The remote, isolated village of Brezovica, Kosovo has been our home for five days now, although it seems like time is trapped in a kind of vortex here. It feels as if months have passed since our adventure began. Surrounded by the vast, continuous chain of the Sharmountains, 27 of us, coming from Croatia, Serbia, Russia (Republic of Mari El), Kosovo and Bulgaria, have gathered to talk about climate change and the possibilities of salvaging, what is left of our planet, from the scary consequences that we’ve all contributed to. „Winter peace in Brezovica“ is a part of a larger project called „Mountains connecting people“. And they have connected us in ways we couldn’t imagine. This youth exchange is about nature, culture, climate and discovering ways to live sustainably and make our home a better place for us and the generations to come. We still hope that total devastation of our existence can be avoided and today we are here to exchange information and inspiration and to become The Change. We have disconnected from our usual life and lifestyle, opened up our minds and erased the borders of our countries. Differences don’t matter anymore. We are all interested in one goal. To act before acting becomes impossible. „Too little, too late“ is not an option for us, which is why we are here.
It was really hard for us to sum up all the activities from the past few days after the beginning of the project. As every youth exchange „Winter peace in Brezovica“ also started with group dynamic and team building. But besides the „ice- breaking“ games, the culture night, the adventures on field and all the fun we had, we also did a lot to get more familiar with the central topics „Climate Change” and “Climate Justice“. Of course most of us were already somehow involved with different initiatives connected to environmental problems, climate issues, ecology, etc. But only a few of us have actually enough information and the knowledge that they really can make a change. After all this is the main purpose of this youth exchange – that at the end all of us will leave something valuable behind us.
We jumped to the main topic with presentations about the current situation in every participating country. We also had two guest lecturers. The director of National park Shar Mountain which is managing protected area in Serbian enclave, Violeta Stamenković, explained us more about the national park, its problems and the future opportunities. It was very interesting for us not only because it was connected to our „Climate change“ talks, but also because we already had enough time to explore the „wild side“ of Shar mountain on our own. The whole group is inlove with this beautiful place and that’s why we are even more concerned about what is happening.
The second guest lecturer was Rinora Gojani from the INDEP, think thank NGO, which is member of Kosovo Civil Society Consortium for Sustainable Development (KOSID). Her presentation about the energy policies in Kosovo was really impressing. She showed us that every single person can start the change, even when it seems like it is impossible.
Besides those sessions, which gave us more information about our own realities we also had an open space, where some of the participants presented topics like Veganism, RE- design and UN Climate talks and skills like juggling, photography, step dance and knitting.
One of our first tasks was to explore local community, their habits and their way of life. We were divided in groups of five and „unleashed“ on the inhabitants of Brezovica and the nearby town of Štrpce. The purpose of this activity was not only to learn about the place where we will be living for ten days, but also to get in touch with the people of the area. Every group had a questionnaire prepared and we just asked people we met on the street if they have time and want to share a bit of their lives with us. Almost everybody we approached was very friendly and tried to answer on each question. Also, we told them, why we are here, where we are from and what our motivation is, so it happened that these „interviews“ turned into interesting talks for everybody.
We tried to ask people from every social background, gender and age to get an overview of the general opinion of the whole community. We had a lot of fun, reaching Štrpce, exchanging info and enjoying the day with local people.
Since we are people from several different countries with different cultures and traditions, we decided to have an evening for exchange. On Sunday, the 15th of March, each group prepared a table with local, home-made, vegetarian and vegan food, drinks and typical items.
This evening, called „Agro Exchange“, was an opportunity for everybody to learn and experience interesting things about the other participants around us and their origins. The focus of our gathering is on climate change and its impacts, so the majority of the presented products were local and home-made. We enjoyed a long-lasting evening as a big connected group, and although the differences were placed across the room, we felt connected even more.
Along with other group activities, this evening helped us to overcome the „artificial borders“ of the nation-states and truly feel like inhabitants of the planet Earth, that we all share and need to preserve for future generations.
Elitza, Lea, Lukas and Stefan