Thursday, February 23, 2023

Acting in Ireland - guest blog by Ninni Rönkönharju

Ninni Rönkönharju (seated) and her Finnish team-mates at the Glencree workshop

Today marks the publication of a new e-book on X-EUROPEAN: a project about the 'Third Space', on which Border Crossings (Ireland) was a partner.  During December, we led a workshop at the Glencree Centre for Peace and Reconciliation, exploring how theatre can enable dialogues between people from very different backgrounds. 

This post from Finnish participant Ninni Rönkönharju was written in response to her experience, both in Ireland and at the earlier visual art workshop in Finland.  The project was supported by the Erasmus + programme of the European Union.


The project was, in a few words, a tremendously eye-opening experience.  Although at the beginning I felt that joining was a leap into the unknown, I decided to join with an open mind, and I did not regret my decision at any point during the project in Finland or Ireland.

The project helped me experience and discover things that I would never experience and discover in my everyday life.  I strongly felt that art exists for each of us, no matter what form it takes.  It was an inspiration to all of us.  We were a really mixed bunch, some were stranger to each other than others, but you didn't notice that in Finland when making art or in various activities in Ireland.  Everyone was enthusiastically involved in each one, as speakers, the change of thoughts and ideas flew rapidly from culture and language to another. The atmosphere was liberated in both countries.  In my opinion, this is what art is at its best, a factor that unites people and brings about changes.

At the same time, this project was a really great way to get to know other people and their cultures.  Getting to know their way of thinking and acting and getting to know their different mother tongues, a real language bath.  It felt as if with the help of the project I had been able to peer into cultures and people's minds in a completely different way, more deeply than in ordinary communication or everyday life. While getting to know others, you were also able to mirror your own culture and the way how it works. I was also able to mirror my own feelings and thoughts as well as my prejudices and fears (I have enough of them as a perfectionist 😉). At the same time, I broadened my own worldview and thinking.  The activities in both countries brought a new perspective to my thinking, my values ​​and my attitude.  They developed me as a person and because of that I got a lot to process far into the future.

Even though I don't consider myself narrow-minded, I felt that through the exercises I created space for myself to look, reflect and interpret things in a new way.  They released something in me that I didn't even know I had.  I don't feel like I'm a spontaneous person, but with the activities and the encouraging atmosphere, I freed myself from my formulaic activities.  Throughout the project, I felt that I could safely throw myself into art creation, activities or discussions without fear of failure or being judged by anyone.  I was able to bring out my own personality, my own values ​​and perceptions.

I felt that I was also an opener of views, thinking and values ​​during the trip.  People from other cultures saw, heard and experienced that a person with a limitation, in my case mobility impairment, is able to participate in activities both inside and outside in nature as a full member.  Maybe this is how I made their minds open to the unknown and the possibilities it brings in their everyday life as well.  Maybe they too are now more open-minded to see what is the normal, real everyday life of a person living with limitations and at the same time saw a little of everything that a person living with limitations has to face in their everyday life.  Prejudices towards assistive devices perhaps also decreased a little, after all, a normal person sits in a wheelchair just like them.

With these thoughts, I feel that I am braver and more ready for new projects.  Participating in this project brought a lot of new things to my life in many different areas.  This really empowered me and I want to experience all those feelings again.  I don't want to participate in projects because it would just be fun, but I feel that projects have a greater multidimensional meaning for me.  Through experiences that expand my new views, I feel that I can also be a "word as an escort" for other barriers to action.  I can share my experiences with them and encourage them all to participate in activities outside of their comfort zone.  It is surprisingly easy to let fear and prejudice take over one's mind, but overcoming them gives an otherwise limited life the so-called  "salt of life".  This project really gave and taught me a lot and I cherish the memories even for my bad days, when I might be diving in deep waters.  Thanks for letting me be a part and experience all this ❤.

Friday, February 10, 2023

A letter from Turkey

Guest Post by İlke Şanlıer Yüksel

Over the last few years, Border Crossings has been working with partners in Southern Turkey, and particularly the city of Adana.  Only last week, we were in Germany with colleagues from Adana's Çukurova University. Today we received this letter from one of them. With her blessing, we reproduce it in full.


