Anti-fascism Day 2015

The leaves are falling, the wind is blowing, and the squirrels are gathering their last acorns before winter, but Svitac is having none of this! It’s been two months since the end of our summer shenanigans, but we’ve kept up the energy, running a serious series of workshops for Anti-Fascism Day, and (on the fun side), throwing the most amazing Halloween gala this side of Belgrade! Well, for the children at least.

Outdoor Painting

I think it only fair to start by welcoming two people who have made these two projects all the more wonderful with their presence: our new volunteers! Arriving in October, Sarah and Georgia, from the UK, have brought fresh faces, smiles, ideas, and energy to the outrageous, ambitious, and optimistic organisation out here. To say that they have had a “baptism of fire” might be a bit too harsh, but in three weeks they have seen and taken part in two large scale events. While sadly only here for the winter, we wish them the warmest of welcomes, thank them for their remarkably significant contributions, and now turn our gaze to the starry skies of the future, where we look forward to everything they can bring.

Our October featured a full schedule, mostly in preparation for our annual Halloween party. The team at the centre worked hard to create an atmosphere that truly fit the theme, including a haunted house photo booth. They were assisted throughout by the regular attendees of the workshops. The children worked, if anything, even harder, making decorations, and even a “Scary Soundtrack.” The evening featured everything a Halloween party needs; apple bobbing, trick or treating, and a Mystery Box! The evening was topped off with a petrifying performance from two of our volunteers, Anne (from Germany), and Stefan (one of our local volunteers), and a feast of freaky foodstuffs. With more than a hundred children attending, the night can only be seen as a great success. The only sadness is that we have to wait another whole year before we can recreate it.

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The week immediately after Halloween was followed by a week of activities dedicated to UNITED’s Day Against Fascism and Anti-Semitism, which falls on November 9th every year. A solemn occasion, it required tact, care, and consideration to do the serious themes involved justice, while also keeping the activities fun and engaging for the young children. The day marks the yearly anniversary of “Kristallnacht”, The Night of Broken Glass, which is considered by many to be the first state sponsored persecution of Jews by the Nazi regime in 1938. As such, a major part of the proceedings was to educate the participants of our workshops on what happened on this day, and the years that followed, across Europe. However, it is also important that we raise awareness of modern issues, and that opposing Fascism is not just the rejection of historical ideas, but an active part of community engagement.

For the older members of the centre, this process centred on a debate, and dramatic performance. The performance was based on a play, written by Wolfgang Borschett, and was coordinated by our volunteer Anne Bonitz. The play follows the descent of a population into fascism, its comprehension, and finally its resistance (“say no!”). With sparse dialogue, it was the perfect for the cross cultural communication we emphasise, and where there was dialogue, it was presented in three languages (the Local Language, German, and English). The debate first focussed on the play, before moving on to the subjects of fascism itself, and (perhaps more importantly), its presence in the modern world, and more difficult and abstract concepts, such as how to define it, and how best to counter it. In general, the response appeared to be integration, communication, and consideration were far better tools to use against fascism, than ostracising and excluding those with such leanings.

Such abstract thoughts were perhaps a bit advanced for our younger participants, but an education was still important. Short talks, and Q&A sessions occurred throughout the week, detailing the history of fascism, why we oppose it, and how they can help. The children created a banner detailing the slogan “This Love Fights Fascism”, and symbol of love became the centre of an anti-fascism display in the centre, and almost all of the work, the painting, the craft, and even the construction of the display, was done by the children, and not the adults where possible. For our very young participants (aged under seven), a slightly lighter tone was taken. After being told a short story, emphasising love and acceptance, they made mini flags that mimicked the banner made by the older group. They also created their own version of the slogan, which read “This Love Fights Hate.” We in Svitac have really appreciated being involved in UNITED’s events this year, and hope they appreciate our effort as well. To everyone there, we say thank you, and we look forward to hearing from you again next year.

With so much happening, we can assure you that we won’t be quiet for long! With new workshops, new activities, and a new event to plan and prepare, you will hear from us all very soon. I suppose all there is left to say is, “vidimo se uskoro!

With love

Everyone here in Brčko

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