Collective Memory in Sweden: the Living History Forum

By Anne-Roos Renkema

No country exists without its history. Or, perhaps equally as important, the specific way it deals with this history: its memory culture. These memory cultures tell us a lot about a specific society, as it tells us one important thing: how it chooses to deal with its past. Memory culture refers to all practices of memory and commemoration, as well as education about the past – and, especially, the darker pages of its history.

One such country is Sweden. Traditionally a militarily neutral country, its post-war memory culture was concerned with exactly that: its perceived neutrality, especially in Europe’s most traumatic experiences in the twentieth century. There has been a shift in Swedish memory culture since the late 1990s, with Swedish historians paying more attention to Sweden’s role in World War II, and its perceived lack of involvement in the conflict. The country now has its own institute for Holocaust commemoration, which uses the Holocaust as a starting point to discuss issues of tolerance, called ‘Forum för levande historia’ (Living History Forum).[1] Why has Swedish memory changed so drastically since the 1990s, so many years after World War II? Continue reading “Collective Memory in Sweden: the Living History Forum”

Interpreting the Polish “Holocaust Law”

By Katharina Geiselmann

The Polish Sejm has passed a Law at the beginning of this year, which makes it illegal to blame Poles for any crime committed during the Nazi occupation. Even though it also covers crimes committed during the Communist era (and war crimes by Ukrainian nationalists), it came to be known as “The Holocaust Law” in the debate that it sparked all around the world. This shows not only the sensitivity of the topic of the Holocaust, but also that 73 years after the victory over the Nazis, it seems the different Holocaust narratives are rather dividing than uniting Europe. Can, and should a consensus be reached when it comes to Holocaust memory? Or is the motto united in diversity a legitimate solution for the European memory? Especially the latest EU-enlargement challenges the concept of a common European memory, as the Western countries have agreed on their memory more or less, while new members have not been included yet, and bring other, fresher memories to the table: the communist past. Considering that the Holocaust, however, is said to be part of the European memory as negative founding myth[1], in cooperating Eastern narratives and agreeing on what and how the Holocaust is to be remembered is an integral part of the integration process. Continue reading “Interpreting the Polish “Holocaust Law””

The Stray

Syed Rashid Munir │

Memory is a fickle thing. One second you think you can recall, and the next you’re absolutely dazed and confused.

But, this one I remember.

It’s from a long, long time ago.

We used to live in the capital in those days.

The street we lived on was on elevated ground. And just beyond the other side of the street, there was a slope that led downwards to an outgrowth of sorts.

One hot summer day, after lunch, I must’ve sneaked out of the house (I say so because I don’t actually remember sneaking out, but can only recall returning back home, leading to the very reasonable possibility that I must’ve, indeed, sneaked out in the first place). And by sneaking out, I mean just stepping out of the gate and walking across to the other side of the road. It was a big deal for a two-year old: just me, on my own, ready to face the world.

My first taste of freedom. I was hypnotized by it, just floating around in its mesmerizing haze. Life, in that instant, was good.

Once on the other side, standing on the edge of that slope, about 20 feet away, I saw a stray dog lurking down below. Like almost everything at that age, it was fascinating; every new sight, every new smell, and every new feeling had to be explored. Now, on any other day, I would’ve just stood there and lurked around a bit myself, but this was no ordinary day. I was feeling invincible.

So, I picked up a stone, and threw it at the stray. It landed inches from its feet.

Nothing. The dog didn’t even budge. Continue reading “The Stray”

My Memories of Krakow: the Heart of Polish Culture and Cuisine

susanna 4
Wonderful smoked cheese, oscypek

Suzanna Fatyan │

In the spring of 2006, I was accepted to the MA Euroculture programme in Poland. Childhood memories suddenly took over me: my Mom playing Chopin – ballad, nocturne, waltz and mazurek (mazurka). Music filling the house. A lovely cake with a similar name, full of walnuts and raisins baked by my Granny. This specialty, consonant with Polish dance, is an integral part of Polish cuisine. These memories are my first links to Poland. The flavour and fragrance of the cake turned the music of Chopin from a subject of aesthetic addiction into an integral part of home warmth and comfort. Amusingly, other memories are also connected to those gustatory and odoristic aspects. I remember the taste of Polish strawberry jam and oatmeal biscuits, szarlotka, trickled pastries and other Polish dishes. Our grandmothers knew how to cook them because, due to similarity of circumstances, they appeared in Uzbekistan together with Poles. We have bright sun, generous nature, and an abundance of fruits, vegetables and berries. For that reason, wonderful fruit and berry aromas of Polish cosmetics, popular in our country, felt close and familiar.

