Symbol of European friendship

What happened before the click...Photographers tell their story behind a special picture. This time the story leads into a dark chapter of the European past - and its happy overcoming.

People shake hands on the column road
© Katharina Grund

Understanding instead of division: it was important for me to bring back a photo from the 10th Pan-European Green Belt Conference, a photo which would show the links between nations, the willingness to learn from each other, irrespective of borders, and to commit to a common cause. Indeed, that was the atmosphere which pervaded this conference. In the photo, you can not only see people from Germany, the Czech Republic, Russia, Finland, Kosovo, Albania, Greece, Bulgaria and 13 other countries along the former Iron Curtain, but also European diversity, a sign of hope in times when fences are reappearing and nationalism is once again becoming socially acceptable. 

This photo arose quite spontaneously. Its subjects developed their own dynamic, but only because they themselves embodied the message of the photo. The moment before the click epitomises for me the optimism and the strength inherent in the European Green Belt initiative. The history of the place in which the photo was taken is sad and complex. It was taken on the so-called Column Way situated on the East German side of the former German-German border. GDR border police would use it as a sort of service road to gain rapid access to any point on the border. Just before the click, the severity of this place had given way to a friendly, open atmosphere. The Green Belt initiative is a unifying force which aims to preserve Europe’s natural and cultural resources in the former death zone. It will only help to keep the European idea alive.

Katharina Grund
© Kerstin Sauer

Katharina Grund has been working in the communications department of EuroNatur for more than ten years. The European Green Belt was one of her first fields of activity with the charity. She has fitted in perfectly with the EuroNatur approach to nature conservation – reaching out beyond borders to nature and people.