BorderSpeaking. A New Perspective on Borders

A project by Bernd Vogenbeck

Host organization: Borussia Foundation

May 2010, Braniewo, Bartoszyce, Węgorzewo, and Gołdap (Poland)

In spite of accelerated political developments since the end of the Cold War, Europe still cannot be considered a geographical area without political borders. This is felt most urgently at the places where the borders of the today's European Union meet non-member countries. From Olsztyn it is only a few kilometers to the border, and behind the border there is an area that appears threatening and is still not well known by residents of nearby towns.

Along with the cultural centers in cities on the Polish-Russian border such as Braniewo, Bartoszyce, Węgorzewo, and Gołdap, the Borussia Foundation used the project "BorderSpeaking" to invite people to mentally cross the nearby border.

The documentary "La Frontière Intérieure" by Simon Brunel and Nicolas Pannetier was presented at all the locations. It represents everyday life along the 2004 Schengen border between Triest and Świnoujście. At the end, the audience discussed the situation involving the municipalities bordering the Kaliningrad Oblast and relations with this area. The residents' strong interest found expression in lively debates: The situation portrayed in the film of the "old" Schengen border - which reached from the Adriatic Sea to the Baltic Sea till 2007 - was contrasted with the everyday experiences, problems, and hopes of the people at Poland's northern border to Russia.

The debates made it clear that the border was not understood as or accepted to be the social or cultural dividing line. Nevertheless, participants also rejected a simplistic view that referred to political and economic considerations as the largest obstacles or possible accelerating factors for a rapid opening. Cultural dialogue, economic cooperation, and political discussions cannot cause profound change, but together taken and coordinated with one another, they can create new perspectives and contribute to a new view on the borders.

With support from: Goethe-Institut Warsaw, Robert Bosch Stiftung
Photos: Fundacja Borussia