Jelena Stulic is a long-standing member of YU-Peace and co-founder of LINK, our partner organization in Sombor. In the beginning of September she spoke with Katharina Ochsendorf about the current situation and the work of YU-Peace under Corona conditions.
K.O.: What is the current situation in Serbia?
J.S.: There have been 31,849 Corona cases registered so far, 723 of which ended deadly. Since the measures have been eased and the curfews lifted following protests of citizens about a month ago, it is actually obligatory to wear masks in closed rooms. But many people do not follow this rule. The measures vary from city to city and the regulations are also interpreted differently from person to person. Government information on the pandemic is largely incorrect and it changes constantly, depending on the political situation in the country. For example, before the parliamentary elections, the number of infected people stagnated – the day after the elections the number of infected people suddenly rose sharply and the situation became alarming. Before the election, a football match between the two best-known clubs in Serbia was played in front of an audience authorized by the so-called „Crisis Unit for the Containment of COVID 19“, while meetings of more than ten people were not allowed.
K.O.: And how is the work at LINK at the moment?
J.S.: The curfews, which lasted for about three months from March onwards, had an enormous impact on us personally and on our organization. On the one hand, we were afraid of being infected with Corona; on the other hand, many people feared for their livelihoods, as they had lost their paid work, which they do in addition to their work at LINK. We had curfews four days a week, which seriously affected our mental health. Worst of all, we never really knew how many people in our town and country were infected. When the measures were eased and we were able to go outside, thanks to the funds provided by Medica Mondiale from Cologne and Ana and Vlade Divac from Serbia, we were able to distribute around 80 aid packages and shopping vouchers to single mothers, families and others who were particularly affected by the pandemic. Only thanks to the active help of YU-Peace activists it was possible to find the people in need and distribute the aid packages.
What will I will also always remeber is the cross-border solidarity with my friends from YU-Peace, which has proved its worth even in these difficult times. During video conferences we exchanged information about the situation in our countries. But above all, we supported each other every day during the lockdown and faced this situation together. It was precisely the point where the strength of YU-Peace became particularly visible, something I am proud of and very grateful for!
K.O.: What has the YU-Peace project been like so far this year?
J.S.: During the curfews we talked every week with the members of YU-Peace from Serbia: about how they feel, what they think about the situation and what they do during the curfews. We also sent them links to online training courses. We exchanged films and series, mainly on human rights, which we discussed later at the online meetings. In addition, we were in constant exchange with the older staff to find out what the situation is like in their countries and how we could possibly implement the online camp. Now it is certain that despite Corona, some active people from all three countries will meet in Srebrenica on 21st September to celebrate the World Peace Day.
K.O.: Do you think that the pandemic will have long-term effects on YU-Peace?
J.S.: The situation in all three countries is certainly not good at the moment. It affects everything, including YU-peace. But I am 100% certain of the strength and power of our team and the young activists who make up the network. In case the situation does not improve, we will have online meetings where a great team will develop a range of different activities. In this way, as during the first Corona wave, the youngsters will stay in touch online and find new ways to work for peace. We have been through a lot together, so I don’t think that Corona will be the end of a community like YU-Peace!