 years old) in traditional costumes and hats with accordion musicians were met with rhythmic clapping from the audience. Ms. Fiona Hawlin, WFWP Salzburg Chair invited these 2 marvellous local music groups to sing, dance and play, successfully making a Musical Bridge of Peace.
Erika Ortner, charmingly and gracefully brought this Musical Bridge of Peace evening programme towards introducing the Angels of Peace families to the audience. Presents were exchanged and Flowers for the Austrian teachers and the organisers. The performance of Wals by Salzburg event was filmed and will serve as a documentation. Tears were in the eyes of the evening audience on leaving. Josef Voithofer, ORFG President in Salzburg, helped in the preparatory work through his office staff Mrs. Ortmayer by designing the poster and assisting event arrangements with the Bachschmiede. This poster format was used for each city. Saturday 28th June, ORFG also sponsored sightseeing in Salzburg for the Angels of Peace. Ms. Olga Vakulinsky explained this was a dream fulfilled to travel on a cable car to the Untersberg.
Ms.Fiona Hawlin, WFWP Salzburg chair, organised and sponsored Saturday lunch at the Lachensky Hof before the Angels travelled to Vienna.
Groedig was remembered as approx. 40000 Russian prisoner of War were held as well as Russian refugees who had fled, explained Elisabeth Riedl referring to” the forgotten prisoners of war camp book”. According to the Groediger Community records more than 2.000 persons died, as Author Gerda Dohle explained in her book. „It is surely more. “ Witnesses estimated 17.000 to 23.000 dead. A huge Graveyard near Untersberg: The Russian graveyard reminds us even today of the prison camp. 15th November 2014 there will be a memorial service held. „Around 3.800 Persons are buried in the Russian Cemetary“, explained the Cemetary officer Sepp Haslauer. „Russians, Serbians und Italians. Russian-orthodox, Juden, Catholics and Muslims. 800 Kinder were also buried here- they came from the refugee camp Vojvodina.“
Vienna 29th June 2014
Official greetings were given to the Angels of Peace in Vienna by Ms. Olga Schalaeva, Attaché from the Russian Cultural Institute.
The conclusion came in Vienna as a cooperation between UPF and WFWP Austria.
The Peace Angels (14 Russian school children 9-14 years old) each received a WFWPI Youth Ambassador for Peace Certificate in recognition for their dedication to peace.
The event location, the Austrian Peace Embassy, Seidengasse 28 was filled to the last seat. The audience clapped, as tears ran down many faces. The beautiful costumes, the purity of the Angel´s faces and hearts! Knowing this performance came at the end of 5 performances of building a musical and historically memorable Bridge of Reconciliation between Russia and Austria.
Ms. Schalaewa gave words of encouragement to the children, talking to them in their mother tongue: “Tonight a part of my homeland came to visit me! I am proud of these children from my country.”
Later two of the older members of the group, one girl and one boy explained their feelings: Anastasia (14yrs’): I dreamt of visiting this beautiful country Austria, with high mountains and wonderful scenery. I am deeply moved by the hearts of the people we met! I could feel so much love and warmth! We really had trained hard and sometimes we wanted to give up; but we came, and we are so grateful for that. We want to help God to bring Peace upon this world! Thank you so much for welcoming us!
Nikita (14yrs): Thank You for Your help and support, thank You for Your love! It was so nice to see your good heart and smiling faces. I am also happy to have met other young people here in Austria, and be friends.
The Angels of Peace spent one more day in Vienna; relaxing and shopping for souvenirs for those back home.
This WFWP Russia Project started 2007 in Moscow: Social dance performances for Old people's homes, etc in Moscow.
Thanks to all the sponsors generosity: especially to the Austrian Russian Friendship association in Graz (ORG) Styria President Dr. Presinger and ORFG Salzburg Mr. Josef Voithofer; the Vienna City Cultural Office; UPF; Neckenmarkt Mayors office and Wals by Salzburg Mayor and Bernhard Robotka for their special support for the Bachschmiede and technical assistance; The Salzburger Nachrichten; Die Fenster; Progress advertising agency in Salzburg and several Peace Ambassadors including local WFWP City Representatives who contributed their time for the organisation and public relations work voluntarily.
WFWP Austria Board members together with President Renate Amesbauer and Dr. Maria Riehl organised and sponsored the Angels of Peace Tournee through Austria.
Footnote: WW1 brought devastation throughout Europe: 59 million troops had been mobilised, over 8 million died and over 29 million were injured
Over 600 guests attended this Reconciliation Tournee.
16.07.2014 Prepared by Renate Amesbauer & Elisabeth Riedl WFWP Austria VP