No one in our country could or wanted to imagine that we would experience another war in the middle of Europe. Wars and the suffering associated with them have usually always been far away from our beautiful home country. With one exception, at the end of the last millennium, the so-called Yugoslav wars (1991 – 2001), also directly on our national border.
Since 24 February 2022, we have been experiencing an extensive war of aggression by the Russian Federation in Ukraine. Despite the threatening omens, we simply did not want to believe that it could come to this. As always, the civilian population was affected. Children, young people and women had to leave their homes de facto overnight in order to continue living in safety. At best, our grandparents or great-grandparents still know what that means. As a place of education and host to many international pupils and students, it was clear to us that we had to provide help here. There are many ways to help, but we decided to help quickly on the spot. Within the last ten years, we have been able to accommodate and train more than fifty pupils and students from war-torn countries. Many of them have gone on to successful careers in tourism or other industries. Our decision to help was made quickly and unbureaucratically, and I would like to thank our owners’ representatives and the parents of our students. After discussions with various recognised organisations (Caritas, Diakonie), it was clear to us that we would carry out the aid project ourselves.
After a very short preparation time at the beginning of March we were able to welcome the first refugees to the campus in Bad Gleichenberg. They were acquaintances and relatives of our Ukrainian students. Our fifty places in Haus Venedig (the upper limit was set by the authorities) were occupied within a week. At this point we would like to thank the entire team of the tourism schools (administration, technology, supply, service, pedagogy) – many problems had to be solved quickly and often unconventionally. We would also like to thank the team of the social association Willa (Marianne Müller Triebl) and thank you all for all the donations (see the list in the appendix) which we received for our guests looking for protection.
Our guests from the Ukraine have now been on the campus for almost three months and have settled in quite well under the given circumstances. From Monday to Friday, our guests are catered for on the campus, and on weekends they cook with our students in teaching kitchen 4. In the meantime, we are now more than just a campus school. We are hosts and accommodate a children’s playgroup, a language teaching group and provide protection and safety for our guests. Some young people attend our private high school and the tourism schools. Also our colleagues from the primary and secondary school in Bad Gleichenberg teach Ukrainian youngsters. Despite the war in the homeland, education in Ukraine still works amazingly well. Many young people are involved in the lessons through ZOOM or MS Teams and are provided with learning materials. Really remarkable when you think about the current pictures from Ukraine.
The positive aspects of our humanitarian aid are easy to list. Hospitality should not only be taught but must also be lived. As tourism professionals, we would not want to miss the intercultural experiences on the campus. A sorrow shared is perhaps also a sorrow halved. The contact to our graduates from the affected countries has intensified again through our action. We were able to show that people from Ukraine, Belarus and Russia can live together without any problems. The people from these countries do not want war!
We would like to thank the following companies, individuals and organisations in particular:
For monetary donations:
Pannonia GmbH ( Family Rarej), Kameradschaft vom Edelweiß (to the chairman and the board), Hotel Allmer (Mrs. Petra Pfeiler), Family Mag. Sabine Heydarfadai, Family Gerald Resch, Dr. Rudolf Albrecht, Family Christian and Doris Hagmüller, Family Maria Pein, Golfclub Bad Gleichenberg (Werner Jogl).
For donations in kind and time:
Genser Reisen (Jürgen Genser), Elektro Lugitsch (Werner Lugitsch), Dr. Zarfl, KR Werner Frömmel, Tischlerei Bernhard Lenz, Mag. Birgit Semlitsch, Mrs. KR Renate Remta, Family Bernd Pfandl, Company Kastner, Company Meinl, Company Grapos, Family Felber, Family Willibald und Natalia Harkamp