This is the third time I have started this letter and as they say, the third time is supposed to bring good luck. I would like to thank you very much because you gave me the opportunity to be in this beautiful place and to become part of a story as important as YU-Peace.
Today is our last day here and I feel completely different, like a new person, as if my heart had grown and expanded. I came here with very high expectations and still, my expectations were exceeded. Last December I was part of the “Your Past Present Future” project between Serbia, Bosnia-Herzegovina and Montenegro. It was then that I first encountered the past and the reality was a painful shock. I didn’t know how to deal with this pain about people and their fates. It was clear to me that I wanted to know more and find my own role in what happened and what still has effects today, first as a person and then as a young woman who has her roots half in Serbia and half in Bosnia and Herzegovina.
My small world suddenly amplified, reality poured in and, like the wind, opened more doors for me. I learned about YU-Peace and the weekly meetings at the school in Sombor and I came into contact with inspiring people from my area. When I was afraid, they encouraged and supported me. They showed me that I could keep going and do everything that was important to me. In the workshops, we talked about topics that are taboo in our societies. We were given the opportunity to sharpen our minds so that we would not be helplessly exposed to nationalist propaganda. We all matured in this atmosphere of openness and diverse opinions.
And then we all met here in this camp, people with different backgrounds, lives, stories and perspectives, and developed a common vision for our countries and even for the “universe”. (Note: As a slogan for this encounter, the youngsters chose a play on words with the word „Svemir“ (universe) – the two parts of the word „sve“ and „mir“ also mean „everywhere peace“).
It may sound a bit poetic, but every friendship that has originated here sparked something new in me and that means a lot to me. In our encounters it was really only important to be human, with a smile, with love, which leaves no room for hatred. Hate can only work with prejudices and lies, it manipulates and destroys. And as long as we learn to love, hate has no power.
This camp brought me together with so many inspiring people, their stories and their lives. It gave me the opportunity to find myself and become part of a community. The camp confronted me with all the difficulties of the war that lies behind us, with concrete evidence for what has been forgotten and what must not be forgotten, and with what is told in our schools and how. When I looked at the pictures of the American war photographer Ron Haviv, I wondered how our societies can remain silent in light of this and whether this silence means that such atrocities can repeat themselves in the future.
Our community gave me the feeling that our tears for the past wash away hate and that we can just be human. I am very grateful for the opportunity to get to know Ajna Jusic and to hear the story of her and her mother. Women like her are my heroines.