Gazeta PROFIL 2020 – 2021

The pandemic years on the Bridge Square – a look back

Who still remembers when football tournaments were held and big parties were celebrated in the old Brückenplatz sports hall? The Facebook page „Brücken Plac Mostowy” is a good place to find out.

In February 2020, there was still a workshop in African dance with Bijou Camara Diaka. A Bridge Square Day was planned for 11 March. We had a lot of fun staging photos with our different offerings.

On 14 March, we had to cancel all planned events due to the first lockdown. Who remembers the idea of making Music for All from the balcony? Piya and Majeed borrowed our big active box, played music from their balcony and invited the neighbourhood to open their windows.

This is the first time that Gazeta PROFIL is being published as an online newspaper, which in a way is also a consequence of the pandemic that has led to Brückenplatz moving many forms of communication and presentations to the internet.

Neighbourhood assistance and restructuring

On 23 March, we formulated our first offer of neighbourly help: shopping for the needy, walking the dog… here the original text:

Słubfurt Neighbourhood Help in the „Corona Crisis”.

The community from „Brückenplatz | Plac Mostowy” offers help!!! Shopping for the needy (at the supermarket or the pharmacy), walking the dog, looking after children, bridging loneliness digitally or by phone…etc.

The current situation is a great challenge that reaches into every family. On the one hand, many people are looking for solutions to their current worries and needs, and on the other hand, there are many people who want to help voluntarily and unselfishly.

Please get in touch with us.

An article appeared in the Märkische Oderzeitung:

Michael Kurzwelly, 25.03.2020

Heiderose Päch, 26.03.2020

African Dance mit Bijou Camara Diaka

Puppenworkshop mit Dorothée Jung

Ein polnischer Zungenbrecher zu Ostern mit Michael Kurzwelly

Video Mask Output

Heidi founded the Face Mask Manufacture together with 8 women. We dabbled in online dance classes and yoga classes. We invited to individual gardening on the Brückenplatz. The free legal advice by Dieter Bollmann and Nasim Sharafi was moved to the internet. We decided to give away the self-sewn face masks in front of our hall for free on Tuesdays and Fridays. When the queues stretched over a hundred metres to the Oder promenade, we moved the mask distribution to the sports hall. At intervals of 1.5 metres, we stuck strips on the floor, some of which can still be seen today. This way people could line up around the hall without being exposed to the weather. This idea was followed by the next one. We combined The Mask Issue with an information session about the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan. While people queued, they were given Afghan and Syrian sweets, information leaflets, music interludes and then a mask sewn with African fabrics at various stations. Next, we moved the FreeShop from one of the two former changing rooms into the hall. This was followed shortly after by a move of the Repair Café.

Bridge Square Blog by Michael Kurzwelly

Face Mask Manufacture Celebration in May 2020

Eid Prayer of the Afghan Community in May 2020

Article on Telepolis: „When Poland decided to close its borders” Michael Kurzwelly/Olaf Arndt

Theatre and Moharam

From June 2020, the situation relaxed. Workshops could take place again, FreeShop and Repaircafé had meanwhile been firmly installed in the hall and had grown. In one workshop we recreated old photos from childhood. Rehearsals began for the multimedia play „Duck, Cower, Shut Up!” with Thomas Roth and then especially with Katja Klemt.

Our community had survived the first and most difficult phase well and the rehearsals for the joint play intensified communication and contacts. A heated discussion was triggered by the clash of the Shiite mourning week „Moharam” with the rehearsals for the play. The Afghan community felt that during this time the hall had become their mosque and dancing, laughing and singing were not acceptable during this time. As a result, „Moharam” was shortened and has not taken place with us since then, on the one hand due to the pandemic and on the other hand because of the renewed theatre rehearsals in 2021.

Ankündigung Vortrag Beata Halicka

Guided tour of Brückenplatz, Michael Kurzwelly

Guided tour of Brückenplatz, Michael Kurzwelly

Scenic Course Compilation

Fair Intercultural Week 2020

September 2020 became our highlight with the Fair Intercultural Week, the premiere of the Scenic Course and the Festival of Diversity. On 26.09.20, the day of the festival, it was pouring. When the rain let up a bit, we started the concerts anyway. Some of the planned performances were postponed to autumn and later to the „Summer in Słubfurt” 2021.

