After its decline from a wealthy area of residence in the 20th century, the area around Victoria Square in Athens, Greece, has become a multicultural area and, more recently, a hot spot for migrants. The Greeks who left the area after the Second World War share with the Syrian and Afghan refugees who have arrived at Victoria Square in the recent years a vision of Germany as a latter-day "Promised Land": While the former look(ed) at emigration as a way towards employment, the latter, provisionally "stationed" in Victoria Square, have fled their home countries and are anxious to to on and to reach their final destination to reconnect with family and friends and build a new life.
From the time when Otto was made "King of Greece" (Convention of London, 1832) and the Regency years to this day, the area around Victoria Square in Athens has witnessed major events that marked the history of modern Greece. A closer look demonstrates that some of these events are linked to milestones in the evolution of Greco-German relations over time as well as to emblematic landmarks in the area.
The uprising of 3rd September 1843, which led to King Otto granting a constitution and the change to constitutional monarchy, gave its name to one of the main local thoroughfares, 3rd September (Septemvriou) street. Otto's deposition in 1862 was heralded with celebrations at the "Exercise Field", later "Pedion tou Areos" (Champs de Mars).
The sculptural complex Theseus saves Hippodameia, which adorns Victoria Square since 1937, is by the German artist Johannes Pfull (1846-1914).
During the German Occupation, the "Crystal" Hotel of Elpidos Street housed a branch of Special Security, a department in close collaboration with the Nazi forces.
Today, no 13 of the same street houses the Victoria Square Project, a social sculpture created on the occasion of Documenta 14, the contemporary art exhibition which was shared between Athens (Greece) and Kassel (Germany) in 2017.
Elements of German architecture can be traced in the broader area, on neoclassical buildings as well as on 1930s modernist designs.
These findings give rise to a series of questions: How are the traces of the varied Greco-German relations inscribed in the collective memory of the area? What stimuli can they provide to the contemporary Greeks and migrants who live around Victoria Square, attend its schools or frequent its public spaces? How can these traces contribute to the narrative of the multinational community which seems to be growing here? What makes Germany such a popular destination for the different groups of people who have been meeting in this historical square of downtown Athens in recent decades?
Outline of the project "Next Station: Victoria | Nächste Station: Viktoriaplatz"
The proposed educational project “Next Station: Victoria | Nächste Station: Victoriaplatz” will approach these questions in order to trigger further investigation. Given the need to promote social cohesion in the area and cultivate community awareness among the young, the design and implementation team intends to make use of multidisciplinary tools and address the local teenagers and, by extension, the broader public.
The project focusses on 12-18-year-old students who live in the area of Victoria Square and come from diverse ethnic, social and cultural backgrounds, the “Next Station: Victoria | Nächste Station: Victoriaplatz” project aims to enable them to approach an aspect of recent Greek history which pertains to milestones in the relations between Greece and Germany.
Starting from this, participants have an opportunity to reflect on questions of coexistence and the preservation of collective memory, get to know their neighbourhood better and express themselves in creative ways.
The project “Next Station: Victoria | Nächste Station: Victoriaplatz” is proposed, designed and to be implemented by "Sustainable communities, sustainable cities | Collaboration for Victoria Square", an initiative comprised of
Victoria Square Project, Athens Intercultural Education Gymnasium, 2nd General Lyceum of Athens – "Theo Angelopoulos", Karpos Center for Education and Intercultural Communication, MONUMENTA – non-profit organisaton for the protection of natural and architectural heritage in Greece and Cyprus, World Human Forum.
The actions will be coordinated by Victoria Square Project.
The project is supported by the German Embassy in Athens. The harvesting session of the project results is supported by the European Forum of Freedom in Education (EFFE).