 “I remember the taste of Polish strawberry jam and oatmeal biscuits, szarlotka, trickled pastries and other Polish dishes. Our grandmothers knew how to cook them…”

My childhood memories about Poland are fragmentary, chaotic, irregular. Books on the shelves: Adam Mickiewicz, Henryk Sienkiewicz, Jerzy Stawiński, and brilliant aphorisms of Jerzy Lec. I remember the movies of Andrzej Wajda, fine faces of Polish actors, perfect beauty of actresses: Beata Tyszkiewicz, Ewa Szykulska, Barbara Brylska with delicacy, culture and healthy dignity always impressive in their characters. Incidentally, these features carried to the point of absurdity had frightened us in Russian operas where Poles were portrayed as vain, arrogant people.

Besides Chopin, Poland has other famous brands, reflecting the scope and depth of the scientific, artistic and spiritual potential of the Polish nation. Copernicus, John Paul II, Krzysztof Penderecki:  graduates and honorary doctors of Krakow’s Jagiellonian University which supplement the city’s list of brands. And this was the university where I was going to be studying.

“Krakow…Copernicus, John Paul II, Krzysztof Penderecki:  graduates and honorary doctors of Jagiellonian University which supplement the city’s list of brands.”

The childish joy I experienced through my acquaintance with Poland is hugely strengthened in Polish restaurants, delicious food distributed by someone’s generous hand in open air cafes. The hospitality, warmth and generosity of Polish people make you feel as if you are surrounded by your closest relatives.

Wonderful Polish homemade food

Homemade Polish food
Homemade Polish food

“Living in Poland, be prepared to gain extra weight.”

In Poland, you are invited to homes, you are surrounded with care and love every minute. For that reason, it doesn’t take long until you perceive Poland as your second home and get excited every time you hear a Polish word uttered.


Living in Poland, be prepared to gain extra weight. Hanging out with friends is intrinsically combined with delicious café experiences. And in Krakow it becomes an addiction. Probably, the most famous Polish specialty worldwide is pierogi (variation of dumplings). These yummy stuffed pies amaze you not only with their number of fillings like mushrooms, buckwheat, berries, strawberries … but also colours. I have never tried such beautiful and colourful pierogi in all my life! Polish soups are also a special part of the menu. The most traditional and remarkable to me is zurek, which is usually served in freshly baked bread. This rather substantial combo often turns out to be your meal of the day!

Kawa coffee
Kawa coffee

If you are in Krakow for Tłusty Czwartek (Fat Thursday), you will have the chance to try fabulous local donuts, pączki, filled with rose petal jam. Once again, a return to childhood! My Granny made rose petal jam as our garden was full of roses! The best place for pączki is Rynek Główny (Main Market Square), where the largest number of donuts is distributed. You are too late? Don’t worry! You can try this dessert in one of Krakow’s numerous coffee houses along with excellent hot chocolate, kawa (coffee)  or herbata (tea). The selection of herbata will surely amaze your imagination. It may contain all types of berries, herbs and even flowers from local forests. It was in Poland that I tried blueberries for the first time, and they immediately became one of my favourite berries. In Krakow, you buy berries, fruits and vegetables not only in shopping malls but also from farmers’ markets (in Uzbekistan we know them as bazaars). For that reason, food in Poland has a wonderful taste that you always think about. While travelling between cities of Poland you can admire the beautiful farms that produce the food you can then enjoy.

“Poland is famous for its desserts…Also, amazingly, the Poles even add poppy seeds to pasta!”

