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"Self-organized elderly care in the three border region – from late socialist humanitarianism to post-1989 transformation"

Referentin: Frau Dr. Maren Hachmeister
24.06.2021 - 16:00 Uhr
online via Zoom

Beschreibung der Veranstaltung

Vom 23. bis 25. Juni 2021 findet die Tagung “Humanitarian Mobilization in Central and Eastern Europe during the Twentieth Century” am Masaryk Institute and Archives of the Czech Academy of Sciences in Prag (via Zoom) statt. In deren Rahmen wird Frau Dr. Maren Hachmeister einen Vortrag über “Self-organized elderly care in the three border region – from late socialist humanitarianism to post-1989 transformatio” halten.


In my paper I would like to discuss motivations and experiences of helpers in the field of voluntary elderly care. My findings are based on oral history interviews that I am currently undertaking in the three-border region (East Germany, Poland, Czech Republic) as part of my post-doctoral project. My interlocutors have been involved in elderly care since the 1980s, and also after the system change of 1989. I consider them to be among the so far unseen key actors of humanitarianism from the ground. Although tied to national organizations such as the East German Volkssolidarität (VS), the Polish Polski Komitet Pomocy Społecznej (PKPS) or the Czechoslovak/Czech Red Cross (ČSČK/ČČK), their activities were part of a vernacular humanitarianism, performed rather informally, as a grassroots form with little money, on their own initiative, and based on local ethical traditions.

My interlocutors shaped local care practices and invented creative solutions to individual life situations. In my opinion, their activities can be described as humanitarian, even if they are not comparable to the work of large-scale international humanitarianism. Compassion, commitment, and a thrifty spirit accompanied them through their often long-term involvement. By comparing three countries I will show that such forms of self-organized helping are even typical of societies transforming from socialism to post-socialism: on the one hand in the shadow of the national Red Cross societies, which practiced a kind of socialist humanitarianism until 1989, and on the other hand aside from such internationally based agents. My hypothesis is that it was not so much political or socioeconomic change, but rather ideas of solidarity, charity and community learned in childhood that motivated humanitarian work for the elderly.

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Wigilia dla starszych osób zorganizowana przez Polski Komitet Pomocy Społecznej

© Narodowe Archiwum Cyfrowe, 1975 (sygnatura 3/40/0/11/25/2)