Written By Fran Cummins (Principal) 

“We leave something of ourselves behind when we leave a place, we stay there, even though we go away. And there are things in us that we can find again only by going back there.” 
― Pascal Mercier, Night Train to Lisbon

A night at the opera in Vienna

Last Thursday evening, the Year 10 students from Mansfield Steiner School gave a presentation to the parents and the school community on their recent cultural exchange to Slovenia. The students all spoke enthusiastically about the trip and their experiences. Slovenia, although becoming very popular as a tourist destination in recent times, was relatively unknown until its independence in 1992. The superlative “amazing” was perhaps too frequently used throughout the evening but it was definitely heartfelt. The eight students each took turns to speak in depth about one part of their ten-week trip: rafting in Bovec, surveying in Croatia, visiting galleries in Florence and the marble mines of Carrara, the music camp to Budapest and Vienna, the Ljubljana Waldorf School, the host families. The audience was then treated to some of the students’ favourite dishes from Slovenia: potica, struklji, cheese and bread, Kransky sausage, zjukanksi, jota, borek , kremsnita and everyone’s favourite Nutella pancakes.

It was a memorable trip where perhaps lifelong friendships have been formed, lessons learned, experiences shared, and memories gathered. The group of eight expressed their gratitude to their parents and the Mansfield Steiner School for making the trip happen. 

This week we welcomed our first return visitor from Ljubljana. Brina, who was host sister to Freya and Lara, will spend the next two months in Mansfield attending our school as part of Year 10 and visiting different places around Victoria and interstate. 

The trip would never have happened without Nanna. Mansfield Steiner teacher Peter Berenyi’s mother Mira, or Nanna, left her beloved Slovenia during World War 2 and was unable to return due to her involvement in political activism. Her siblings, however, remained in the loosely associated states of the country known as Jugoslavia. She went to Italy as a refugee and eventually migrated to Australia in 1949 with her Hungarian husband. She missed her homeland and corresponded regularly and passionately with her siblings for the rest of her life, thus creating a curiosity and interest in the country she always called Slovenia (rather than Jugoslavia), with her children and her grandchildren. Six years ago, Peter and I visited Slovenia to meet up with Mira’s relations. A chance conversation in a restaurant next door to the Waldorf School led us to drop in unannounced to Ljubljana Waldorf School; a warm welcome and introduction to the school was extended to us by Igor, the music teacher. Five years later, another teacher from our school, Peter Henderson was visiting his German mother-in-law, and after having had a conversation with me about the possibility of overseas exchange led him to visit the Ljubljana Waldorf School. Conversations flowed back and forth with the vision to establish an exchange programme. It was considered by some, to be a very brave or possibly foolish idea to take a Class of Year 10 students across the world to attend Year 10 classes in a foreign language. Positive outcomes have already been experienced and more will undoubtedly follow.

Mira died in 2001; she would be so pleased to know that 8 16-year olds shared her passion and love of Slovenia and experienced the generosity of her Slovenian people.  She too was 16 when she left her homeland.

Mansfield Steiner school is proud to offer a culturally diverse approach to education. Students are encouraged to find their own authentic voice through the development of moral capacities. Nurturing each student’s individual potential is valued within the context of society and in relation to the wider local, national and global spheres of activity. Offering a complete education from Kinder to Years 11 and 12 (2020), Mansfield Steiner education promotes academic, creative, personal and global values in a classroom environment not defined by four walls.

For more information, contact Andrew on 5779 1445, [email protected]