February 10, 2023

Dear friends, colleagues and comrades,

Thank you all very much for your messages of support. My name is İlke Şanlıer Yüksel. I am an associate professor at the Department of Radio, Cinema and Television at Çukurova University, Adana, Turkey. I haven't slept for days, so forgive me if my English is not perfect. I don't need to tell you the gravity of the situation here, you will already have seen the news images, and I know are already doing all that you can: but believe me, the experience of actually being here is unimaginable. Maraş and Hatay - these two cities have been levelled to the ground. The destruction is so immense that I am not sure if there is even the slightest possibility of reconstruction. 

Adana, the city where I live, was the least affected, but even here one third of the multi-storey buildings in the Çukurova district (population 360 thousand) were heavily damaged. It is impossible to enter the houses. This area is known as North Adana. The ex-mayor Aytaç Durak, who served for more than 20 years, opened this area for rapid construction at high profit. Almost all of the buildings date from after the 1999 earthquake and the resulting regulations, but they were clearly not built in accordance with those regulations. Sarıçam district, which also grew in the last 7-8 years under MHP ex-mayor Hüseyin Sözlü, has high-rise buildings and is in a similar situation. There are brand new buildings, still with PVC coatings on the windows and no people living in them, and they are cracked down the middle. This is the direct result of systemic corruption on an immense scale. Everyone in Adana is on the streets as there are warnings of another earthquake. An incredible number of buildings are damaged. There is no end to this dishonesty. 

In the face of institutional incompetence, our students and graduates are trying to organise their own ways to bring aid. For example, Samandağ, Hatay’s district, still cannot be reached by land. There is no electricity, no fuel. Supplies are exhausted, and there is no drinkable water. They carry water, supplies, and power banks to Samandağ by boat from Adana Karataş. Yesterday, we tired to get permission from the Coast Guard; luckily we got permission, they will also deliver diesel oil by boat so that people can find a way to get out with vehicles. Isn't this extraordinary and awful? The state should be able to evacuate people by ship, but here it falls to a small group of young people. My student Ümit from Samandağ has been digging up dead bodies by hand for days. He is not allowed to bury them, because the prosecutor is supposed to come and identify the bodies, and so far has not made it there. 

We've been giving everything we have in aid for days. The suppliers we know in Adana are distributing the goods in their warehouses. A group of my friends from the faculty are trying to supply baby nappies and formula milk to Adana City Hospital and the Faculty of Medicine. This is one of the less damaged cities, where we are told the health system is functioning perfectly. My sister has not slept for days, she cooks for people who have not been able to go home for days. My brother-in-law is a civilian search and rescue worker, working in the rubble in İskenderun and Hatay.

One of our colleagues in the department went into her damaged house to collect some belongings, and the house collapsed on her in the second earthquake. Fortunately, she was rescued, but now she has no home. Today, we got the news that one of our student’s and his family’s bodies were removed from that collapsed building on the fifth day. Almost all of our students are working class people from poorer families in Adana and the neighbouring provinces. Dozens of them have lost their homes and families: some have lost their lives. We don't know yet if the dormitories are in a condition to provide shelter. We don’t know whether we’ll be able to start the semester at some point. 

Yesterday, two of my students called from Hatay. They don't have even a lira in their pockets: there are no ATMs, no banks, not even the municipality building, which has collapsed. Pervin, another student, is blind, and her mother has a severe chronic heart disease. Her father used to bring Pervin to school every day and pick her up in the evening. For 4 days, we have repeatedly contacted search and rescue, we have found solutions, we have been to the wreckage many times, but the rescuers could not enter the wreckage because they did not have working machines. Last night Pervin’s father's body was found. 

Today I am writing to you in response to Pervin's cry: "I beg you, teacher, I beg you, bring my father to me". Pervin is just one of the young ones who are affected. There are tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands of children and young people in this situation. 

I don't know how to bear this pain.

I wanted to tell you why I wrote this, both to pour my heart out in a safe place and to tell you that this road will be so long and that help will be needed for years to come. That's why your messages of support are very valuable to us. I am not asking for anything today, but there will be times when we, personally, can’t keep up anymore, and so then I will ask. I am very, very sad, angry, and enraged. Most of all, I am sorry for the remorse I feel because I am worried about the future of my own child and my nephew, while all this is happening.

In solidarity,


If you would like to support grassroots initiatives to help with the earthquake, then click here for one. We can vouch for this fundraiser being entirely transparent and free from corruption.