The first Youth UNIFY Conference was held in a village Nasutów near Lublin, in the east of Poland 15-21. August 2015.
120 people were involved, representing 17 nationalities from 15 countries. The resources came from the contribution of different YMCA s, Foundation Nowy Staw and from JUGENDWERK - German -Polish Youth Cooperation, programme. An international planning team worked for the last 2 years and the result was an excellent event. The event had a similar approach of previous UNIFY gatherings. On the other side, the conference in Nasutów was addressed to young participants and as such it had its own specific goals. The programme included more elements of fun and learning by experience.
A substantial part of the programme were the outdoor activities and the entire group was exposed to the reality of the area near the camp site. Beside places that presented cultural heritage of Eastern Europe Borderlands (Fair of Folk Arts and Crafts) they had a session at Lublin Castle, where in 1569 a significant document of Polish- Lithuanian Union was signed. For more than 200 years vast parts of Eastern Europe were united in one socio-political institution. Certainly it was far from an ideal entity, but many historians agree that it was quite a successful implementation of the idea of coexistence of various political, multi-ethnic and multi-religious societies on fair conditions. That was a rough model of unification and integration visible in contemporary Europe.
A dark side of European history was reminded too. The visit to the Museum of Concentration Camp Majdanek, at the occupied territories of Poland during the WW2. The purpose of this trip was to remind young generations what can be the results of totalitarian policy.
The ecumenical and spiritual aspects of UNIFY were preserved and emphasized inthe programme. The contribution and extra value were meeting with a bishop of Roman-Catholic Church from Lublin, which took place in the local church in Nasutów and visit of the priest of Greek Catholic Church. These meetings were significant and complemented very well the prayers, testimonies and other spiritual elements of the event.
The type and contents of workshops was very well designed too. One could see the continuation of the line from the UNIFY events, especially the one in Goerlitz/ Zgorzelec in January 2014. An example was the workshop on Wedding Ceremonies in Orthodox Church - Liturgy and Symbols. Somehow it continued the workshop on Icons developed by Father Yevgeniy from Ukraine in Goerlitz. There were also other valuable workshops that presented practical spiritual work with young (e.g. Perth, Scotland) or just general youth activities, which help to bring up young people or children in an attractive but safe way: arts and crafts, recreation and traditional sports and games.
Some words must be written about the venue. The European Meeting Centre - Nowy Staw Foundation was established in 1993 and was designed especially for atherings like this. Although it does remind the modern glamorous conference centres, it provided everything what was needed to make the logistic side of the event very successful. Moreover the closeness to the eastern borders had influence on the geographical representation of participants - the closeness to the border with Ukraine enabled larger participation of people from Eastern Europe - a half of the participants were from Ukraine, Poland, Belarus and Russia.
The international preparatory team was formed by : Nathan Adams - YMCA Black Country (UK), Matthias Kunick - YMCA Munich (Germany), Marta Guretska - YMCA Volyn (Ukraine), Alexander Drachuk - YMCA Brest (Belarus), Andrzej Nowicki and Piotr Semeniuk - YMCA Lublin (Poland). They designed an excellent and inclusive programme - including items taken from tangible reality together with prayers and spiritual moments. All in all the participants benefited from it. The planning team should be complemented both for their sensitivity and their courage.
author: Adam Rychlik, YMCA Europe