Meet Veronika Gábor
Since 2012 she has been working for the Holocaust Memorial Centre, for the March of the Living civil organisation and currently also works for the Raoul Wallenberg Foundation in Hungary. Her greatest mission is to shape the minds of future generations by providing them with information and personal stories of victims by means of tours at the Memorial Centre and lectures. The highest goal is to plant a small seed into their mind and let it grow. She is very convinced that one of the reasons of radicalization is the lack of information. Many radical movements would not even exist if their members would have found out about the horrible atrocities that marked our history.
The revelatory moment
During her adolescence and even in her early 20’s, Veronika was not very interested in studying Jewish history and Holocaust, despite Zita’s, her sister‘s encouragements and well recognized activity in this field. But it was all about to change in 2006 when her sister died, and Veronika made a commitment to herself and in the memory of her sister. From that point, as a part of her grieving process, Veronika made a pledge to continue her sister’s work. It was then when she realised that all these struggles will make sense in the end and it is always worth to fight for a good reason.
The first victory
For Veronika, victories come from those little moments when she sees that something changed in the mind of a child, that their behaviour towards others changes and a new attitude starts to grow inside them.
The bumps in the road
Working with children is not an easy thing to do and in her teaching activities she met many children who have very strict opinions, almost impossible to change. Veronika thinks that these are often caused by the attitudes of the parents and peers. But she comforts herself thinking that these children do not have a stable value system, the majority of these children are neglected, abused or disregarded within the family. They have a very strong desire to belong to a community.
And that is exactly the problem: extremist groups are aware of these vulnerabilities and try to establish connections that these children lack.
Extremism explained to a 5-year-old
Veronika usually works with young people above the age of 12, but the programs she is involved with also aim to address younger children with high focus on empathy and tolerance. Everyone needs to understand that there are people who were born into different families, who are socially deprived. Yet, being born into a different or worse situation does not mean that those persons should be treated differently, under no circumstances.
Veronika is aware that sometimes she is confronted with children who completely disregard her ideas, but she also learned that the most important thing is empathy. She talks to these children the very same way she does with the enthusiastic ones, there is no difference. She is curious about their ideas and she accepts them as they are. Tolerance can only be achieved through tolerance. We must be open to divergent ideas no matter how uncomfortable it might be.
Confessions of a restless activist
Sometimes she feels overwhelmed by her intense work, but she has a clear goal in her mind that keeps her going. Luckily, she receives the right signals in these delicate moments, reminding her that she must stay on the track. And most of the time, these signals come in the form of a little sparkle in the eyes of a child. Who would even think about giving up in such situations?
Some thoughts for undecided activists
If someone sees another person being bullied, humiliated or harassed, one should raise a voice. That should be obvious and natural. If we don’t do so, we „support” the radicals as silent bystanders. Veronika’s advice is very clear: never be afraid to stand up or to support someone in need.
Adequate responses in uncomfortable situations
In case of backfires, it depends on the situation, small steps will be followed by others; so saying a friendly word to the excluded person is in many cases, enough to stop the escalation. If someone supports another by such small gestures is definitely better than silence. There are many ways to counteract, but all these actions should be carefully selected depending on the context, experience and capability. But, never forget that in all situations, we always have the choice to decide how to act.