Crossing Borders

by Živan Marinković, Our Future Europe 2014 participant from Serbia

Our Future Europe is a programme with participants from the Netherlands, Serbia and Kosovo. One of the goals of OFE is to bring youth from Kosovo and Serbia closer throughout the workshops and free time activities. They must cooperate during the exchanges and you won’t find that so often in everyday life. The main reason I applied for this programme is it seemed challenging and completely different from everything I had been part of. I was part of many exchanges, but this one was particularly interesting. Before the programme, I didn’t know what exactly to expect. I have never met anyone who participated in Our Future Europe programme in the years behind and who could pass me the impressions. I had expected that all people there would be highly educated with a strong background in the NGO sector but still there had been a fear that things would escalate at one moment. However, it was completely different.

Sport Unites Us - Participants from Kosovo, Serbia and Netherlands have a nice message after the football match Albania - Serbia is cancelled

Sport Unites Us – Participants from Kosovo, Serbia and Netherlands have a nice message after the football match Albania – Serbia is cancelled

The duration of the exchange in Belgrade had been too short. Therefore, another exchange was just perfect to bring people closer and to make friends for a lifetime. Nobody paid too much attention to politics even though we mentioned several things related to the Kosovo-Serbia conflict during the workshops. Each participant had created a workshop with his group members and the last one was about Kosovo-Serbia conflict. I personally was part of that group and we put a lot of effort in creating the presentation. We tried to be informative and to intrigue participants to start a discussion among themselves. The duration of the workshop with its debate exceeded the time limit for more than an hour. The debate wasn’t like the discussions of our politicians you could’ve seen on TV. It was more in a friendly manner with good arguments and understanding of other people’s thoughts and emotions. It was really a unique experience to see and to be involved in such discussion. If only our politicians could’ve seen us. They would have learned a valuable lesson.

During the exchange in the Netherlands we watched the football match between Albania and Serbia together. Or at least the first half of the match. Forty three minutes, to be precise, before the match was interrupted. The situation between our people had been tense before the game but we didn’t expect that it would be interrupted. After the interruption the match was cancelled and we were pretty much bored with that fact. Sports should unite people, not divide them and that is the message we sent to our Facebook friends right after the game was finished. We took a photo of us with two flags we drew on a flipchart and posted it. It was so funny making that photo but still we wanted to show that friendship between our people is possible. Afterwards, we went in a pub together, played darts, laughing and not thinking about the match.

All in all, the Our Future Europe programme exceeded my expectations. It was an intensive programme with lot of workshops and lectures, very productive but still interesting for all participants. The workshops were interactive, the knowledge I gained was priceless, but my biggest impressions are the people who were involved in the project and (as you could’ve guessed reading this article) the relation with participants from Kosovo. It is something unique and quite uncommon for our people. It is something that others can, and should, look up to and to see that prejudice is nothing more than a word. We all have become great friends and, in my opinion, that is the main purpose of the programme. I really hope the NGOs who organized Our Future Europe will make a gathering for all participants from the Netherlands, Kosovo and Serbia, so we can sit again altogether, have a chat and revive memories from the programme.