Public Debate: Why memory?

21:30 – 23:00, Andrej Bagar Theatre in Nitra – Hall, stage
Public Debate
Why memory?

Public debate with experts
presented by Michal Havran

Recently, we have very often come across the concept of memory. We have searched for traditions that disappeared or ceased to exist, filled out blank spaces, recalled things, re-evaluated the past, faced our traumas, looked for justice, argued about what to forger or forgive, restituted, studied archives, mad films and documentaries, established institutes of national and other memories.
Memory, the way we try or do not try and face the heritage of our political police forces which affected the way our societies operated, the various purposes of historical heritage, and many other issues related to memory not only as a historic, social and political phenomenon, are the subject of a public debate under the provocative title of WHY MEMORY?

Presented by
Michal Havran (1973) - he is a Slovak publicist and writer, founder and Editor-in-Chief of the portal. He studied Protestant Theology in Strasbourg. He received his Doctorate degree in Political Theology from the Ecole pratique de hautes etudes in Paris.


Thomas Irmer, DE (1962)– He received a Master degree in German and American Studies from the Leipzig University, gained a Fulbright scholarship in the U.S., later collaborated with the Leipzig University on a scientific level. From 1998 to 2003 he held the position of Editor-in-Chief of Theater der Zeit, until 2006 he worked as dramaturge at the spielzeiteuropa festival produced by the Berliner Festspiele. He gives lectures on American Drama at the Kennedy Institute at the Free University of Berlin.
He has published numerous studies and articles on drama and contemporary theatre in professional magazines Theater Heute (Germany), Didaskalia (Poland), Shakespeare (Norway), Színház (Hungary), Maska (Slovenia) and others. He is the author of several documentary films dealing with theatre, such as Die Bühnenrepublik – Theater in der DDR (2003) and Ich will nicht wissen, wer ich bin – Heiner Müller (2009). Since 2003 he has also worked as a consultant for the selection of productions for the main programme of the International Theatre Festival Divadelná Nitra.
Most significant publications:Metafiction, Moving Fictions, Moving Histories (1995), Frank Castorfs Volksbühne (2003), Die Bühnenrepublik – Theater in der DDR (2003), Luk Perceval – Theater und Ritual (2005), Flucht nach vorn – Andrzej Wirth (2013).  

Marius Oprea, RO(1964)  – Romanian historian (specializing in recent history), poet and essayist. He studied history at the University of Bucharest. His main specializations are archaeology and Romanian mediaeval history. But he earned a Ph.D. with a thesis on the role and evolution of the Communist-era secret police, the Securitate between 1948 and 1964: Role and evolution of Securitate (1948 – 1964). Oprea currently works as a journalist and researcher at the Romanian Institute of Recent History (IRIR). He also serves as the president of The Institute for the Investigation of Communist Crimes and the Memory of the Romanian Exile. His debut as a poet was the participation in the volume Pause for Breathing, together with Simona Popescu, Caius Dobrescu, and Andrei Bodiu.Marius Oprea is the author of more than one hundred articles referring to the history of the Securitate, which were published in the written press, broadcasted on Free Europe Radio Station or comprised within various collections of studies and academic publications, e.g.: A Day That Cannot Be Forgotten. 15 November, Braşov (co-author Stejărel Olaru, 2002),Heirs to the Securitate (2004), The Face of Death: a Dialogue with Vladimir Bukovsky about the Nature of Communism (2006),Bastion of Cruelty: The History of Securitate (1948-1964), (2008).

