Whole ten years passed since I’ve started doing youth work. The beginnings weren’t easy, especially when I was implementing peacebuilding programmes for the first time in various local communities in Vojvodina, but later, I found my magical three.
There were Novi Sad, Becej, Temerin, Sombor… Nowadays, my youth work home is Center for Culture and Education from a small village called Sonta on the north-west corner of Autonomous Province of Vojvodina. This province is so proud for its multiculturality since ever. But the multiculturalism is not something to be proud of. The case was the same between young people of Serbian and Albanian ethnicity, where using intercultural learning was the best way in establishing connections between young people who were living in the same street for 20 years and never shared the same space…
*** READ MORE: We helped rural youth from North Albania and Vojvodina to share their experiences and problems
…That was the moment when I concluded that the time has come for Vojvodina to become proud of its interculturality, instead, segregate multiculturality, but that was just the beginning of my reconciliation journey between youth coming from those two ethical communities. When I got initial idea for this text, it looked like an exciting project to do.
As a youth worker, I had an experience in peacebuilding projects between Albanian and Serbian youth in Albania, Kosovo* and AP Vojvodina (as a part of Serbia). I was thinking to reflect myself and give some concluded parallel in working in three different realities. For days, I was thinking what was so special about each one of those and can I make some super smart conclusion about the uniqueness of those three different contexts…
Yes, the experiences were different per se, by the methodologies, people, context, topics were more or less the same – human rights, breaking the stereotypes, communication. The aim was intercultural learning and reconciliation among conflicted representatives of young people. There were different reactions, positions, statements, words shared but, in the end, I am still coming to one single conclusion – young people were amazing learners!
*** READ MORE – We did a survey, look at the results of research on SOCIAL DISTANCE AMONG YOUTH FROM ALBANIA AND SERBIA
The magical thing was that there was a huge space for open talk and share, honesty, and capacity for breaking the stereotypes about each other. That was one more evidence that young people are really having inner readiness for change and they must be the agents of the change in Western Balkan region, which is still suffering the consequences of the past…
Personally, I wasn’t surprised about the prejudices everybody had, I had them as well when I was younger. I gave myself the opportunity to grow in youth work both as participants and a trainer and to realize that there are particular beauties in our communities and cultures, similarities, and differences in perceiving different parts of identities, but we were all ready to listen, the magical Three – me and the two special groups. It was my personal developmental imperative to learn together with them and to open the dialogue where it was considered as an almost forbidden thing.
*** READ MORE: Maša – From “dirty Albanians” to “I wish I’ve visited Albania when I was younger. I wish I had a chance to break my prejudices before”
After dealing with the peacebuilding projects within those contexts, I became a bit angry on our past… Decisions made by politicians and moves they made in order to make a huge social distance between two beautiful ethnicities in Serbia, Albania and Kosovo*… I had amazing moments working on those projects, sharing and laughing, learning with both Albanian and Serbian youth no matter they came from. Today, I am rich for so many crazy friendships of the people coming from Albanian ethnical communities from Serbia, Albania and Kosovo*.
I also had an opportunity to fall in love as well… and I am grateful for that every single day!