European Voluntary Service

This is Pekarna's blog for EVS volunteers. Pekarna is a sending and hosting/receiving organisation for EVS volunteers and their volunteers (send and hosted ones) will keep you up to date about their work.

Evropska prostovoljska služba

Pekarna Magdalenske mreže Maribor te vabi, da se tudi ti pridružiš množici prostovljcev/-k Evropske prostovoljne službe (EVS) in odpotuješ v organizacijo po svoji izbiri v drugo državo EU. Smo pošiljajoča in gostiteljska organizacija EVS, ki mladim od 17. in do 30. leta za obdobje največ enega leta uredi vse podrobnosti za brezskrbno in povsem brezplačno delovanje v tujini.
Evropska prostovoljna služba je del programa ERASMUS + Mladi v akciji.

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Thursday, 28 April 2016

Slovenia and the refugees

One of the things I was interested in here was the attitude Slovenians have towards the refugees.
As far as I understand, Slovenia does not host a large number of refugees. They usually transit the country to get to places where they hope to have chances of a decent life, such as the wealthier Germany, Austria or the Northern countries of Scandinavia.
Back in March, Slovenia closed its borders for the refugees who want to transit the country. It will only keep its doors open to people who want to ask for asylum in the country, or refugees "on humanitarian grounds and in accordance with the rules of the Schengen zone".
Slovenia has a high unemployment rate (around 12.9%), so it only makes sense that the refugees will not have as many chances to be properly integrated economically speaking. But what about otherwise? Are Slovenes open to welcome and embrace hordes of people fleeing war and economic hardship?
Not surprisingly, the matter is split. I cannot speak for the whole population of course, I cannot do that even for my country, let alone for one that I’ve inhabited for a bit over two months. But from what I understand and seen around, there is a lot of conservativism and skepticism (to say the least) around the subject. People are afraid of the unknown, and I say that to be mild, and justify an act that I personally consider cruel, profoundly selfish and ignorant – to embrace your privilege and turn your face away from the people in need.
Fortunately I’ve seen around me lots of people that are willing to fight against ignorance and intolerance, and are actively taking measures to change mentalities and to welcome the refugees.
Last month there was a protest in Ljubljana, in front of a building hosting a number of refugees. People gathered with hateful slander sending the refugees home with their speech and banners. Fortunately though, the welcoming group was larger, and counteracted.
In Maribor I have participated to 3 activities revolving around the spreading of a tolerant speech, together with my organization and a number of other ones. And more similar actions will follow.

The first one was a sort of performance/flash mob – on a sunny weekend day, when people would sip their coffees in one of the central squares, individuals of a group of over 10 people stood up, took the microphone and spoke their mind about intolerance and tolerance, welcoming and understanding. I and two other people would then go and share colored balloons, which spread quickly throughout the square, as toddlers would come and ask for their share. I would have loved to understand the words of the speeches, but they were in Slovene so the only thing I could do is ask here and there. But people stopped and listened, some of them at least, and they applauded quite a few of times.

Then there was the Day of Change (Dan za spremembe), a day of volunteering, this year revolving around the theme of respect, namely solidarity with the refugees. A number of organizations and volunteers met, created banners with all sorts of related messages and then marched around the center. A cooking workshop was also organized, and migrants from different countries, among which Syria, Somalia and Iran have taught participants how to cook their local dishes. At the end everyone ate, and the food was truly amazing! Me and Michal have interviewed people involved in making this day happen, and a short film will released soon. :)

The third event I’ve participated to, this time only as audience, was a presentation and open discussion with the Syrian journalist and activist Adib Abdulmajid, who spoke at the Epeka gallery about the Syrian conflict and the matters around it. He was brilliant, from the amount of information that he shared, to the way he was keeping his speech lively, always keeping in mind the fact that the information was dense, largely unknown and a bit difficult to swallow. He was also encouraging the dialog and questions, and kept his cool throughout a number of speeches of a person who didn’t seem to realize or care that she was monopolizing, and through the questions of a young guy who wanted to send refugees home, since quite a bit of them, he thought, are not just fleeing war, but looking for a better life. I was furious listening to his questions, but Mr. Abdulmajid was very calm and tolerant, trying to answer them as good as he could, even referring to him using ‘my friend’. It was a very informative and hart-warming evening for me. Even if I was angry quite a bit of times throughout.

So yes, all in all perceptions seem to be somewhat similar to the ones in my country – there is hate and there is love, and everything in between. But I’m lucky to be surrounded by people who care about changing that for the better.

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