Poland is famous for its desserts, especially szarlotka, sernik (cheesecake) and makowiec (pastry with poppy seeds). Amazingly, the Poles even add poppy seeds to pasta! Even having lived in a warm country, I have never seen poppy seeds in such huge quantities as in Polish cookies. Szarlotka in Krakow is also worth trying! It seems quite unusual to me. First, it comes warm, while we serve it cold. Second, the apples were thinly sliced, while in my country we usually slice them in rather large pieces. It tasted fabulous, in candle light and accompanied with kawa!


Luckily, I also experienced winter time in Krakow, when I saw beautiful Christmas decorations and ate carp, kiełbasa (sausages) , several types of zapiekanka (bread roasted with mushrooms and cheese), wonderful smoked cheese (oscypek) with jam  as well as flavoured ginger breads. Don’t miss the local liquor based on honey, mied, along with Żubrówka (vodka with herbs), which are both are available in shops and restaurants.If you favour a vegetarian diet, bar sałatkowy (salad bar) Chimera at ul. Św. Anny 3 will be a true discovery for you, with the best choice of vegetable and fruit salads.

“Lastly, it is of crucial importance to know wonderful cafés…”

As a student, it is of crucial importance to know a wonderful café in the old part of town: Massolit at ul. Felicjanec 4. Massolit has a great choice of books in English which you can read in the café while sipping herbata. Books can be either bought or exchanged.

Several years have passed since I graduated from Jagiellonian University but the warmth and hospitality of the people, and the charm and ancient spirit of the city and university remain in my heart.

suzannaSuzanna Fatyan, Contributing writer

Suzanna is from a city of Oriental fairy tales – Samarkand in Uzbekistan. She studied English language and literature in Samarkand State Institute of Foreign Languages for BA. In 2008, Suzanna graduated MA Euroculture from Jagiellonian University in Krakow and Deusto University, San Sebastian. Suzanna works as tour guide in Samarkand, writes blog for Uzbek Journeys in Australia and travels as much as possible.

Futuristic Sunday

Once upon a time – in the future


Borislava Miteva │

I had been waiting for years for the day when I would wake up naturally at dawn like most elderly people, but on that particular Sunday morning my deep sleep was once again interrupted by my annoying alarm clock. Still sleepy, I extended my arm over the chip-reader on the nightstand and the intelligent device informed me, by means of my new ceiling-integrated screen, that it was a meat day: the people on Earth born before the year 2015 were allowed to have one portion of meat every 250 days. What a celebration it would be for my husband, who was still grieving over the prohibition of the unsustainable factory farming following the Earth’s catharsis! Love is such a marvellous phenomenon, I thought. Not the fiery passion that blurs our sight, but the genuine affection which leads to a conscious overcoming of differences and disregarding of certain principles. And thus, rather shamelessly, I hurried to make a wire transfer for two portions of veal ham, contented by the fact that the lie detector was not yet integrated in the chip-readers in our region, as otherwise my 50 year-long veganism would have certainly deprived my beloved Ivan from his additional meat serving.

Having left my morning toilette to the care of the hygieneazator (how unreal its existence seemed to me in my long-gone childhood when I used to watch with excitement the “The Jetsons” on Cartoon Network) I went over the cosmic news: another intake of a Saturn probe by a black hole; unproductive negotiations at the Intra-Martian Council with regards to the location of the second Earth-passage station; and finally, the level of the Atlantic Ocean had risen by another 10cm over the last month. Once again I asked myself whether I’d rather die in a flood, earthquake or another natural disaster, close to Ivan or far away from him – from old age on Mars. Instead of reaching a decisive conclusion, however, my awareness was suddenly directed to the neighbouring planet, which for decades had been the home of my children. My relationship with them weakened after the birth of my youngest grandchild when I refused to move to Mars so as not to leave behind Ivan on Earth. Yet, the interaction with my family on Mars significantly diminished over the past year due to my various excuses for not going for a visit, coupled with a full examination by means of the newest Martian technologies. It hurt me profoundly that my sons blamed Ivan for his stubbornness and Earth-rootedness but the pain could never kill neither my motherly affection, nor the strong bond I had with my soul mate.

