Everything has started with an idea, which a group of young people full of enthusiasm, from one of the largest European student organizations and the most diverse from cultural point of view, decided to transform this idea into a project called “Social equity between communities”.
Erasmus Student Network Iasi is an NGO came to life at the initiative of few students who have benefited of an Erasmus scholarship. The main purpose of the organization is to facilitate the integration of incoming students in the community of Iasi and to motivate the local students to go abroad through Erasmus+ mobilities.
Even though the association has almost 8 years of activity, this project sponsored by ESAA (Erasmus+ Student and Alumni Association) is a first for Erasmus Student Network Iasi.
“Social equity between communities” wishes to promote two minorities through the local students of the organization and through the incoming students who came with Erasmus+ mobility at one of the universities from Iasi. The two communities we are speaking of are the Jewish and the Polish one.
The main objective of the project is to show a different perspective of how people should communicate in a multicultural environment. We considered that in order to accomplish our objective it is of crucial importance to meet and interact with the members of the two communities as to understand their way of life. The discussions were mostly about their traditions, customs, difficulties they encounter and how they tackle them.
Thus, on the 8th of April, 28 enthusiastic young people started their journey. We were all surprised to discover not only the differences between the communities, but also the similarities. We were struck with amazement to discover that the later are the ones that bound people and make them more understanding, while the differences made them human.
Although the Jewish arrived in Botosani starting with the XVIII century, the current community is mainly formed by elder people but full of goodwill and kindness. They led us to the synagogue, which is practically the school where they learn a lesson every time they go there. They head to the Interethnic Cultural Center of Botosani, the place where the most important events of the community take place. There we interacted with some of the members, who told us about the Jewish history and culture of the community from Botosani. They concluded that no matter how far they are from Israel, their home is still Romania, since their close ones live here. Mr. Gustav Finkel and Mrs. Finkel passionately told us about how their live is going day by day in Botosani and then they joined us for lunch where we continued the conversation. The Erasmus students were amazed to discover the way in which the Jewish traditions are preserved in Romania as well as the good relationship they have with Romanian people. They day continued with the city tour in Botosani, which followed the main touristic landmarks and places for the Jewish community, but also with adventures and many questions from the curious participants.
The second day we went to Cacica, where we first visited the salt mine and then “Adormirea Maicii Domnului” Bazilica. The priest Anton Marandescu held us a short presentation about the history of this saint place and its inhabitants. This was followed by a special moment when we visited “Dom Polski”, the place where the Polish community in Solonetul Nou gathers. We were greeted by a young dance group led by Mrs. Ana Zielonka. They enchanted us with a joyful and youngly performance and they initiated us in the arts of popular Polish dance. Their enthusiasm in sharing their tradition and cheerfulness when answering to our strangest question, made us really happy.
We all have to admit that even though we started our journey with reluctance because we did not know what to expect and how we would be received, we came back happy and with a different perspective. It was not that much the knowledge that we acquired during this project, but rather the people we met that made our project an experience through which we became more open-minded towards people regardless their ethnicity, nationality and location. The feeling that such a journey can transmit you does not compare to any other because not only did we visit touristic monuments, but also we encounter life stories, people and destinies. They are simple men, who were willing to share with us pieces of their life journey and to teach us that only by overcoming pre judgements and stereotypes, we can start all over wherever we are, living together integrated in the society.
We made a video about the project, which you can watch below: