Like many people, Eugene is feeling hopeless and powerless in the face of this mad, macho invasion of Ukraine. While walking around Vienna last week, he realised it might be possible to help with a free welcome tour for the refugees from this war.
Please tell all your friends and contacts. There is no registration - just show up. And of course Austrians are welcome on this tour - in Russian and English - to open up some dialogue between locals and these new arrivals.
The tour is not about tourism, but a symbolic and practical tool to show our new residents how the city works, how beautiful it is, using a map, some apps, and an insight into parks, free culture, food, mobility, and useful groups. This walk is about belonging, networking, understanding, dialogue.
Refugees are welcome - that is our key message. We want to signal, in a dignified way, the value that each new wave of migrants bring, refreshing the city with music, language, food, dance and interesting, diverse perspectives. We can all learn from each other. And we want to say that Ukrainians have made the right choice in Vienna as their new home, since it seems few refugees are deciding to stay here. The boat is not full, and we encourage more to choose Vienna as a place to settle. If I could choose between Kanzler Nehammer & Mayor Ludwig, or President Zelensky & Mayor Klitschko, I choose the Ukrainians every time. We are envious over here. At the same time, the media is sometimes guilty of presenting simple images of refugees as victims, and we hope to show them as people like us - students, pensioners, teachers, entrepreneurs.
Stories are already emerging of a slow, bureaucratic, inflexible Austrian system lacking the dynamism to create fast structures to accommodate the people fleeing war. Ukrainian teachers are not allowed to work in our schools without German, which is ridiculous, and the housing allocation is glacially slow. So we want to show fast, useful moves are possible. See you all on Friday - the tour will happen every Friday for 4 weeks, and longer, if enough people are interested.
Those arriving from western Ukraine may well see some architectural reminders of home in our city, since the Habsburg connection unifies us. There is a moving memorial in Türkenschanzpark, to the Cossacks who helped defend this city from an Ottoman siege. And Ukrainians played a central role in the Red Army victory over fascism in central Europe during the second world war. Since the Atomic Energy Agency, UN and OPEC are based here, Vienna could be a player in resolving some of the tensions, once peace negotiations really start.
There is an irony in Vladimir Putin desiring to Denazify Ukraine, where there are almost no nazis. Austria is home to more far-right sympathisers. Let's not forget our Foreign Minister Kneissl kneeling for Putin at her wedding in Steiermark in 2018, Strache and Gudenus offering to sell Austria to a 'Russian oligarch's niece', and Anna Netrebko provocatively flying the Russian flag in Donbas in 2014.
Since this is a
Whoosh tour, we also want to demonstrate that walking is good for
your mental health, instead of sitting at home doom-scrolling. To
those who say, the new arrivals have more important things to do, this tour
is an opportunity to understand more about their new home. And to
think about something other than the anguish of relatives and friends
still at home, facing unimaginable suffering.
We are rebellious optimists, and look for solutions instead of celebrating the problems. Maybe we can also encourage a few refugees out of those massive SUVs they drive, and onto a modern, efficient, ecological system like Wiener Linien, or even better to walk around our beautiful city. Time spent in Wien is an opportunity to discover a less patriarchal environment, than more macho and traditional east Europe.
Eugene made seven reports for FM4 from Donetsk and Kyiv, just before the 2012 European Football Championships, in dialogue with civil society and brave campaigners. Thanks to name*it positive media and Erste Stiftung for that opportunity.
This new event fits into a series of progressive events Whoosh organises. We campaign for democracy, tolerance, diversity and active citizenship.
-Magdas Social Dinners (meet refugees over a Syrian buffet)
-UNHCR Tag der Flucht tour to the romantic Macondo refugee camp in Simmering
-Tours for many Erasmus students coming to study in Vienna,
showing why this city is ranked number one for liveability.
-Award-winning #HowtobeAustrian for Ö1 - short films where migrants
explain what they love about Vienna, in German.
-'Human rights & the city' tour.
Test, for Austrians, as a pub quiz.
tour for CEU, showing them their new home Bezirk of Favoriten -
Geroge Soros's Central European University is also a victim of
right-wing ugliness, getting kicked out of Budapest for being too
liberal and progressive.
Children are welcome, but the focus is more on adults. We will make a later tour just for kids.
Eugene would also like to find a translator for the tour, into Ukrainian or Russian, so we can reach the widest audience. For the first tour, Yulia Belinskaya, from Uni Wien, will translate into Russian.
#solidarity #stopthewar #standwithukraine