Słubfurter Markt

At a meeting of the Słubfurt Parliament, we decided to declare the Brückenplatz with its gymnasium the „Słubfurt Market”. Because originally the market place was the agora where democracy was negotiated. This paved the way for a kind of village to be created in the gymnasium, with all the previous activities except, for example, indoor football and all the other events that require the entire hall. Since then, the „Słubfurter Markt” has always been open on Wednesdays and Saturdays from 15:00 – 18:00. Since then, we have managed to look after these two days regularly and on a voluntary basis.

We had to cancel the autumn festival planned for 31.10.20 due to the again tightened corona rules.

Collecting donations

At the end of October 2020, the Słubice hospital became a Corona-only hospital and was overwhelmed with this task. Therefore, together with other actors in Frankfurt and Słubice, we started a donation collection for the hospital’s patients that lasted until 12 April 2021. So our neighbourly help that started with the pandemic continued first with the face mask manufacture, then with the fundraising for the hospital and from October 2021 with the collection for people who had fled via Belarus, and then expanded to include a large fundraising for Ukrainian women who had fled…

Donation collection for the Słubice Hospital

Online formats instead of autumn festival

The autumn festival planned for the end of October 2020 had to be cancelled due to the pandemic. Instead, we started our online regulars’ table on Wednesday evenings so that we could meet regularly, at least in virtual space. This has remained the case until today and offers us the opportunity to have relaxed conversations, but also to forge new ideas or to discuss and solve problems.

The two meetings in the real room on Wednesdays and Saturdays remained. In spite of everything, a Christmas tree was made together, with Heidi, Hanka and Elena playing a major role. Our planned Christmas bazaar with workshops and our partners from the Droshkov Theatre also had to be postponed from 2021 to 2022.

Since our planned workshop programme was also not feasible in the real space, we founded „Słubfurt TV” and presented the workshop programme as „Nowa Amerika Uniwersytät”, which we could no longer carry out in the autumn.

Link – Słubfurt TV

Link – Nowa Amerika Uniwersytät

Słubfurt Gardens

For 06 May 2020, we publicly invited people to garden outside on the bridge square. That was a mistake, because the police showed up with several official vehicles, because they suspected that hundreds of people would meet here. They rigorously banned the meeting, even though only 9 people had come in total. At least we learned from this not to announce such meetings via Facebook in times of lockdown. Furthermore, on the same day, the green space office called and asked if we had planned a guerrilla planting action in the city centre. That would actually have been a good idea, even if it didn’t come from the Brückenplatz community.

Together with the European University Viadrina and the Collegium Collegium Polonicum, we started the „Słubfurter Gärten” project with a first info event in Novemer 2020, linking the gardens of Brückenplatz and other already existing gardens and creating a public civic garden on the roof of the Collegium Polonicum. The project is dragging on due to the corona. The international students who were supposed to be involved are studying online and only a few have arrived. Many of the participants in our garden are not allowed to cross the bridge to Słubice due to ongoing asylum procedures, but we continue.

Summer in Słubfurt 2021

At a meeting of the Słubfurt Parliament, the idea was born to celebrate again with relaxed Corona rules, which seemed to us to be especially approximate outside. On four Saturdays there was a full programme for the whole family. Among others, the musicians who could not play at the Festival of Diversity 2021 due to the rain performed. There was also archery, henna tattoos, African hairstyling, a bouncy castle and much more. Visitors could roast their own food on a barbecue.

Link – Summer in Słubfurt 2021, Thomas Strauch

Link – Summer in Słubfurt 2021, a duo from Rzepin

Pride in Słubfurt

In September 2020, the first Pride took place in Słubfurt. Participants came from Poznań, Warszawa, Zielona Góra, Gorzów, Berlin and the whole nearby region. While on the Polish side the march was a successful political demonstration against the government’s anti-LGBT policy, on the German side it was warmly welcomed by the Lord Mayor and the Vicestarosta, and then turned into a boisterous party that ended with a concert on Bridge Square. A second Pride 2021 also ended on Brückenplatz and another one is planned for 2022. Słubfurt has become colourful.

