(from: Waldorf Education Worldwide, pp. 194-195, Note the Copyright!)
Grieece - Yugoslavia - Slovakia - Bulgaria
Greece is not only the cradle of European culture but also a wonderful country with hospitable inhabitants. However, its grand landscapes, its sea, its sunshine and its ancient remains tend to conceal existing difficulties and problems from tourists.
As a rule children, youngsters and adults with learning difficulties whose families can no longer cope with them are doomed to a sad fate here. They are taken to asylums where they merely exist in huge dormitories. To date there are still only two curative education or social therapy establishments based on anthroposophy in the whole of Greece.
The first initiative was started by Elsa Wohlwind, a Swiss woman of Danish nationality and an experienced curative teacher. She had worked for years in a school for children with special needs in Piraeus where she had attempted to put anthroposophical curative education into practice. Meanwhile she has started a curative initiative on the west coast of the Peloponnese in Mesohori near Pylos in which two to three people with difficulties are cared for.
The second initiative is carried by the German foundation “Estia Agios Nikolaos” and is located in the parish of Galaxidi on the northern coast of the Gulf of Corinth. At present 13 adults are cared for here and in the near future this is due to rise to 24. The Greek state, which approves of the work in this establishment, offered to extend the existing two houses plus workshop by adding four more houses, but this had to be declined owing to lack of personnel.
An initiative is under way in Athens to found a Waldorf School, but at present this is not possible owing not only to the legal situation but also to the atmosphere and lack of interest among the population who are strongly influenced by the Greek Orthodox Church.
Here Waldorf Education is linked to Olivera Todorovic, a kindergarten teacher who attended the Kindergarten Seminar in Berne, Switzerland. In 1995 she founded the Association for Waldorf Education “Udruzenye za Waldorfsku pedagogiyu i umetnost - Beograd”. She resigned from her post as adviser to the city kindergartens in Belgrade in 2000 in order to devote her energies entirely to Waldorf Education. Since then she has been running a small private Waldorf Kindergarten which has as yet not been officially recognized.
Thirty kilometres from Belgrade in the village of Melyak there is another educational initiative based on anthroposophy. The association Neven is planning to set up a home for orphans in a rural setting. There are many children who lost their parents in the war and are now facing difficult circumstances as they grow up. Some are cared for in hospital-like buildings in groups of 30 with a single nurse. Since 1995 the members of the Neven association have built several houses where they live with their own children and, so far, two orphans. They plan to take in eight more, and at weekends they will put on larger events for groups of older children from the surrounding area.
The kindergarten Oeses opened its doors in Pristina, Kosovo, in January 2000. The work there with traumatized children is gradually showing results. The aggressive behaviour of some is abating while those who have withdrawn completely into themselves are beginning make tentative endeavours to talk and make contact. This work is carried by two women from Kosovo who met with Waldorf Education in Switzerland while the war was going on. Their main support therefore also comes from Switzerland. A functioning network of friends is sorely needed because the work in post-war Kosovo is legally uncertain and faces many problems.
The first Waldorf School plus kindergarten was founded in September 2001 in Bratislava where an initiative group had been carrying on study groups and training courses since 1991. The atmosphere in Slovakia was not very liberal after the political turnaround, which is one reason why it took so long to open a school, the other being that it had to be a private school. Permission to open it was given by the Ministry for Education on 4 July 2001, but permission for the kindergarten did not materialize until 31 August 2001.
Anthroposophy and Waldorf Education have been known in Bulgaria since the 1930s, though no schools were founded. After the political changeover a few individuals attended the Waldorf Kindergarten training in Odessa, Ukraine. Since about 1998 a number have also been attending teacher training seminars in western Europe. Waldorf Education was introduced to the public in May 2000 in a symposium organized by the Sofia branch of the Goethe-Institut, the German Bulgarian Society and the Friends of Waldorf Education. Many people including several officials from the Ministry for Education attended this introduction on how education works in these independent schools. Since then preparations are under way to open a Waldorf Kindergarten in Sofia, a kindergarten teacher is working with gypsy children at Stara Zagora, and a study group has been started at Varna.