The People and Walls opening event in France gave start to the Revision project, gathering partners from 6 European countries. The project’s main objective is to encourage young people to actively participate in the shaping of the future of the EU, through raising awareness of Europe’s violent past.
Located in the French Ardennes, the town of Haybes has a particular story to tell. During the First World War, Haybes la Jolie (Haybes, the beautiful) found itself at the front of the French- German battles, and as consequence was entirely destroyed with big part of its population slaughtered or imprisoned. Due to Haybes frontier location, it fell under German occupation once more during the Second World War. While in most towns of Europe time has effectively erased the traces of past conflict, in Haybes the memory of the wars is very much present to this day.
“There are wounds even a hundred years still cannot heal” shared a local citizen at the opening ceremony of the conference while walking us through the exposition of Haybes before the destruction. “Each one of us here has an ancestor who perished back then” added another of our hosts.
Holding the first event in Haybes offered us, the international guests, a remarkable experience. For three days, we were transported back in time, at the heart of a Europe ravaged by war, poverty and destruction. Thanks to the thoughtful preparation of our host – the Municipality of Haybes, and their local partner Via Charlemagne – Cultural Route of the Council of Europe, we had the chance to get to know what day to day life was back then for the civilian population trapped at the frontline of the French-German conflict.
We heard personal accounts of witnesses, recorded and transmitted to us through their descendants. We were able to understand what the war was like through the eyes of children thanks to the intimate diaries of two young boys, presented to us by Jacques Lambert and Association Terres Ardennaises. We were immersed in the story of the destruction and reconstruction of Haybes through photography exhibitions, creative projects and multimedia presentations prepared by the local children and young people. We witnessed the tragic story of Haybes and its inhabitants through the documentary film “Haybes 1914 – The destruction of a French Village”. And we saw the impact of the two world wars in the Ardennes region on both sides of the border through study visits to war sites and memorials, as well as thanks to meetings with local Remembrance Organisations.
The rich event also gave the participating local authorities, associations, young people and citizens the opportunity to reflect together and discuss how can we jointly better preserve the memory of Europe’s turbulent past for the future generations. We exchanged good practice examples from the participating towns and discussed what can be done on local and European level to raise awareness on the importance of European Remembrance. During the Opening Event, the Mayor of Municipality of Haybes, Mr. Benoit Sonnet attributed the Medal of Honor of Haybes to the Head of each delegations. The medals were received by Mr. Tiago Feio, president of Association Redefine, Portugal; Ms. Magda Culotta, Mayor of the Municipality of Pollina, Italy; Mr. Marek Materek, Mayor of Municipality of Starachowice, Poland; Mr. Karoly Szabo, President of the Association of Municipalities of Harghita Country, Romania; and Ms. Nesila Koka, head of EU Integration Unit of the Municipality of Librazhd, Albania.
The Revision project is funded under the Europe for Citizens Programme, Strand 2 Measure 2.2 ‘Networks of Towns‘. The project was developed by Association Redefine as part of our cooperation with Municipality of Haybes, France and the Via Charlemagne Cultural Route of the Council of Europe.
The initiative gathers local authorities from 6 European countries with the objective of encouraging young people to actively participate in the shaping of the future of the EU, through raising awareness of Europe’s violent past, the challenge the recent raise of extreme political movements represent for European society and the importance of the core values the EU is built upon for the future of Europe.
In order to reach our objectives, six joint international events will be organized, guiding participants to reflect on the way political and social phenomena has affected the destiny of millions citizens in the past, as well as how the political choices we make today will shape our future.
Numerous media campaigns, challenges and contests will be also launched as part of the initiative, in order to engage decision makers, citizens and youngsters in a constructive discussion on the memories of the past and the future of the European Union.
For more information about the Revision project, please click here