The Droshkov Theatre

There is a consulting company for revitalisation in Zielona Góra. The team of employees used to meet in the small village of Droszków to do theatre, cabaret and playback shows together. Then they decided to turn the downstairs of their company into a professional little theatre. They visited us with a small performance of their work and then invited us for a return visit.A second visit was postponed to spring 2022 due to corona and the second return visit to us is still pending.

For the Brückenplatz community, such community-building trips are very important.

Link – Dance Workshop with Bijou

Obituary for Heiderose Päch

Anyone who reads the various articles in the different editions of the PROFIL newspaper will understand what an important role Heidi played at Brückenplatz. In autumn 2016, Heidi came to us to do community service. In GDR times, she served time in one of the regime’s most notorious prisons, for Republikflucht. Since the fall of communism, she had been unemployed and at times addicted to alcohol. Excluded from society, she even voted for the NPD, as she openly admitted in conversations. I asked her at the time what she would like to do with us, and she said handicrafts were her hobby. So she started making poinsettias with Syrian, Cameroonian and Afghan children. The Bridge Square thus became a place of healing not only for Heidi. She gave a lot back to Brückenplatz, got involved everywhere, and so it was no wonder that in 2018, together with Charlotte Tsangueu („my little Charlott”), she received the honorary work award of the city of Frankfurt (Oder). She called herself „the creative owl from Brückenplatz”. In 2020, she actively participated as an amateur actress in the scenic course „Ducking, Cowering, Shutting Up” and decorated the Christmas tree together with Hanka Billert. As early as spring 2021, she complained more and more frequently of headaches and back pain, and due to the pandemic, her doctor’s appointments were repeatedly postponed. She was still attending theatre rehearsals for „Dazwischenland” into July. When she finally got an admission for pain therapy, she was diagnosed with terminal cancer and in the early morning of 26 August 2021, Heidi passed away. To this day, we miss you very much, Heidi.

Afghanistan demonstration

Maybe many people have already forgotten, due to the world political events, that in August 2021 Germany and the USA left Afghanistan head over heels and abandoned it to the Taliban. In the process, many Afghans who had worked for the Bundeswehr were abandoned, not to mention all the women who are now discriminated against, excluded from education and political participation, as well as from public life.  On 12 September 2021, the Afghan community living in Frankfurt (Oder) organised a demonstration against the recognition of the Taliban government by the world community! Many people from Brückenplatz were there.

Fair Intercultural Week 2021

The Fair Intercultural Week is a joint project of the migration network THINK. It is actually almost a month, with a very extensive programme throughout the city. Here are just a few of the events that took place on Brückenplatz and involved the Słubfurt community.  The power of feelings: rich and poor  What does it actually mean to be rich or poor? In our current society, wealth and poverty are predominantly defined in material terms. But is that enough? Consumption activates our reward system, but does it really make us happy in the long run? Or are there other forms of inner wealth that may also be important? Vivian Dittmar has put forward new approaches to prosperity for debate in her recent book „Echter Wohlstand” – time prosperity, relationship prosperity, creativity prosperity, spiritual and ecological prosperity she suggests as a change of direction in looking at prosperity.This is what we have been discussing: Who is rich, who is poor? When do I feel rich, when poor? What are my standards and what are society’s?In a photo session, each person was shown what makes them feel rich. Further photo sessions took place on Brückenplatz with other protagonists.The photo exhibition was mounted on the outside wall of the gymnasium of the Brückenplatz. It was ceremoniously opened as part of the Festival of Diversity.


Festival of Diversity

The curator and presenter of the stage show was Ros The Boss. Otherwise, many different actors from the THINK network took part in the organisation. For children and young people there was a bouncy castle, a graffiti workshop, henna tattoos and much more. Besides culinary tastings from different cultures, there was a colourful concert and workshop programme on and in front of the stage. 

