1989 – 2009: 20 Years Fall of the Iron Curtain


Conference, June 20th 2009 in Seebenstein, Austria


For the last several years UPF-Austria has made it a tradition to organise a small Peace Festival at the time of summer solstice. This year it was combined with a conference on “20 Years Fall of the Iron Curtain”.


In order to commemorate the historical events in June 1989 the Hungarian Ambassador to Austria, Dr. Istvan Horvath was invited to share his experiences. He had been Ambassador to Germany 20 years ago and he was involved when the Austrian Foreign Minister Alois Mock and the Hungarian Foreign Minister Gyula Horn symbolically cut the Iron Curtain at the border between Austria and Hungary in June 1989, allowing the East German “tourists” to cross the border, against the will of the German Democratic Republic’s Communist regime.








Finally, on the day of our Conference the Hungarian ambassador had to attend an important meeting in Budapest, but his deputy, Csaba Mazák replaced him and spoke about the cooperation between Hungary and Austria in initiating the fall of the Iron Curtain to 100 guests from the Vienna area, who came despite heavy rain to this oasis of nature in the forests of Seebenstein. A video summarizing the events of 1989 as they had been presented on TV recalled vividly this memorable time for the participants of the conference.


In the second session of the conference, Austrians who had spent the time between 1980 and 1990 in countries behind the Iron Curtain shared some of their experiences: Christine Segato who was coordinating the project “Mission Butterfly” reported about adventurous journeys to countries of the former Soviet Union, hiding bibles and other forbidden material in a specially prepared van. Mag. Elisabeth Cook gave insight into the life of an Austrian student in Budapest in Communist Hungary, Mag. Elisabeth Brandner spoke of how it was to work as a Communist tour guide in former Yugoslavia, and Christian Zwerger explained how he was guided by God to find the most suitable person to help him spread the ideas of a God-centred life in Communist Bulgaria.






Classical music from Austria opened the final session followed by two charming young folk singers from Romania. A round table discussion concluded the Conference: Students from Austria and from East European countries were joined by the Russian anthropologist Alexej Klutschewsky and Juraj Lajda, a Czech publisher, who experienced prison in Communist Czechoslovakia as a member of the then “dangerous” Unification Movement. They shared their refections about the Fall of the Iron Curtain and the implications on today’s Europe. A short summary of their discussion: we have to treasure freedom and use it to strengthen the bonds between the countries of Eastern and Western Europe.








As a conclusion a young Korean opera singer expressed her oriental heart with music from the East and the West. The audience wished her that the bamboo curtain between North and South Korea may fall soon too.


A barbecue and a solstice fire had been planned for the evening, but due to persistent rain all morning, dinner had to be served inside. It gave the guests, Peace Ambassadors from Austria, but also from the neighbouring countries Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary and Italy the opportunity to get to know each other and to share their views. And slowly even the sun started to shine. 

Mag. Elisabeth Cook & Peter Haider, UPF Austria


Friedensfest zur Sonnenwende - 20 Jahre Fall des Eisernen Vorhangs

Samstag, 20. Juni 2009 ab 14:00 Uhr


Seminarzentrum “Haus Regenbogen“, 2824 Seebenstein


14:00 Begrüßungskaffee


14:15 Interkulturelle Einstimmung beim „Rock of Peace“


15:00 Vortrag: „Den ersten Stein aus der Mauer hat Ungarn geschlagen

(Csaba Mazák, Gesandter der Republik Ungarn in Wien)


15:40 Erinnerungen an die 80er Jahre: Damals im „Ostblock“ Studierende berichten

(Christa Segato, Mag. Elisabeth Cook, Mag. Elisabeth Brandner, Christian Zwerger)


16:30 Kaffeepause


17:00 „Grenzen überschreiten im Neuen Europa“:

(Podiumsdiskussion mit Jugendlichen aus Österreich und den Nachbarländern)


18:30 Künstlerische Darbietungen: Klassische Musik, Folklore, Lieder aus Ost und West.


Europa 1989-20092009 IST ES 20 JAHRE HER, dass der Eiserne Vorhang durchschnitten wurde. Die Zäsur, die der "Triumph des Unerwarteten" (George Steiner) brachte, wurde zwar oft von Historikern gewürdigt. Die Prozesse, die den "sanften", "samtenen" und "singenden" Revolutionen zugrunde lagen und die Folgen, die sie für das neue Europa hatten, sind aber noch viel zu wenig ins Bewusstsein breiter Bevölkerungsschichten gedrungen. Das neue Europa aber ist undenkbar ohne die Ereignisse, die dem europäischen Glücksjahr 1989 vorausgegangen sind und die ihm folgten. (Infoseite des Bundesministerium für europäische und internationale Angelegenheiten)