Love is the cure for painful experiences

I come from a small country in Europe, named Bosnia and Herzegovina. We recently started recovering from consequences of the war that happened less than 30 years ago, and never fully got on our feet again.

For a couple of years now, media headlines have been constantly buzzing about the “refugee crisis”, highlighting articles that propagate intolerance and revulsion towards members of such groups, exaggerating and sometimes even falsely presenting possible conflict situations in which migrants were involved (or maybe not?).

I am immensely sorry for we have become insensitive to other people’s misfortune and pain in hard times, neglecting the fact most of us or our families had to run from their home during a (mentioned) war outbreak. We forget so easily what it’s like to leave everything and run away, simply live by running, but run for life… What it’s like to wish to belong somewhere again, to have a constant environment, at least for a while. Overwhelmed with change and fear of attachment, these people are scared to adopt any habits, because they know they will eventually have to leave and start all over.

Imagine everything beginning to seem strange and no longer being sure if you are completely yourself. Like you left little pieces of you along the way. I would start to wonder if I have anything left…

I started to think if there was something we could all do to make their journey a little more bearable. Suddenly, an unexpected joy came into my life – the great joy of meeting and communicating with with those very same people.

Cooperation experience

Interactive workshops started in December 2019, as a part of the IMPACT project funded by the EU Erasmus + program, and implemented as a process of cooperation between the Local Democracy Agency Mostar and the Mostar Youth Theater, of which I am a member (along with more volunteers). We were meeting for five weeks – a total of 15 times for 2 or 3 hours and, simply put, exchanged Love.

Usually, different families would come to each workshop, often there were children, too. But, some of them came two, three or even more times and always begged us to participate and come with us again, when we came to the Salakovac Refugee Camp in a van, in which the number of passengers is limited to seven. Sometimes, one of us, organizers and volunteers, would undertake additional transportation by their personal vehicle, so that no one of the refugees would be disappointed. Read More History of France

At first, it was very difficult sparking them to open up. We did not want to push it, since it’s understandable how painful it can be to talk about everything they’ve run away from, to share shocking experiences that we, especially young ones, have heard only in the stories of the elderly, who took part in the war.

We tried to encourage the conversation with music, dance, jokes and games. On one occasion we placed several objects on the stage. Those were objects commonly seen in one’s home: an undershirt, a pot lid, a coffee cup, one shoe… They were scattered, almost as if someone had left them in such a hurry, grabbing everything he could manage to bring. This shook them, probably revived the memories and they started to speak more honestly and openly about their feelings. We listened, quietly. Because, what clever can be said about the testimony of the man whose brother was killed, in front of his eyes?! That you understand!? His pain??!!
NO, we could, nor say or feel that…

“The motive that guided us through this whole process is the ideal of equality.” 

Just listen…

From that moment, many encounters, that took place in Studentski hotel Mostar, passed by us listening to these unimaginable experiences, and slowly becoming more aware that it could have befallen any of us. To feel still unhealed scars of their pain, loss and fear, but to be a pillar, a support, a crying shoulder, to someone, without him feeling weaker because of it, is truly a great success and a blessing.

As nights passed by, each one of them burdened my consciousness with the same dream, over and over again. Whenever I wake up, turn around and go back to sleep, it just goes on like someone pressed play. I was waking up visibly tired. War, fear, uncertainty, suspense, danger, escape… The list just went on and on. At least, while sleeping, I felt, at least a part of those intimidating feelings. I realized on some strange level, what it’s like when fear becomes your main actuator, but also a source of inconceivable strength. Helplessness, loss, persecution… All that matters, is to survive and escape.

People often claim that we cannot significantly help a person if we haven’t experienced similar life circumstances on our own. I usually agree with the popular saying about “walking in someone’s shoes first”. But isn’t it even easier for us, young people, who have not yet tasted this torment, to be supportive, to take a part of that pain, which we still don’t understand, onto ourselves, to gift them humanly compassion, a smile, a hug?

We sang together, drew each other, and then rolled in laughter. We played sports with the children and taught them to draw an elephant, a flower, a tree… They showed us their traditional steps in dance. One kind Iraqi gentleman even brought ukulele and performed and old Kurdish song.

Nothing can stop you

Although we often had language barriers, even when there were no translators, we managed to communicate with our hands, eyes, sounds. The result was a magnificent synthesis of many different cultures. While we always organized a snack, toured the city, took them to try delicious cakes – physical and material support could hardly be compared to the strength of the mental help we succeeded to provide, for which they were deeply grateful.

The motive that guided us through this whole process is the ideal of equality. So, during one of the workshops, we were making masks. Whoever wanted his mask to be made, would lie on the nylon and we would start working. That wasn’t a short process. Sometimes it lasted up to 20 minutes or more. Most of the “models” were children who were lying still and patiently all the time. We were delighted with the absence of hyperactivity and the need to constantly provoke someone’s attention, which we almost always encounter among younger ages. When the masks were done, we would explain to them why we made them in the first place:

“Looking at the mask, we can’t conclude anything about the skin color, nationality, religion or any other imaginary traits we associate with people as padlocks of prejudice.”

The message is quite clear. We are all the same kind, we are all human, and we all need Love. It is the source of energy that drives the world and brings together even complete strangers. LET’S JUST LOVE EACH OTHER!! Read Oldest Language in the World

Changing the world

Civic activism at this time, except political turmoil and business scandals, must focus on other burning questions of the community in which it inhabits, without ignoring the above, no matter how much it is subject to insecurity and prejudice by passive citizens and stereotypically, never discussed among them.

From the collected stories and experiences, we decided to make a play and speak publicly about the life of refugees. We hope that with this act we will remind other people to do to others only what they would like to experience on, and in their own skin.

The play is called “GAME”, for many symbolic reasons. The premiere is coming soon and, in the future, we are determined to travel across the world, sharing this painful, but beautiful experience through forms of art, and perform on many famous stages in honor of human compassion and the almightiness of LOVE!

In the end, no matter how small your country might be on the map, you can still make a BIG difference in world becoming a better and a warmer place! Keep on going.

 By: Kljajić Sara

It was a great experience of intercultural promotion, collective caring for common issues, and an important occasion to stimulate young people’s active citizenship in Strasbourg. As it insisted on the fundamental role of youth in becoming “actors of change”, in addition, the project contributed to the achievement of some of the Sustainable Development Goals, namely SDG 10 – Reduced Inequalities; SDG 11 – Sustainable Cities and Communities; SDG 12 – Sustainable Consumption and Production; and SDG 13 – Measures relating to the fight against climate change.

Funded by the French Ministry of Europe and Foreign Affairs through FONJEP, ECO-CHANGE was coordinated by ALDA together with Stamtish, a Strasbourg-based NGO whose mission is to promote the integration of people with migrant background through culinary and eco-responsible events. 

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