Theatre play „A country in between“

Rehearsals began on 7.04.21 with a concept rehearsal with the actors Heidi, Richard, Fatemeh, Bijou, Wojtek, Dorothée, Mohammad as well as Roksana and Wolfram as performers and musicians, the dramaturge Matthias Wolf, the assistant director Matthias Hille, Michael Kurzwelly as project manager Brückenplatz and director Thomas Roth.

It was agreed that the ensemble would undertake a theatrical journey, examining what they had taken with them from their flight to Europe and what influence these impressions had on their ideas about their new home.

From the very first rehearsals, movement training with Matthias Hille and the dancer Bijou played a major role. An alert body produces good ideas.

In a long process we rehearsed twice a week for 4 hours each time, 2 intensive workshops on long. weekends served to focus on the slowly developing story. The result was a boat with fugitives who were struggling with the forces of nature and rescued themselves to a stand. Here, a shady figure was already waiting for them, who apparently helped them, promised them a tent and a multi-cult festival and appointed one of the migrants as their representative. In the course of the production, it turned out that he was only looking for victims for organ trafficking. But the fugitives fought back and fled into the desert. In a long march in fear of the border police and other dubious traffickers, they found in an abandoned oasis the remains of a project that had taken care of migrants and refugees – the Bridges Square – Plac Mostowy in Słubfurt.

Here the production touched on one of the central questions of the Brückenplatz – Plac Mostowy:

What’s next? The question is highly topical, because Brückenplatz is threatened by construction plans of the city of Frankfurt/Oder, even if they have eased the situation somewhat by cancelling the planned investor, the question of relocation and reorientation remains of current relevance. A question that was passed on to the audience in the three well-attended performances (the premiere was at the Festival of Diversity 2021).

Cultural evenings: Syria, Poland, Cameroon, Persia

At the beginning of October 2021, the cold season began again. As the hall is unheated, the yurt was built inside the hall and insulated all around with quilts. Using OSB boards, the community built 2 more interior rooms inside: a sewing and hairdressing workshop and a multifunctional event room, both covered with painter’s foil.

An evening on the topic of „Everyday life in Syria” was followed by a Polish evening and a Cameroonian evening, followed by a Persian spring festival, where the guests traditionally had to jump over a fire.

Festival and Akademia lAbiRynT

The festival has been organised every year since 2005 by the Słubice House of Culture with its Galeria OKNO and the Słubfurt e.V. association. In 2021, the Kleistforum joined as the third organiser. This year, the Brückenplatz became a playground for art students from Dresden, Gdańsk and Łódź, who, under the astonished gaze of the Brückenplätzler, transformed the entire hall into a large-scale installation from 22-24 October.

„TOMORROW in Brandenburg” and cardboard workshop

As Słubfurt is the first city to grow from the future into the present, we were invited to set up an embassy of Nowa Amerika in the House of Prussian Brandenburg History and to recreate the city of Słubfurt in cardboard as part of the future workshop and exhibition „MORGEN in Brandenburg”. Cultural educator Pauline Recke conducted interviews with all the house builders and, as part of a „Maki-Maki” workshop, the houses were made to talk on 09 March 2022. Afterwards, a public meeting of the Słubfurt parliament took place with about 20 city councillors.

Link – Parlamentssitzung

Link – Artikel taz!5833257/

Belarus issue

Together with a network of many associations and activists, such as „Wir packen’s an” e.V., Offenes MOL, Dziewuchy Berlin and Fundacja Międzynarodowa Inicjatywa Humanitarna, Słubfurt e.V. organised a demonstration in Frankfurt (Oder) on 15 December 2021 with the call „Humanitarian Corridor to Germany NOW!”, followed by an exhibition opening entitled „In der Zone der Helfenden. On the road with Brandenburg donation transport to the Polish-Belarusian border area” by the two journalists Peggy Lohse and Nancy Waldmann, followed by a panel discussion in the gymnasium on Brückenplatz. From the invitation:

