War: what a horrible event that always brings just misery, sorrow and pain. The history of human race is full of conflicts and, every and now then, the people seem to look only to hurt someone else. Many wars in the world are still ongoing but there has been no large conflict in Europe since the end of World War II devastating all of Europe; and conflicts which have occurred have been restricted to only a relatively small area.
European society should not forget the awful things which happened during the wars, conflicts, military engagements etc. That is reason why are spots that remind us of these events in every country, no matter whether a battlefield, facilities, prisons, concentration camps or memorials of all kinds. To remind of some of these places the group of young Czechs and Germans set off from Prague to Münster by bicycle: their goal was to visit these memorials on the journey to Münster where took place the 101th Catholic church day (orig. Katholikentag). The motto of this year’s Catholic church day was “Look for peace and follow it (orig. Suche Frieden und jage ihm nach)”.
The cyclists started their journey in Prague not just because of the beauties of the city. Exactly four hundred years ago, the Thirty Years’ War began here, thus, the whole journey started on the battlefield of the Battle of White Mountain and right under the window of the Old Royal Palace where the deputies of the Roman Emperor were defenestrated. After visiting these two places and the German Embassy in Prague, the group set out for the next part of its path so over the next three days, the cyclists visited Liditz/Lidice, Theresienstadt/Terezín and Aussig/Ústí nad Labem. All these towns and villages were witnesses of horrible things during Second World War: in Theresienstadt was a concentration camp, on the bridge in Aussig the German population was attacked by Czechs briefly after end of the war and the village of Liditz was completely annihilated in 1942. Here follow three statements made by members of the group after visiting these places:
„It is incredible how quickly the situation changed right after the end of the war; those who had been oppressed (Czech people) become the oppressors of those (German people) who had oppressed them,” said Tatiana sadly after the meeting with Dr. Koura in Ústí and Labem.
“The visit to Theresienstadt was touching because it showed the unimaginable cruelty of the outrages that were committed here. Now, the people from the whole world come here and learn from those mistakes of past,” said Matthias when the cyclists were leaving the small fortress in Terezín.
“When someone just sits home, he/she feels that the war did not touch the Czech Republic at all. That there is no reason to be concerned. But after visiting of Lidice, everyone will be aware that horrific deeds occurred here too. Therefore, we should appreciate life in peace and we should also seek to preserve it. Everyone should visit Lidice: I am convinced that peace should not be taken for granted,” said Petr Tomek after visiting Lidice.
On the end of the third day, after having covered a distance of almost 200km, the group arrived in Dresden. Despite their tiredness, the cyclists met the director of Stiftung Frauenkirche e.V. and discussed the political situation in the eastern Germany and what lies behind it. Afterwards, all members of group went to recover for the next day; it was set to be the most challenging day of all tour. The group was supposed to cover 130km from Dresden to Leipzig; the longest distance that had to be covered in one day. Despite this challenging day, nobody got cold feet and early in the morning, the cyclists set off. The first third of the journey was alongside the Elbe; however then, the route turned left, and the group had to cross hilly ground again. It was a truly difficult day but after almost twelve hours underway, all members of the tour reached Leipzig safe and sound. It was no surprise that everyone fell asleep shortly after dinner.
The next day, the group had a lie-in and then met: firstly, the representatives of the city of Leipzig, with who they spoke about international projects supporting international relationships and understanding, and afterwards, the pastor of Nikolaikirche, who explained to them the role of Church during the German Reunification of 1990. Petr Tomek said after leaving the church: “The meeting was, in fact, informative; I had no idea what position represented the Church in Eastern Germany and what a decisive role the peace prayers played during the Revolution of 1990. I am truly surprised that believers played a role in bringing about this change.”
Afterwards, the cyclists set out for the last part of their journey. This took them across Halle, where they met the director of association Friedenskreis Halle e.V., Lutherstadt Eisleben, Quedlinburg, Wernigerode, where the border between West and East Germany once lay, to Höxter. The group was welcomed in this small village by the local parish St. Nikolai, prepared a barbecue and nice accommodation for the visitors. All evening and the next morning, there was an amazing atmosphere and everyone got a great deal of positive energy for the last few days of the journey.
At the end of its route, the group visited Hermann monument (Hermannsdenkmal), a monument to remember the victory of the Germans over the Romans in the battle of Teutoburg Forest. They reached Münster on 7th May. The whole journey came to an end the day after, in the Friedensaal (peace auditorium) in Town Hall of Münster.
The all project was an amazing adventure that brought the members of group to a lot of places of violence and memory, but also of hope for the better future. The cyclists got in touch with the professionals of the public live with who they could discussed both the events of the past and the present. Nevertheless, not only these professionals were involved; the group also spoke to normal people on the street, too, and discussed with them what the peace means to them and where can they find it. The project can be regarded as a true success: the members of the group were enthused by the project, many articles were written about the journey in newspapers and there is a beautiful exhibition telling the story of the whole journey.