We Are Not Alone. We Are Europe.| Europe after Corona | November 13 2020

Amidst discussions about how to overcome the current crisis, the question slowly coming into view focuses on what Europe will look like after the Coronavirus epidemic. What will be the future for European integration, the idea of community based on solidarity and the vision of a common culture?

We Are Not Alone. We Are Europe.
Text: Veronika Trubel
Translated by Suzanne Kirkbright

I don’t want to look ahead at present. I wouldn’t even like to try to hazard a guess about how Europe will look after the pandemic. Firstly, because anyway in this current corona year hardly anything was and is predictable. Secondly, because for all the focus on the future you shouldn’t stumble over the present.

How are we doing? How am I feeling about Europe now? I must elaborate on this question here.

I am privileged for the past eight years to be involved in a wonderful international team organizing the eljub European youth meetings. Several times a year we accompany varying international groups of young people to discuss and exchange ideas. Originally, this was only in Austria but for some time now in other countries too. Adults are busy working in the background. We also look forward to seeing each other. This year things turned out differently. During our main project week in August with young people from ten countries, because of the corona travel restrictions almost half of the participants travelling from four countries had to cancel at short notice. Realization: we missed them; we missed them a lot, although they joined in online. This missing sensation was accompanied by a surprising pleasure in the emotion of this absence.

This emotion has been following me since then. Since we’ve been travelling with eljub, I experience Europe, especially Central Europe, more and more as a common cultural field, so to speak being connected by deep subterranean roots, namely from an era before the First World War and even before that. Here is something that has silently outlasted the separation and undoubtedly the division due to major wars and conflicts, due to the decades of the Iron Curtain and very different emerging democratic and economic conditions. It appears in names, words, expressions, in historical everyday objects, in sayings and, of course, in the sense of humour.

Now, in early November, this emotion popped up again elsewhere. During the night of terror in Vienna on the second of November, when we were asked to stay inside our homes, when we didn’t know how many heavily armed persons were moving through our city and who was among the dead and injured, as we numbly managed the initial news, a message came through on Twitter from the French president Emmanuel Macron: “We, the French people, share the shock and grief of Austrians after an attack in Vienna. After France, a country is under attack that is our friend. This is our Europe.”
Shaky German, an expression of closeness. And the sentiment: we are not alone with this shock. We are Europe.

Yes, and if we are Europe, then we’re certainly an extremely frayed, large family. Then, we are also Great Britain and Poland and Hungary, everything that presently alarms and irritates us; we are France, Belarus, Ukraine and to some extent Turkey. Relationships are rather complicated. And the complicated part of this frayed kinship definitely still includes the enthusiasm and subsequent disappointment after the fall of the Iron Curtain, although in some places such disappointment gladly stands quite squarely in the way of hope for a united Europe. And for all of us now in Europe a rapidly darkening corona-autumn is turning into a winter, which threatens to become even quieter than we’re accustomed to. We know little about the people around us, and even less about those in other countries. We suspect worries about livelihoods behind front doors and perhaps the even more distressing anxiety before that.

Let’s remember the euphoria and exuberant enthusiasm for reunification after the fall of the Iron Curtain. Let’s remember the gradual disenchantment and the years and decades afterwards, when everyday life was increasingly timed to a different rhythm. Soon we had mobiles, then smartphones, first one, then several social media accounts and our children quickly overtook us in using them. Life became quicker, more mobile, more global, and whoever didn’t properly go along with all of this at first attracted attention and then dropped behind. How overrun may some feel who now also pursue political ambitions for yesterday and the day before yesterday? And how long is that trend going on for Google, Siri and Alexa to know everything, and for us to believe them so much for us to find better answers elsewhere? These are challenges which confront us today. The virus crept in-between that.

Yet creeping in-between is also this emotion that I sense during the eljub meetings as much as during that terrible November night in Vienna. We are what we live through. The vast majority of people probably want the same thing: living in peace and freedom, democratic basic rights, earning an honest living, a home, secure healthcare and care for the elderly, a future for the children. We create the Europe that we live in. People, who are dedicated to this, approach us and it’s good to meet them. And we can feel a sense of relief, too, in this day and age of the pandemic that this time it’s not an Iron Curtain that divides us.

Veronika Trubel

Text: Veronika Trubel
ELit Literaturhaus Europa invites European writers to take a chance to present their ideas about the future, while still under the impression of the crisis.

Veronika Trubel, born 1968, journalist, writer, communication coach and pedagogue. She is director of eljub European Literature Youth Exchanges.

Veronika Trubel, geboren 1968, Journalistin, Autorin, Kommunikationstrainerin und Pädagogin. Leiterin der Europäischen Literatur-Jugendbegegnungen.

Veronika Trubel, born 1968, journalist, writer, communication coach and pedagogue. She is director of eljub European Literature Youth Exchanges.

Veronika Trubel, geboren 1968, Journalistin, Autorin, Kommunikationstrainerin und Pädagogin. Leiterin der Europäischen Literatur-Jugendbegegnungen.

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