Péter Hunčík, SK (1951) – psychiatrist, writer. Before 1989 he published poems, essays and children’s stories. In December 1989 he founded the first independent Hungarian magazine NAP and became its Editor-in-Chief. He worked as President Václav Havel’s advisor. He is one of the founders of the private Czech TV Nova. Between 2002 and 2008 he lectured at the Carleton University in Ottawa and the John Wesley Theological College in Budapest. He currently holds the position of Director of the Research Centre on Interethnic Relations at the Forum Institute for Research on Minorities in Šamorín. He works as a psychiatrist in Veľký Meder. He publishes works in the fields of psychiatry, society and politics in daily papers, as well as social and literary periodicals. For his novel Borderline Case (Határeset, 2008) set in the peculiar Slovak-Hungarian background of the town of Šahy, he was awarded the Alfonz Talamon Prize, the Imre Madách Prize, and the Posonium Prize in Slovakia, and the Sándor Bródy Prize in Hungary (2009).

Pavel Paleček, CZ (1977) – Historian, graduate from the Masaryk University in Brno and study stays at Max Planck Institute in Berlin (2003), University of Minnesota (2002) and Columbia University (2005). Researcher at the Institute for Contemporary History at the Academy of Sciences of the Czech Republic. He deals with the history of communist persecution, history of science and international relationships.  Author of books and film documents such as: The Communist Regime and Political Lawsuits in Czechoslovakia, (Brno 2001), Liquidation of the Remains of Nazi and Communist Victims in Czechoslovakia (Brno 2002), Exile and Politics: historians talking on the latest history and themselves (Tišnov 2004).

Jakub Pacześniak, PL (1974) – philologian, university lecturer, doctoral candidate at the Jagiellonian University, poet, translator. His latest collection of poems is called In the Darkness of the Word (2011). As a translator he works for the Znak publishing company and the Grand Theatre – National Opera in Warsaw. He writes for literary magazines and periodicals “Tygodnik Powszechny”, “Rzeczpospolit” and “Znak”. He has worked at universities in Olomouc and Budapest, he currently teaches Polish Language at the Faculty of Humanities of the Matej Bel University in Banská Bystrica. He cooperates with the Instituteof National Remembrancein Warszaw.


Debaters will address the following issues:

  • We talk about “coming to terms with our past”, as well as about “knowing it”. We assume it is possible to know it, but how can one come to terms with it? What does “coming to terms with your past” mean?
  • Can you say that the country you come from has found an acceptable way to deal with its past?
  • Do individual institutions and legislation play certain role in building historical memory? Can historical memory at all be designed institutionally?
  • The process of documentation is painful. How can heritage – even today still borne by millions of people – be dealt with?
  • Adam Michnik and many other former dissidents today warn against the threat of second-generation anticommunism. Michnik considers it one of the great inner complexes of our societies, a euphemism which we use to compensate our inability to move on. How do you perceive this?
  • How did social conscience work in the particular stages of totalitarianism and how does it work now?
  • Ideologies of the totalitarian state promoted some sort or “common interest”. Is it possible that anything like that existed? Does anything like that exist today?
  • Is it today possible to formulate some social utopias? What are they like? Are history and memory incorporated in curriculums? How?
  • How is recent history taught at schools?
  • Why was the line drawn, against what ideological or practical backdrop, and how did it affect the legislation?
  • How was legislation of the newly-established states formed? What particular positive and negative aspects became reflected in the individual legislations?
  • How did society’s “ethical framework” change over the various stages of the communist dictatorship and after its fall? (1950s, 1960s, 1970s, 1980s, 1990s)
  • Manipulation of facts – how did totalitarian ideologies present the world and why exactly that way?
  • How did the “Soviet satellites” work – what degree of autonomy they managed to have and what did it depend on?
  • As for the post-war situation in our countries – what were the preconditions for the rise of dictatorships?
  • Were there any differences in the way the various political police forces operated? – number of people, agenda, methods…
  • As for publishing the lists of political police forces’ collaborators – was it a good or bad move? What were the impacts of this move and how did the individual counties gradually come to terms with the declassified lists?
  • Can art play a role in the processes of coming to terms with the past?
  • How should the concept of “drawing the line” or “turning over a new leaf” be understood?


The public debate is taking place in the framework of the Parallel Lives – 20th Century through the Eyes of Secret Police project, which has been supported by:



Festival supported by