I text messaged all the children and while eagerly waiting for at least one reaction, I handled some of the housework: I turned on the dust-manager (one of the few machines that I secretly worshiped, given my aversion to hand cleaning and even the old vacuum cleaner); I ordered the refrigerator to supply itself with the missing products from my “favourites” list after washing up and arranging itself; I prepared my much loved seaweed-agave-walnuts breakfast (how much I still missed the bees and their honey!); and I finally decided on the meat dish with which to surprise Ivan. As for him, like every morning since the shutting down of all tobacco-production companies, he had woken up before sunrise in order to gather his daily dose of tobacco, which he would then gently dry up. And just when his routine was over and he joined me at the kitchen table with a cigarette in mouth and a cup of coffee in hand, the screen above our heads lit up, prompted by a call on the M-Essenger.

It was our eldest grandson, Bright-743, who was in the final stage of his system re-programming required for obtaining the title of Interplanetary Substance Investigator. His eyes were completely mechanized by now, and he looked more confident and mature. I wished I could be at his graduation from the laboratory. I wished I could hug him whenever I wanted. In a way to distract such thoughts, I started with a brief update about the latest events around us, but eventually returned to the issue at heart, asking him when he would come to Earth, as his last visit was back on my 70th anniversary. I hurried to promise that I would welcome him with his favourite dried fruits-cocoa cake, but he replied even faster declaring that he had finally adopted an entirely energy-source diet, which he highly recommended to me (knowing that Ivan would never give up on food). While condescendingly observing his grandfather who was finishing his cigarette and flipping through a paper book, Bright-743 rebuffed any possibilities for a near-future visit to Earth. Upon graduation he was off to Saturn to investigate the close-by black hole (I could finally understand why my parents used to worry whenever I presented them with an adventure I had in mind), and later he would be involved in an expedition to another galaxy, plus there was an opportunity for an additional project together with a colleague of his called Stela-13. How incredible his lifestyle appeared to me (I wonder whether my grandmother felt in a similar way when she listened to my scuba-diving and sky-diving stories?!), and although I could not comprehend the details around the execution of those complicated operations, I was very proud of my grandson.

Our conversation was interrupted by the meat delivery. Ivan got excited like a child in a pastry shop, in a stark contrast to my grandson who punished me with a disapproving stare. The burden of silence fell upon us.

Good luck with Stela-13, I said. –You’ll understand one day…I hope…

Borislava Miteva, Copy Editorborislava

Borislava is Bulgarian-Canadian and has a BA in Social Sciences (UBC) and in Italian Studies (UniBo). As part of MA Euroculture (2009-2011), which she undertook at the University of Groningen, Jagiellonian University in Krakow, and the University of Pune, she relied on her previous academic studies by focusing on sociological issues, often related to migration and discrimination practices. Since graduating from her MA, she has continued her commitment to these fields by becoming involved in a relevant trans-European NGO, thus exploring the respective legal and human rights approaches. When she’s not in work (and sometimes when she is), she laughs a lot, pretends to be a cook, and fights for her right to write.

Juggling Culture Shock

If my experience with culture shock has taught me anything, it’s that I’ll just have to sit it out. Still, my head can’t tell my heart to be happy.

Albert Meijer |

I take my coffee to a table that looks out over the university campus. In many ways, this square could be anywhere in the world: straight-forward brick buildings designed in the seventies, empty design chairs scattered around, patches of grass with tall trees proudly showing their autumn colours. It’s only the people that make it clear that we are, in fact, in Japan.

On the stairs of ‘Building A’, are students who are practicing their dance-moves, like they do every day. In their head, they’re in a J-pop video. Their arm movements are perfectly coordinated. They’re not practicing for a night out though: it is forbidden to dance after a certain time at night. Sometimes, policemen come into clubs to arrest all those who are dancing. I’m not kidding. True story.

In front of the dancers are the jugglers. In deep concentration, they throw their balls, cones and diabolos in the air, for hours every day. It doesn’t seem fun at all, but I find it intriguing to watch them from behind the windows of the cafeteria. Their faces when they drop a ball; their robotic arm movements; the determination to be really good at something, if only at juggling: it’s fascinating.


