New Agora Sejny

After Sarajewo and Wrocław, the next stage of our mobile academy was held in Sejny. This Polish-Lithuanian small town, situated in the neighbourhood of the juncture of the borders with Lithuania, Belarus and Russia, has very rich traditions of multiculturalism. Their traces left here Jews, Russian Old-Believers, Byelorussians, Gypsies and Germans. From the beginnings of its activities, i.e. from the 1990s, it has been the headquarters of the Borderland Foundation and the Centre "Borderland". 

However, it is not the rich traditions of multiculturalisms or educational systems that determined the choice of Sejny as the venue for the 2008 Symposion. For the subject matter of the Symposion, very essential is the aspect of the existing here junction of Lithuania, Poland and Germany. Sejny is not only the heart of the Polish-Lithuanian borderland, it is also close to the territories of the former Eastern Prussia, Protestant colonization and the influences of the German culture. 

And the last important determinant for the choice of the venue: after years of preparation and efforts to acquire funds Borderland launches the construction of the International Dialogue Centre

This place hosted New Agora Symposion on the theme of New Educational Utopias Philosophy of Intercultural Education. 


Borderland Foundation, Sejny, Poland 
The Residential Arts Centre, Wigry, Poland 

Official Partners 

The Ministry of Culture and National Heritage, Poland 
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Poland 
Embassy of Poland in Tbilisi, Georgia 
Ford Foundation 


New Educational Utopias 

Reflecting on the crisis of university we come to the conclusion that one of the reasons behind it is the stagnation of the educational system itself, unable to keep up with the dynamically changing reality. Perhaps then, we need to separate ourselves momentarily from the reality to be able to overtake it and free ourselves from imposed on us limitations and regain the power to shape it in the future? Perhaps we should believe in the courage and madness of imagination, so that the resulting thanks to its power visions could draw for us a new map of our endeavours and inspirations? Utopia does not, really, denote only a non-existent place, but one difficult to acquire. This fact does not just deprive us of our sense of staying on the move, but simply makes it incessant and insatiable. Seeking answers to the question of the values on which we should build the ethos universitas for the 21st century, but also creating the visions of pedagogical provinces we sketch new horizons whose appearance will be able to breed in man longing and striving. 

Philosophy of Intercultural Education 

Reflecting on the philosophy of the intercultural education, eventually, we offer advice how to manage in the world in which the Other becomes a closer and closer neighbour, one reluctant to assimilate, not separated from us by the wall of a ghetto or border - the breeding place of cultural tensions. Identity outs community and variety proves stronger than universalism. In such a world we need common landmarks, the bridges to connect islands of the archipelagos. How can one teach it? What new tools in the pedagogical workshop should be elaborated to oppose the destructive powers threatening our world? And to what ideas and values should these tools be adopted? Should we look for our models in the past, or on the contrary, they should be protected against the poisons of the historical past and painful memory? 

Symposium Format 

The New Agora is not a typical scholarly conference, but a forum for debate and exchange that is open to the public, especially students. There is no formal lectures and strict sessions; the speakers' contributions (speeches and comments are treated as an introduction into a free, open and informal debate. All the speakers and participants are expected to take an active part in the discussions during all three days. 

Inspirations and Contexts 


1.Hesse's Castalia. Hermann Hesse wrote the Glass Bead Game, his last novel for which he received the Nobel Prize in the Europe subjugated by barbarian totalitarian regimes whose followers threw it onto the burning pyre in the Opera Square, Berlin. In the times of the twilight of the European civilization he span the tale of Castalia, a certain special pedagogical province whose life was subordinated to education and spiritual development. His work referred to the German tradition of Bildungsroman, best expressed by Goethe in the educational novel Wilhelm Meister's Apprenticeship. Hesse created a contemporary novel which - following the example of masterpieces of the previous centuries - strives to protect man from "the oblivion of being" (Heidegger), to throw an undying light on "the world of everyday life" (Husserl), "to build the knowledge about the soul" (Freud) and to serve as "the base of education" (Hoffmannstahl).

