Elena is 18 years old and comes from Osijek, Croatia. She likes to share love and doesn’t like to fight. We talked to her in the summer, during an international youth exchange with the title ‘Find Yourself’, at the village of Zapotok in Slovenia.
An object with a story
This is the first camera in my family. My grandfather bought it when my dad was born in 1972 and the first photos of my dad were taken with it. My grandfather was a peacemaker, killed in 1991 just before the war in Croatia. He was killed by people who didn’t agree with him, who didn’t want peace. My dad inherited the camera after that. When I was born, my dad bought another camera, which I still have and use. It all started with my grandfather and I’m proud I have someone in my family who started this hobby; I hope I can continue the tradition with my children.
The family legacy of peace
My grandma always says that she sees my grandfather in me, because peace is a concept that’s very important to me, I’m also a peacemaker of a sort. I also end up worse off because of that, and he did too. My grandma tells me I need to be more careful, but I’m proud I’m like that. I’m proud that my family’s legacy is all about peace and love and sharing that with other people. I never met my grandfather, but he is my role model because he sacrificed his life for making the world a better place. Although he didn’t succeed, he tried, and that’s very important. Because of all that I want to choose a profession in life in which I’ll be able to help other people.
The exchange: A community of youth, accepting one another
Here, you feel support, love and happiness. This is my second year at the exchange and I love how we all become a family in this time. We’re aware that we are different, but we also know that we’re the same, in a way. I really hope to return next year and I think this is an amazing experience, which teenagers should have in their life. We created a kind of safe space here, where we can talk about our problems. We mostly discover that other people have or have had a similar one, so they share their ways of dealing with them. We also like giving compliments – they are a small thing, but they can mean a lot to someone who’s shy.
The importance of multiculturality
The exchange put us in a very multicultural environment with people of different ethnicities. I like that because it’s so different to what I’m used to. You don’t come across such a palette of differences between people where I live in Croatia. Social media and media in general spreads negative prejudice about certain groups of people or certain nationalities, and so the readers or viewers believe it’s true for everyone in that group. There’s good and bad people in the world and in every nationality, you can’t put all the people of one nationality in one basket.
Slovene Philanthropy organises youth exchanges with the purpose of offering the youth an experience of intercultural cooperation, sensitizing them to differences and encouraging them to become agents of an open and solidary society.
Zavod Movit, the Slovenian National Agency of Erasmus+ programme, has recognised meaning in the project; the European Commission supported the project with funds, which enabled the quality in the programme and free participation for youth.