Divided Memory

Bringing Together Divided Memory II.

Post-war Czechoslovakia decided to get rid of ethnic minorities (Germans, Hungarians), seen as a major reason for country’s breakup in 1938-39. Large Hungarian community from “mixed territories” in Slovakia was “exchanged” for Slovaks from Hungary. Others were forcefully moved to empty Czech Sudetenland. For long, nationalism has shaped dominant narratives of (post)war events. Dominant historic discourse focuses on political interpretation, while consequences of big history on affected individuals remain unrecognized. The project aims to present individual stories of time witnesses who experienced many forms of coexistence before the WWII in mixed territories, rapid changes in their statehood and massive post-war migration followed by challenges of an unknown environment. Some recent attempts to reconcile diverging views on common history include a common didactic material published in 2013 (Rozštiepená minulosť) or a documentary movie depicting students’ diverging views on historical events (Horná zem/Felvidék). Our ambition is to bridge divided memories of time witnesses and look for common ground. That helps perceiving history not as a story of good versus bad (us and them) but understanding the other side. Central aim is a multilingual narration of this history and its memory up to the present, by means of biographical video interviews that brings Hungarian, Slovak and Czech interviews into one single, multifaceted narration. The number of time witnesses who are alive declines rapidly and this moment seems to be the last opportunity to capture this valuable material.
The project aims to record several interviews (ca. 20) with time witnesses (and close descendants who grew up in special atmosphere) and so to preserve the memory that would otherwise be lost. The interviews will follow inclusive methodology endeavouring to bring together divided memories and searching a common ground for people who were blown by historical events to then opposing sides. Such an approach complements attempts for common historical textbooks and other initiatives in reconciliation. This approach was applied in an Austrian-Czech-Slovak project Bringing Together Divided Memories 2014 – 2016 (BTDM) that dealt with German minority in Czechoslovakia. The project has shown that the mosaic of individual stories can work properly. It has also shown demand to include Hungarian community into the initiative. Hence, this project is in a way a continuation of BTDM. It will not only bring material valuable in itself which can further be separately processed for various purposes (educational, documentary, exhibitional) but, together with the results of BTDM, it builds a more comprehensive visual archive of this traumatic part of history. With its help, the society can get much more tangible concept of history and get over the trauma in all three participating countries. Specifically, it aims to achieve more sensitive debate on the topic and address students (offering a complementary study material) and general debate and view of public (who will be addressed by several ways, e.g. media).
The project is co-financed by the Governments of Czechia,Hungary, Poland and Slovakia through Visegrad Grants from International Visegrad Fund. The mission of the fund is to advance ideas for sustainable regional cooperation in Central Europe.