Castalia hides in itself also threats, and they also feature in Hesse's novel. One especially, the breaking of links with the world and embracing exclusively the pleasures of spiritual exercise. Quite aware of that is Josef Knecht, the hero of the novel, whose internal development leads him first to the top of the Castalian hierarchy, and then, still further, to the service of people in everyday life: as a great master leaves Castalia and undertakes the work of a teacher. This choice of pedagogical service to deal, first of all, with the education of a young student, complements significantly our knowledge of the glass-bead game, an educational and artistic programme practiced in the schools of the province - the most important element of which is spiritual upbringing of a new generation that is to grow up not in an ideal land of the spirit but in the real world, with all its earthly, historical and human conditioning. Because only then each "symbol and each combination of symbols lead not to one or other place, not to particular examples, experiments or proofs, but towards the centre, the secret and the innermost profoundity of the world, to urknowledge". 

The undertaking titled by us "The Pedagogical Province of Bridge Builders" draws on the utopia described by Hermann Hesse, its living heritage and inspiration. 

2. Neimar and Culture of Dialogue. Committed to the process of European integration and creation of the civil society we begin to achieve the awareness that our future is, essentially, to be decided by the problem of the meeting with the Other, the prospect of an alarming possibility of failure and never-ending cultural wars. Such a trail of events would bring the failure of our ability to establish an authentic community in the postmodern reality. There is a need for an innovative school of thought. The support can certainly be found in the philosophy of dialogue which demands continuation and development. There is also a need, perhaps even a bigger one, for the culture of dialogue, forming the ethos of the persons engaged in its creation, and finding its expression in the practical activities in the interpersonal space. This concerns thus new cultural practices and modern tools of bridge building, suitably adjusted to the dialogic reflection. In other words, we ask here for a new way of thinking and coming to its aid craftsmanship, worked out in the modern workshops of the cultural dialogue. 

Man's dialogue with the Other means building. It is not given unto us, it does not become on its own. Dialogue is a craft. Practicing it for centuries have been compared to bridge building. In the Balkans they called bridge builders "neimars" and surrounded with respect due to the architects who knew the secrets of nature and were able to conquer the forces of chaos. Later the name went into oblivion and together with it the secret of the craft. Bridge building became a technology. Old tools were mistreated, and reaching for new ones forgotten were the functions once used by the neimar. 

The question of how to internalize the Other is also the question for the viability of a modern borderland culture. Borderland is understood here not as a territory situated at the outer boundary, e.g. of a state, but as a space of the coexistence of different people in which borders run across communities. Today, it is no longer an area located far away from the centre of the region, known for the continuing, since time immemorial, tribal conflicts, as well as for the wealth of the preserved, in spite of modernity, various, sometimes exotic, cultural traditions. The centre of the modern civilization is already a borderland. Indispensable, in such circumstances becomes the creation of workshops of bridge building, situated in more and more recent and more difficult "passages". As long as it is still not too late, as long as the ethos of dialogue will not be associated again with something unnecessary and as long as new apprentices will not begin to fill the workshops of the new rulers of souls of king Ubu's sign. An alternative for such a course of events is neither a festival-type multiculture nor any other form of a superficial short-term meeting of cultures. Before us lies the challenge of creating an active culture of dialogue in the organic process of personal and community development, a process of long duration. For that purpose we shall need the forgotten craft of the neimar, read again and beneficial wherever man struggles to transcend oneself. 

3. Ethos of universitas. The university, both as an institution and the constituting it philosophy, experiences today a deep crisis. The worked out for almost nine hundred years (and in reality considerably longer, because, after all, first European universities in Bologna est. 1088 and in Paris est. 1150 were a continuation of the Greek idea of academy) ethos universitas, constituting the essential foundation of the European civilization is under threat, one talks even about its demise. Anxious humanists, analyzing the reasons behind the phenomenon, write about the "academic enterprise in the era of student consumerism" (David Riesman), about the transformation of universities into training centres for professional experts with the accompanying degradation of professors from their position of the master to the role of the instructor (Tadeusz Sławek), about the phenomenon of leveling down of standards propelled by the "dogmatic embracement of instrumentalism", discrediting the authority of intellectuals, contending the standards of study and culture in the name of the critique of elitism and privilege (Frank Furedi), about the system of education which "rather induces to repetition and pleasing the teacher than understanding and testing yourself" (Michel Crozier). 