Thousands of people are stuck at the Polish-Belarusian border: in the forest, in the snow – without water, without warmth. The first fatalities are already buried in the cemetery of the Muslim community of Bohoniki. The exclusion zone on the Polish side prohibits humanitarian aid teams, journalists and lawyers from entering, supplying and reporting. Tens of thousands of uniformed border guards, army and police control the area and search for „illegals” in the forest, usually to bring them back to Belarus. Pushbacks, which are actually forbidden in the EU, are state strategy here. Several EU member states support Warsaw in this form of Europe’s policy of sealing people off. Hundreds of local residents, associations and NGOs are nevertheless trying to help, and they are also receiving donations from Brandenburg. At the same time, the Polish „refugee camps” in Wędrzyn and Krosno on the border to Germany are overcrowded. The people there are locked up, there is a lack of interpreters, medical care, legal advice, security for vulnerable groups and winter clothing. There, too, the state’s strategy is to keep the situation as invisible as possible by taking away people’s smartphones and strictly limiting access for outsiders.

The panel discussion was about the camps in Wędrzyn and Krosno. Reporting from their visits on site were: Joanna Liddane (Zieloni, Zielona Góra) Maria Książak (Xenion/Foundation for International Humanitarian Aid), Aldo from Cameroon and Bernard from Congo reported on their flight.

Link – Podcast panel discussion

Link – MOZ article donation collection Belarus

New place – Intercultural Cultural Centre

The Brückenplatz is located in an old former gymnasium with the former nursery grounds around it. In May 2016, we were able to move there after we had to vacate the previous site at the city bridge in 2015 because a large shopping centre was to be built there. The new site is also a so-called interim use until an investor buys the site, on which a large luxury hotel is to be built afterwards. There was even already an interested party who wanted to buy the fillet site next to the town hall. Already in 2019 we were told to look for a new place to stay, as we would have to vacate the site at the end of the year. After a long search, it looked like we could get a large hall in Robert-Havemann-Straße together with other actors and we were asked to develop a concept and an operating structure for this place. A working group was formed and a concept was developed in several workshops and at meetings of the Słubfurt parliament. Then, however, we were not able to use the building because the conditions for a change of use were too high. Further considerations followed, but they all failed. In the meantime, almost all the land in the city centre has been bought up by private investors. Finally, the idea was to possibly build a container village on an open space outside the city centre. Fortunately, we kept getting delays until November 2021, when the investor withdrew altogether.

At a meeting of the Słubfurt parliament, we decided not to wait any longer. From now on, Brückenplatz became an Intercultural Cultural Centre, based on the concept that was already in place. In the course of the pandemic, the individual modules had also established themselves spatially in the hall, so everything was actually already there, apart from the possibility of playing indoor football, or having huge parties in the hall.

From the concept paper:

Since 2020, Brückenplatz has developed into an intercultural cultural centre that sees itself as a laboratory of lived cross-border urban design by civil society. Since spring 2020, Brückenplatz has developed an active solidarity-based neighbourhood support. In addition to the already existing modules FreeShop, Repaircafé and the sewing workshop, we first started sewing thousands of Corona masks from African fabrics and buying them for people in quarantine. In the winter of 2020-2021 we held a fundraiser for the Słubice hospital, since autumn 2021 until today we have been collecting donations in kind and money for refugees from Belarus and now we are also supporting refugees from Ukraine. We are convinced that culture and integration can succeed especially on the basis of lived neighbourly help. In particular, refugees, migrants and the long-term unemployed find their way to us because they are listened to here and given space for self-development. This basic structure forms the humus for various cultural, artistic and social projects that are proposed by individual actors who are then supported in implementing their ideas.

In this way, we were able to strengthen our open community precisely through the restrictions of the pandemic. The Brückenplatz Intercultural Cultural Centre is in a constant process of development, in that we are quasi seismographs reacting to current challenges and needs. In addition to the already mentioned modules FreeShop, Repaircafé and the sewing workshop, there is the encounter café BlaBla, Garden Claiming in the outdoor area and a community office. Everything else is constantly changing in the hall. Thus, temporary walls create workshop areas, exhibition spaces, stages and grandstands for theatre performances or labyrinthine paths.