Living in Osaka is not always easy. The amazement at the sight of something weird on every street corner has been replaced by a dull sense of culture shock. It’s not Japan’s fault: Japan is pretty amazing. It’s me.

I see a pattern. The feeling I have at this moment is related to emotions I’ve had in earlier periods of my life, those past semesters spent in foreign countries: the trouble I had with fitting in with the locals on a Swedish island, the frustration over the grumpiness of waiters in Vienna and the deep hatred for Scandinavian winters. ‘Culture shock’ is my middle name.

If my experience with culture shock has taught me anything, it’s that I’ll just have to sit it out: the frustrations about small things will pass, and I can go back to being grateful again of being able to live in a wonderful, new foreign country. Still, my head can’t tell my heart to be happy. Bitching about the peculiarities of a strange country won’t solve anything, but it’s good to let off steam once in a while.

I might never understand the Japanese mindset, but I do know that I won’t care as much about these differences next week. It’s not these frustrations that will stick in my memories. Thinking about Sweden and Vienna mainly brings back good memories: loving friends, sweet romances and crazy adventures. Japan won’t be much different, I think. In three years’ time, I won’t care about those incomprehensible jugglers, or the fact that I can’t shake my badonkadonk in clubs. I’ll think about the people and places I fell in love with. I love you Japan. But it’s a complicated relationship.

If you liked Albert’s article, also read Favourite European Songs : “Dickes B reminds me of my adventures in Berlin”


Albert pfAlbert Meijer, People’s Editor
Hailing from Osaka, Japan, Albert writes about the student body of the Euroculture programme. His academic interests lie in the fields of (sub)cultural studies, music science, sociology, and gender and queer studies. In his spare time, Albert likes writing and singing mediocre songs, walking through typhoons, making video blogs and getting stuck in difficult yoga positions.

Missing IP 2012 ─ We’ll Always Have… Bilbao?

I come from a big city in Pakistan but I enjoy roaming around in this small, accessible town. Don’t get me wrong: I’d be the last person to categorise Bilbao as ‘provincial’, but it is, for some amazing reason, free of the worries of life in a big town. The people are happier, the air quality’s superb, and the atmosphere is calm… And slow.

Syed Rashid Munir |

We’ll always have…Bilbao?

Humphrey Bogart is rolling over in his grave, but I have no qualms in saying so. Bilbao, after all, has been my home away from home for well over a year now, and while it has tested me to the edges of my sanity in one way or another, I have some very good memories of the city. Not only have I made good friends, both in and outside the MA Euroculture programme, but I’ve also met some amazing people and shared wonderful memories with them.

Now, if I were to ask someone to name one thing they know about Bilbao, they would, more often than not, end up mentioning Asier… no wait, sorry, the Guggenheim Museum. But let’s forget about the Guggenheim for a minute, there are plenty of brochures for that. Yes, it is bizarrely striking and there’s nothing else compared to it in the world (let alone in Bilbao); and yes, it is filled with modern masterpieces, which I don’t understand at all but if they float your boat, well… But the beauty of the city is skin deep. Take a walk by the mesmerizing riverside at night, get lost in the cool, breezy streets of the Old Town, hike your way up to the small hills surrounding the city, shop your heart out on Gran Via, or just simply relax and have some pintxos (tapas, but way more fancy) with some delectable wine in one of the eateries near Plaza Indautxu; Bilbao will keep you entertained. Add to that the lovely and hospitable Basque people, who will end up walking with you to the other side of town just to show you the way, and I think Bilbao’s got it pretty much covered.

In the summer, the beaches just on the outskirts of the city are abuzz with hundreds of people who rush to beat the summer sun. The winters in Bilbao, however, are notoriously wet. Keeping umbrellas, plural, handy is a must since the wind will break the feeble, Chinese ones someday. But you will need to shop at the Chinese outlets again, because Bilbao is a bit of a pricey town. The living cost is just a wee bit on the upper side, but if you keep track of sales (and discount coupons handed out at the university photocopy shop, so they say), you shall survive.

