"Chechnya Day" in Vienna
By Tomáš Vršovský
VIENNA, Austria - On Friday, September 7 "Chechnya Day in Vienna" was held in the Austrian capital by representatives of the Chechen diaspora in Austria and local activists. The programme of events at Brigittenau’s “Haus der Begegnung“ (Meeting House) attracted the attention of dozens of people of different nationalities, ages and occupations, and gave them an opportunity to familiarize themselves with the situation of Chechen refugees in Austria, as well as with Chechen history, culture, traditions and cuisine.
After the welcoming speech by Karl Lacina, head of the administration of Vienna’s 20th district where the occasion took place, representatives of the Chechen community and Austrian non-governmental organizations took the floor: Marion Niedermayr of Diakonie Wien, ChRI public institutions representative in Austria Abubakar Mudayev, ChRI parliamentary deputy Khusein Iskhanov, President of the European-Chechen Society Bert Scharner, and other distinguished figures. Siegfried Stupnik of the University of Klagenfurt gave an excellent talk about the history of Chechnya, which has been characterized by a struggle for freedom and the nation’s survival.
An encouraging feature of the evening was the poetry reading given by children. Four girls and a boy, Akhmad, recited poems in the German and Chechen languages to the accompaniment of enthusiastic applause from the Chechens in the audience, and received well-deserved prizes for their skill and courage.
Visitors also saw a short film on Chechen dance and an exhibition of photographs on the Chechen theme, and almost everyone probably tried the national dishes that had been prepared by Chechen women – from chepalgash pancakes to various kinds of khalva (walnut dessert).
The event’s organizers were the Association of Democratic Chechens in Austria, the Society for Threatened Peoples, the religious charity Diakonie Wien and the European-Chechen Society – bodies which also hold other events in Austria for Chechens and for those who are interested in Chechnya .
There are anywhere from 8,000 to 16,000 Chechens living in Austria. Those who have already obtained refugee status usually integrate well into Austrian society, learning German and trying to find a job, though in a country that is struggling with unemployment, it is not easy. On the other hand, many refugees have already been waiting for a decision on their status for several years, spending that time in a state uncertainty about their future.
In spite of their day-to-day problems and the limited opportunities available to them, the Austrian Chechens don’t focus only on themselves. Last year the European-Chechen Society they have formed launched an aid programme to assist Chechen orphans in the Azerbaijan city of Baku. It appears to be no accident, but rather the result of the high level of organization of Austrian Chechens, that ChRI President Dokka Umarov appointed his Austrian representative Visit Ibragimov director of the Department for Relations with the Vainakh Diaspora.
Official Grozny views the diaspora abroad, particularly in Europe, with disfavour. Indeed, quite apart from the fact that the overwhelming majority of Chechen communities in Europe are supporters of other political convictions, the forced residence of tens of thousands of Chechen citizens far from their homeland does not bear witness to a benign situation in the republic.
"Chechnya Day in Vienna" demonstrated that the fate of their motherland is far from being a matter of indifference to the Chechen diaspora. The people who administer the Chechen Republic today should pay attention to this and ask themselves whether the complete restoration of Chechnya is possible without the involvement of that part of Chechen society which now lives abroad.
(T,A,D) RELATED ARTICLES:
· Website of Chechens in Austria