By Irina Mikava, Civic Education Teacher, trainer, Team member of ProActive Group Georgia
Oral History, as a tool for reviving the past, fostering the creativity is part of the project ,,Rememeber to act’’. We organized a meeting in two different Municipalities: Bolnisi, where live representatives of ethnic minorities, it was the old residence of Germans, with German streets, and refugees from Ukraine and IDPs from occupied territories Abkhazia and Samachablo. Second Municipality was Tsalenjikha, which borders Abkhazia, currently occupied by Russia, where live young people who move from Abkhazia to study and people who live as displaced persons in Tsalenjikha afther Russian-Georgia war. During the workshops the participants of the workshops received information about the importance and characteristics of the Oral History method.
The meetings were particularly special because the method was new, foreign and interesting to both me and them. We learned how to construct a good story, focusing on its structure, but the practical examples we heard were captivating. After the theoretical part, the participants had the opportunity to put the method in practice.
A particularly interactive, dynamic part was when participants, using practical group exercises, disussed the oral history method, the criteria of good storytelling in general, its five classic elements, characteristics and importance in the moderns world. The aim was to strengthen the quality of youth involvement in peace processes.
Story telling method in practice: Ergenti, Khurvaleti, Tsalenjikha, Bolnisi and Tbilisi
Finding interesting respondents for interviews in these locations was a great experience for me. In Ergneti, where Russian border guards are stationed, we visited a house converted into a museum depicting the history of the August war. We also met women from Abkhazia who now reside in Khurvaleti, near Russian border guards. Additionally, we encountered IDPs from different periods and young people advocating for peace. The workshops and practical experiences were emotional, productive, and yielded positive results for both the project implementing team and the participants.
What was the main challenge?
The main challenge was empathizing with and gaining the trust of the individuals whose stories we were telling. Unfortunately, humans often have a difficult time accepting and sharing their experiences. Furthermore, the emotional state of both the respondents and ourselves was a consideration when recalling their stories and the emotional damage caused by war.
Achivments and future goals: what do I want in the future?
The main achievement is that many young people have learned about the method, applied it in practice, and continue to utilize it in their own municipalities, schools, universities, and beyond. Through their engagement with oral history, these young individuals have gained a deeper understanding of their communities‘ diverse experiences and have become advocates for preserving and sharing their stories.“
In addition, our efforts in conducting oral history interviews have led us to discover new individuals with compelling stories. These storytellers, alongside the change-oriented youth, are actively working towards promoting freedom, peace, and social change. By listening and sharing the past, we create a better future where stories are honored and youth play an integral role in building inclusive, peaceful societies.