Stories of Remembrance

“Stories of remembrance” is a project, which has been funded with the support of the European Commission’s Programme Europe for Citizens. Its aim was to to remember the war in Yugoslavia 25 years later and to discuss and study it in a European context. During the project activities participants have remembered more than two million refugees from the wars in former Yugoslavia, who had to leave their homes and countries and build a new life among strangers. The project also aimed at raising awareness about the fates of refugees today - in Europe and around the world.

The majority of project activities and events were linked to the exhibition “Stories of Remembrance”, a unique exhibition which was the central point of the project. The photographic exhibition was composed of photographs of refugees during the wars in former Yugoslavia on the one side and pictures of refugees in Europe of today on the other. It showed works from European photographers, who accompanied these refugees at different stages of their trail. It examined past European mistakes and raised awareness of citizens about difficult situations refugees are facing not only on their dangerous way fleeing from wars, but also once they come to a new country. It reminded Europeans of the most recent war on its soil and many refugees from this war who are still living among us. It is supposed to be a contribution to a critical and considerate opinion formation around the ever so present theme of refugees in Europe. It aims to raise awareness of European citizens, who are more and more caught in the middle of nationalistic discourses around the allegedly “other”, that “threatens” Europe and show them individual realities of that so-called “other”. The exhibition was shown in Slovenia, Slovakia, Germany and Austria as well as a projection for international audience at the yearly congress of the Europa Esperanto-Unio. We estimate that in total approx. 6000 European citizens have visited the exhibition in all cities together, where it was on display.

In all four countries the exhibition was accompanied by panel discussions with refugees, experts and journalists. The general aim of the panel discussion was to understand displacement from the perspective of refugees. Refugees from the war in Yugoslavia could tell their stories and offer their thoughts of the current situation. Other guests contributed to a broader and deeper understanding of the past and the present. However, the content of discussion panels in different countries was highly diverse since they were always adapted to the local perspective: the public opinion of the current refugee crisis, involvement in and public debate about the war in former Yugoslavia in the 1990s, etc. All panels were not only referring to refugees of the past, but also public opinion of refugees than and now, as well as the development of xenophobia and nationalisms in Europe today.

Besides events taking place in all partner countries, in Slovenia and Austria additional activities and events were organised, mainly targeting children and youth. In schools in Šentilj and Strass, cities on different sides of the Slovene-Austrian borders, pupils were reading the autobiographic novel of the Croatian author Ivana Bodrožić “Hotel Zagorje” about her growing up as a refugee during the war in Croatia. Pupils’ texts (mainly essays), based on their impressions of the novel or their own experience with refugees, were exhibited as a part of the exhibition “Stories of Remembrance” in Maribor. In the Austrian school a whole project week about the war in former Yugoslavia was organised, including a final discussion with former refugees. In Bad Radkersburg, another Austrian border city, a second exhibition, besides the one in Graz, was organised in a Slovene-Austrian cultural centre Pavelhaus, including a whole day event for families, a philosophical cafe for children and adults, etc.

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