For the creation of the dialogue of culture, the ethos of universitas, its vitality in the democratic and pluralistic society are of fundamental significance. It used to institute the world being a microcosm of the communion between people and environment over the religious, national geographical or administrative borders, in which expressing common values did not stand at odds with tolerance, and pursuit of truth was free from instrumentalization and particularistic self-interest. The threat to or an outright disappearance of this ethos in the multicultural European society must vex. It is not difficult to observe that it is accompanied by the occurrence of a growing fragmentization of reality, its break-up into smaller and smaller parts defending their own separateness and identity. It does not refer, first of all, only to national states. Nowadays, it is chiefly the matter of the growth of cultural differentiation and tensions nascent in this area, including the threat of cultural wars. The culture ceased to play the role of a uniting agent, increasingly depriving itself of a universalistic dimension and more and more often offering itself to serve as a form of protection of the particular identity of one or other community or region. The tension between what is universal and particularistic has always existed in culture. At present, however, clearly felt is the dominance of the particularistic tendency and confrontation with otherness. It is, doubtlessly, one of the consequences of the exhaustion of the ethos of universitas. 

In such a situation we need something more than just a critical reflection on the condition of university in the modern world. We need new visions in the pedagogical province. An inspiration for them is the university tradition. We also need courage and power of imagination to look forward into the future and to create unusual, stimulating and driving ambition creative units of educational utopias. 


Inspirations and contexts connected with Hesse's Castalia: the neimar, culture of dialogue and ethos ofuniversitas were decisive in the establishment of forms in which the project of the "Pedagogical Province of Bridge Builders" will be implemented. As they include both broadening of the humanistic reflection and innovative intercultural practices, included have been the following forms of activities: an international symposium gathering outstanding representatives of the humanistic reflection, and a workshop of best intercultural practices. 

The realization of the project of "The Pedagogical Province of Bridge Builders" constitutes a new stage in Borderland's work, offering a chance to deepen and broaden new aspects of its educational and artistic work in the multicultural communities of different regions of the world. Nevertheless, the form of activities which we refer to in our undertaking were worked out by our team during many years, they have their own continuity and dynamics of continuation, and they also have their international partners and the significant context of the past accomplishments. 


In July-August 2009, the Borderland Foundation organized in Sejny the first, pilot summer-school for the practitioners and theoreticians of intercultural dialogue. The program of the school, similarly to its staff was defined, in large measure, during the realization of The Pedagogical Province of Bridge Builders' project. The school constituted an attempt at putting into practice of some of the postulates, endeavours and visions of the New Agora Symposion, which in their fuller dimension will be realized in successive stages by the International Dialogue Centre in Krasnogruda. In the nearest two years the Borderland Foundation will implement the first phase of the process of building the IDC, due to support obtained from the Norwegian Financial Mechanism and the Ministry of Culture and National Heritage of Poland. 

The official language of the New Agora was English. Polish translation was provided on an individual basis. 


Ministerstwo Spraw 
Zagranicznych i Ambasada RP 
w Tbilisi

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Darowizny uzyskane przez Fundację Pogranicze

W związku z otrzymaniem darowizn, na podstawie art. 18 ust. 1f, pkt 2 ustawy z dnia 15 lutego 1992 r. o podatku dochodowym od osób prawnych (Dz. U. z 2011 r. Nr 74, poz. 397, ze zmianami), Fundacja Pogranicze podaje do publicznej informacji, że łączna kwota uzyskana z tego tytułu w okresie od 01.01.2019 r. do 31.12.2019 r. wyniosła 58.155,28 zł.

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