The purpose of the Tour was to build a “Bridge of Peace” through music and dance 100 years after the beginning of WW I. The date of the first event in Graz – June 22nd was 100 yrs anniversary of Berta von Suttner, the great Austrian pacifist, author of “Die Waffen nieder”, and first woman to receive the Nobel Peace Price 1905.
June 28th was the tragic date of the assanination of Crown Prinz Rudolf and his wife Sophie, which led to the beginning of WW I (July 28th 1914).
In two cities the event became successful because of the strong cooperation with “Austrian Russian Friendship -society”, and in Graz the children received a recognition from the city council.
In two cities they were also greeted by the official representatives of their country: in Salzburg by Mr. Sergeij Smirnov- General Consule, in Vienna by Ms. Olga Schalaeva, attachee from the Russian Kulturinstitut (of the Embassy).
In each city they were received with much warmth and 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 (East part of Austria). There has been the biggest Prisoner-of-war camp during the Monarchy of WW I. The camp was more than 2 km in length and over 40,000 people lived there during the war. It was war, and a war camp, but otherwise the prisoners experienced some kind of freedom- they went to work to the farmers, and other places, sometimes even without a guard. It is said that several wanted to marry someone from the village, but this was not permitted.
Of course many died, also as a result of sicknesses. Over 700 soldiers died, Russians, Italians Serbs, among others.
So the idea was created to do a ceremony there with the group: with flowers and they brought earth from Russia! They also took some earth with them home again. Short speeches were said, 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 in “Gasthof Traube” the place of the event.
Mag. Dr. Oswald Gruber, who teaches history with great empathy at a nearby school gave some overview of WW I. Dr. Mihalkovic then explained about the prison camp. (He earned his Doctor degree after he retired!)
The three of them received an Ambassador of Peace Award after the performance, and were greatly moved by that!
The group once more had to dance on the ground (the stage was too small) but that way they were face to face with the guests, who were moved to tears! The “Bridge of Peace and reconciliation” happened again.
A journalist had been witness to the evening, and she wrote an article in the local newspaper, with pictures on the pages, + publishing many fotos on the website!
Each city has been special and great in its own ways, the conclusion came in Vienna as a cooperation between UPF an WFWP-Austria.
After one more day of sightseeing and shoppng the group left for Moscow again to start at last with well deserved holidays!
Photos by Eckhardt Riehl