During the 2nd half of 1992 and into 1993 the number of people escaping the war struck areas in Croatia and Bosnia, increased exponentially. I knew there were refugee camps all over Croatia and Slovenia. The coordinators of the college “Social Service” understood how relevant it was to get involved in some way helping the refugees and the communities hosting them. So following through the contact that was already established the year before with the Red Cross in Rijeka, groups of college students started going to the Refugee Camps at Savudrija in Croatia and Pesek in Slovenia, attached to the borders with Slovenia and Italy, to spend there a day during the weekend. A van packed with 8-9 students would travel there on Saturday or Sunday morning. Students would individually or in pairs manage an activity for the kids: basketball, dancing, English lessons or drawing and painting. Playing and organizing simple games for the little ones was also always planned. The college would provide any necessary equipment: paints, brushes, balls, paper or notebooks, from the money that was collected or that would have been anyway allocated to such activities. The refugees of our age, those a bit younger (from the age of ten) and the ones in their twenties could speak English and help explaining to the others what was supposed to be done. All in all, we realized we were not all that different!
Faris fled with his mother and sister and other relatives from a village nearby Sarajevo. He was trying to write about his experience and also draw a comic. His father was disappeared and his brother died after being shot.
With the youngest kids no words were needed. I remember I would make a round of all the groups and help with the translation. At the very end I would come to the “nursery group” and realise that the the games were in full swing. After making the rounds I would pay visit to the people living in the prefabricated houses, either alone or with someone else.
For the older people who had had to flee it was much harder, especially men. I remember their expression of helplessness. Women still had to care for the other members of their families, keep the temporary accomodation clean, and that would keep them busy and away from negative thoughts, but men would just sit around.
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This piece of writing is a recollection of memories of a school I attended as a teenager. It was a school where the emphasis was put on intercultural dialogue, international understanding and I believe that this experience has influenced my whole life. The school got involved at the time (1992- 1994) in several volunteering activities with the displaced in Croatia and refugees in the camps in Slovenia and in Croatia. I was involved in those activities as a translator and as an organisator and animator together with other co-students. We learned a lot from each other and the people we were assisting in that period. I am aware that this experience(s) have influenced me strongly as a person and I am grateful for that. It also brought me and others life - long friendships that we all dearly cherish.
While writing this text, I remembered many people, events and experiences that are an important part of my life. I was also able to express my points of view. It made me realise that the world has still to face the same human(itarian) problems connected to refugees and migration as it had when I was a high school student. It is a constant for the human. It made me think of what concretely could I do more, in my life, now, for that purpose.
I am interested in the exchange of experiences of intercultural exchange and understanding. As I am subbmitting this slightly late, I only hope it gets accepted and published!