SERVAS INTERNATIONAL AND ESPERANTO
Margaret Klöser/Herbert Schöfer,
D-55124 Mainz GERMANY
SERVAS and ESPERANTO
by Lydia Tabor
Lydia Tabor, 6 Burns St., Apt 29 Forest Hills, 11315 NY, U.S.A.
The Universal Esperanto Association and Servas International could be called sister-organizations because they have so many features in common: both organizations were born in Europe – both are nongovernmental organizations with consultative status to the United Nations, – both movements are not-for-profit and are run by volunteers, – the ideology is pratically identical and they attract the same kind of people:
people who love personal contact with people from other cultures and countries, to promote understanding, peace and goodwill.
The name SERVAS was adopted by Kurt Schmid, our coordinator in Vienna. Kurt was trying to establish Servas in Eastern Europe, but had difficulties with communist governments censoring letters. Postcards were recommended instead of letters. One day Kurt received a postcard from Poland and it was written in Esperanto. This incident convinced Kurt that Esperanto was ideal for personal communication across borders.
As there is still little knowledge about Esperanto, the international language, in some parts of this world, I am giving below an up date of its origin, purpose, and development.
And so Esperanto was born:
The creator of Esperanto was a young Polish doctor, Ludvik L. Zamenhof (1859-1917), born in BIALYSTOK, Poland, under Czarist Russia. In his youth Zamenhof witnessed the conflicts and quarrels of his neighbors who spoke Russian, Polish, German, Latvian and other tongues but did not communicate with each other. Young Zamenhof was a sensitive idealist eager to serve humanity, The multilingual jungle in which the people in his native city lived and struggled, prompted him to create an internatinal language, totally neutral and, easy learnable, which everybody could use anywhere in the world. In 1887 Zamenhof was able to publish the first textbook of his planned international language; he signed it with his pseudonym "Doktoro Esperanto" (one who hopes). And so Esperanto was born. It is the only project of a constructed language that survived and has grown into a fully-fledged living language, capable of expressing all facets of human thoughts, a language whit its own worldwide speech community, literature and 100-year-old culture.
A 100 years of Esperanto
As soon as Zamenhof’s Esperanto textbook was available, millions of people started to learn the international language, happy to have at last a medium for transnational communication. The most dynamic movement was first in central Europe and Russia. Every social class made use of it for various spiritual and/or practical purposes. It became a wonderful tool in the promotion of understanding, brotherhood, peace and democracy.
In 1905 the first Esperanto world congress was held in France, where 688 ardent esperantists from 20 countries had gathered to meet Zamenhof, their master and inspiring teacher. Everybody felt equal in that multilingual crowd and was delighted to be able to communicate freely with all participants in the common international language.
For the first time in history an international congress was held without a single interpreter or translator. Esperanto had passed its test. From then on an International Esperanto Congress was held every year in a different country , but not during the 2 world wars, when, the movement nearly came to a stand-still. In spite of all adversities Esperanto developed into a large cultural movement.
In 1987 at the 72nd Esperanto International Congress 6000 esperantists from 73 countries arrived in Warsaw to celebrate the hundredth anniversary of Esperanto’s birthday.
Esperanto is in daily use by about 5 million people all over the world; many more know it partly or only in writing. The success of Esperanto is mainly due to its simple structure, its international vocabulary, phonetic spelling and streamlined grammar. The unique opportunity for building new words makes it very suitable for poetry.
Universala Esperanto Asocio (UEA)
The headquarter of the Esperanto movement is in Rotterdam: Nieuwe Binnenweg 176, NL Rotterdam 3015 BJ. The "UEA" publishes since 1908 a yearbook that gives a fascinating picture of the complexities of today’s Esperanto movement. In this yearbook they list the addresses of 2100 Esperanto delegates, many experts in their field, who are willing to give information and practical help in 86 countries to travelling esperantists. "UEA" is a nongovernmental organization and has consulting relations with the UN, the Council of Europe and several other international forums.
In New York "UEA" operates a United Nations liaison office at 777 UN Plaza NY 10017.
"TEJO" (Tutmonda Esperantista Junulara Organizo)
is the World Esperanto Youth Organization. It has its seat in the Rotterdam head office. It was founded in 1938 by a Dutch woman (10 years after Servas was born). The aim of TEJO was to create friendship and brotherhood among the young people of the world in the age group 16-30. TEJO has individual and associated members, in total 3693. The hospitality program of TEJO is called "PASPORTA SERVO". Its hostbook is modelled after our SERVAS hostlists. In 1995 their hostbook contained addresses of 900 hosts in 72 countries. The hostbook is printed every 2 years. Although designed for young people, older esperantists could also make use of it. No references, interview or letter of introduction is needed.
A European office of "TEJO" was opened in January 1995 in Germany, Rheinweg 15, 53113 Bonn. Tel:(0228) 2358989, Fax: 232764.
The arena of the most rapid growth of Esperanto has been the INTERNET. The information ‘Superhighway’ is increasingly applying the international language. A ten lesson free postal course has been adapted by e-mail. Addresses of a global correspondence service is also in the computer. I feel the computer will save Esperanto and to sarcastic pessimists who speak of Esperanto condescendingly I quote Jules Verne who said somewhere:
"Tout ce qui a été fait de grand dans l’humanité a été au nom d’esperances exagérées".