Loads of seafood, all kinds of meat, some excellent wine, fresh bread, corn cakes, and the sweet-but-makes-you-gassy-afterwards-coke-and-wine drink, Kalimotxo, make up a large part of the cuisine. The city has its fair share of fast-food chains and kebab places as well. No matter if you’re looking for a fancy cafeteria, a romantic restaurant, a trendy and up-beat coffee joint, a loud alternative bar, or just a plain old, cozy lunch parlour, you can find just about everything in the city. The old people here, surprisingly, are the ‘happening’ crowd. They go out all day and all night long, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. The young ones end up buying cheap drinks either from the bars in the Old Town or from the grocery shops, and are happy with being loud and rowdy on the streets, especially after Athletic Bilbao’s won (or lost) a game (the city’s crazy about its football team). Middle-aged people mostly stay at home with their kids and watch TV. The big shopping centres are outside the town, on certain days there are local farmers’ markets in the neighbourhoods, and on 21 December the entire city gets drunk on the streets (Santo Tomas). Even the professors come into class on that day, are shocked to see the students there, and say “What are you guys doing in here? Go drink and get a life! YOLO!”. True story…

Coming to Bilbao from Pakistan without knowing a single word of Spanish was, if I’m being kind, a baptism by gasoline-fueled fire. A lot of stress, frustration, guesswork, smiles, pointing, conjecture, and kind (and offensive) hand gestures got me through the initial months before I mercifully learnt some words in Spanish class. In cafés and bars people understand some English, but don’t get your hopes up. Tienes que saber español para hacer cualquier cosa (read no Spanish, no nothing). Otherwise, you’d end up in some ‘situations’, like me. My first week in Bilbao, I went out with my roommate. I was keeping to myself, still recovering from the language-shock, when a cute girl at the bar came up and asked, “Como te llamas?” (What’s your name?). I, high as if with the elation of seeing this Basque beauty in front of me, and not from the pot in the air, replied, “Muy bien” (very good). Sometimes, on sleepless nights, I wonder what would have happened if my name really was that…

I come from a big city in Pakistan (Lahore, more than 11 million residents) but I enjoy roaming around in this small, accessible town. Don’t get me wrong: I’d be the last one to categorise Bilbao as ‘provincial’, but it is, for some amazing reason, free of the worries of life in a big town. The people are happier, the air quality’s superb (this from personal experience, after living in Madrid for three months), and the atmosphere is calm… And slow… And lazy too, sometimes. But we won’t get into that. Plus, being a Pakistani here poses its own sets of challenges with the language, the culture and the people, and I have learnt much about inter-cultural communication and interaction here, even though the initial months were quite tough, at a personal level.

As far as being part of MA Euroculture is concerned, I’ve enjoyed the programme a lot throughout the year and, when there have been tough and sad days, I’ve had the good fortune of some excellent company from my instructors and colleagues. I miss all the people I met during the fantastic (and exhausting) Intensive Programme in June, and I hope I will get to meet them again in their successful careers, if not at a common graduation.

So, whether you’re strolling by the beautiful riverside, taking the cable car up to Artxanda for breathtaking aerial views of the city, walking around in the Old Town (Casco Viejo), or just mapping the roads in shopping areas on Gran Via, Bilbao has something to offer everyone. Bilbao, then, is a bit of an acquired taste. At a first glance, it may seem ugly, uncouth and rough around the edges, but when you’ve lived here for a while and experienced the true soul of the city, it will take your heart away.

So, here’s looking at you, kid…

If you liked Rashid’s article, also read Europe: A Short Story

Syed Rashid Munir, Bilbao Correspondent                        

Hailing from Lahore, Pakistan, Rashid has a B.Sc. in International Relations. He is studying MA Euroculture under the cooperation window programme of the European Commission which allows him to stay at the University of Deusto, Bilbao throughout the programme . His research interests lie in post-colonialism, sub-altern studies, cultural and critical theory, and citizenship regimes in Europe. Apart from his love of writing fiction, travelling, and exotic animals, Rashid daydreams in his spare time about a job in diplomacy, and is a big Ingmar Bergman fan.