The Association Adopt Srebrenica receives the 2015 Alexander Langer Prize Motivations
Adopt Srebrenica is the name of a group of young people from Srebrenica of different nationalities, who, starting in 2005 and boosted by the Alexander Langer Foundation, gradually established the Ngo founded, alongside other women of Tuzla, by Irfanka Pašagič, a psychiatrist from Srebrenica, who received the prize that year for the assistance given form the start of the war in Bosnia to women and children victims of violence.
Compared to the physiognomy of the previous prize winners, Adopt Srebrenica has a story unto itself. A lot of the prize winners acted under the thrust of an emergency – natural catastrophes, civil wars, health emergencies that erupted in various parts of the world. They shared the spirit of Alex and were identified thanks to this affinity, but they did not know much about the Foundation.
Adopt Srebrenica on the other hand was born “at home”, in the heart of The Foundation, it is a child of Alex’s experience, and it chose to face the endemic crisis of a city where the reconstruction of the social and economic web is still distant. Many people still experience a mix of anger, suspicion and resignation. To contribute in alleviating this crisis, Adopt works on various levels and with two objectives. The first is to talk about Srebrenica. While it is true that its name often recurs as an expendable symbol in the “never again” speeches, while it is true that the European Parliament has declared the 11th of July as the “Day of Remembrance of the Genocide”, after the commemorations, the city often falls back into isolation and an unique marginalization, even in a country like Bosnia, which Europe has flooded with money and then abandoned to itself.
The second objective is to operate with Srebrenica, a field of turmoil and pain, which one is afraid just to skim, but which needs to be explored, if one hopes to build a bridge between bitterly contrasting memories. In wisdom and good fortune, the choice of Adopt was not “naïve”, or the fruit of an irresistible impulse to “do something”. It is a meditated step, in which the decisive factor was the firmness with which from the onset, the promoters presented themselves as the embryo of a mixed group, the area which Alex, in his “A Tentative Decalogue for the Art of Inter-Ethnic Togetherness”, defined “the most advanced field of experimentation”. The link with the Langer Foundation and with Irfanka are decisive, as she shared her knowledge of the place with the activists and facilitated the first contact with the city.
Ten years later, the situation is promising. Adopt has created a documentation centre to collect all kinds of materials, stories and images, books, audios, videos, and has solicited the oral narrations of the people present in the written and visual sources. So that one knows what daily life in Srebrenica was like before the war, and so that a link can be established with history and the territory. In order to sustain the relations with the diaspora, it has organized language classes and launched a free skype service for the residents of Srebrenica and their faraway parents and friends. To operate with Srebrenica has meant making the effort of replacing the “never again” ritual with a micrologic knowledge and the documented unmasking of the mechanisms that poisoned the lives of people.
Since 2007, Adopt organizes every summer the International Week of Remembrance, with workshops, theater, conferences, projections, concerts, all open both to the local population as to the direct participants. Following this experience, the students of the Masters on Peace Operators and International Mediators, carried out by the Bolzano Professional Training Course and the University of Bologna, have chosen Srebrenica and Bosnia Herzegovina as their case study.
During the Weeks of Remembrance, to talk of Srebrenica and to operate with Srebrenica become one and the same, in a plethora of activities: from the promotion of study trips to know Bosnia Herzegovina, to the partnerships launched with public administrations, schools, volunteer organizations local and international research centres; from the participation in the Ceremony of remembrance and burial of the victims, to the implication of other cities in Bosnia-Herzegovina, Serbia and Croatia, also thanks to the close cooperation with Tuzlanska Amica. Today, Adopt is fully entitled to be a candidate as a local and international interlocutor of the web of groups and associations who work for “interethnic” togetherness.
Adopt is a presence founded not on economic promotion, which has seen the birth of a chain of precious small interethnic companies, but on an action of weaving, adjustment, increase of relations, on the practice of listening, on the search of a language that can prepare a peaceful future. It is a political presence, in the original sense of “politics”, that is the care of a common home. It is also a difficult and tiresome achievement, that is never guaranteed once and for all.
As one of the protagonists explains, Adopt has been (and is) in fact more of a process than a project, a slow, delicate and deep process (as is the lentius, suavius, profondius, coined by Alex), which has never allowed itself be conditioned by outside pressures in the name of efficiency or visibility – miserable criteria in the face of the tragic seriousness of the task at hand. Because dealing with memory, documentation, dissemination, cannot but bring with it the bereavement of the past and the sufferings of the present, which are both interwoven with the knots of identity. And there is nothing more insidious than this burden-resource-prison in a society which is still not reconciled, where the so-called “ethnic factor” has segmented a population, who earlier was only identified by its different religious faiths. Today, this factor marks the lives and overlaps the internal conflicts of each community, of that among genders, generations, and individual and collective identity.
The young people, privileged interlocutors of Adopt, are the ones most exposed to the requests of attachment to the memories in competition – real and invented traditions, family narrations, interpretations of peer groups – as they express the desire of fresh air and the fear of being seen as traitors of their own folk. Open by tradition to different narrations, Adopt itself is not immune to internal tensions, misunderstandings, and the alternation of participants, typical of situations like this one – a mixed group which is too idyllic, is probably a group that is colonized by one of the parties involved.
The current good state of heath of Adopt is certainly a consequence of the awareness that in order to be a bridge between conflicting realities, one needs many things – courage, intellectual honesty, a bit of that talent called “social craft”, which is made of respect of others and a mastery of the unexpected, which allows to welcome the asperities without letting them become destructive. But even before that, one needs to recall the most obvious, farsighted and often neglected condition: a bridge is such if it reaches both banks. To identify with only one side is a fatal disequilibrium, as is the illusion that the bridge still exists, when it has in fact collapsed. We all know about Ngos around the world that have improvidently taken sides with whom they think are the weakest, we all know Ngos that have not understood the difference between a war and the massacre of helpless people.
Adopt has been able to avoid these drifts. “I think we are a strong and united group”, a young man said during the meeting which gave birth to the formal constitution of Adopt Srebrenica. And a young woman added: “we are the ones who must take on the responsibility”. “We” of the group, with the hope that it can become “we of Srebrenica”; “we of Bosnia”.
The President of the Scientific Comittee: Fabio Levi
The President of the Foundation: Edi Rabini
9.000 € of the 10.000 € which come with the Prize are offered by the Fondazione Cassa di Risparmio-Südtiroler Sparkasse of Bolzano/Bozen
The Scientific and Guarantee Committee of the Foundation is made up of:
Fabio Levi (Presidente), Bettina Foa (Coordinatrice), Anna Bravo (Relatrice), Anna Maria Gentili, Andrea Lollini, Christoph Baker, Grazia Barbiero, Francesco Palermo, Gianni Tamino, Karin Abram, Mao Valpiana, Margit Pieber, Maria Bacchi, Marianella Sclavi, Marijana Grandits, Massimo Luciani, Paolo Bergamaschi, Pinuccia Montanari, Roberto De Bernardis.