We are co-organisers of the Fair Intercultural Week and main organisers of the Festival of Diversity, the Słubfurt Summer invites to picnics, small concerts and family afternoons outside and inside, enriched by Polish, Syrian, Cameroonian, Persian and Afghan cultural evenings.
The Brückenplatz Intercultural Cultural Centre thus links art, culture, social issues and integration. The future of the Brückenplatz Intercultural Cultural Centre in the technical town hall or in the transformation centre:

The Bridge Square Intercultural Cultural Centre has evolved from the idea of interim use. In order to meet its challenges and tasks, it needs a better financial integration into the city. Therefore, we propose that the Intercultural Cultural Centre Bridge Square be directly included in the plans for the construction of the technical town hall on the east side of the market in terms of construction and structure. This would also ensure that there is still life in the building complex after the town hall employees have finished their work.

Alternatively, it would also be conceivable to integrate the Bridge Square Intercultural Cultural Centre directly into the concept of the transformation centre.

Re-enacted childhood photos

In the run-up to the photography and multimedia festival „lAbiRynT”, workshops are held, as they are every year. This time Anne Peschken and Marek Pisarsky led a workshop in which members of the Bridge Square community brought old photos of themselves from their childhood, which were then recreated and photographed with a pinhole camera. Heidi as a small child with a large doll was the inspiration for a similar picture, only 57 years later. She even still had the doll. Hamid in a kung fu stance and Dorothée with friends strolling through Yaounde, the capital of Cameroon. For lack of actresses, men also had to slip into women’s clothes.

The Easter Bunny from the Bridge Square

In the spring of 2021, Richard Engbers, the head of the Repaircafé, came up with the idea of building an oversized Easter bunny. All those who had smiled at him were taught better. Together with Yacin, he built the most beautiful bunny the Brückenplatz has ever seen. The hare then guarded the entrance to the bridge square until the end of September. Then, at the beginning of October, it was grilled by unknown persons at the campfire.

The book Nowa Amerika

After a year of work, the two-hundred-page book „The Message of Nowa Amerika” has finally been published. What is reality construction? In philosophical treatises, in neurology, psychology, sociology and of course in art, the question of the construction of reality plays an important role again and again. Radical constructivism’ states that reality only comes into being through the processing of sensory stimuli in the nervous system and that through experiences made, connections grow that have a reality-forming effect.

So how real is reality, or how is reality constituted?

For 22 years, Michael Kurzwelly has been living in other realities that he creates and invites other people into as co-creators. On the one hand it is a game, on the other hand it is not, because the invented realities have an impact on the parallel worlds.

So far, the book has been presented in Słubfurt, Potsdam, Berlin and Poznań.

Transbordering Laboratory

Transbordering Laboratory is a research project about and between European cities divided by borders. Our aim is to explore the idea of the formation of new realities in such cities and territories. With the rise of nationalism and the pandemic, hard borders became an issue again, especially for citizens in border areas. Since the 1990s, many of the border towns have started to live together and reinvent themselves as united towns. The aim of the project is to gradually form a network of these cities to share experiences and creativity. The people of Słubfurt believe that connecting artists and activists in a practical laboratory can help develop a Europe with common cross-border regions.

From the perspective of national capitals, Nowa Amerika is seen as a periphery, while from our own perspective it should be developed as centres, because it is here – at the meeting point between states, nations and people – that the real Europe takes place and reinvents itself.

Each double city divided by a border is a unique laboratory of coexistence. It is also about building a transnational network of cross-border laboratories. As part of the research, we are conducting study visits to different divided cities to meet activists, scholars, artists and others, hold lectures and discussions, conduct interviews and create artistic documentation. The aim is to create a sustainable network of these cities and their engaged people.

The first conference will take place in October 2022 in Frankfurt (Oder)/Słubice, a twin city on the German-Polish border, also known as Słubfurt.