Winter Peace in Brezovica – part 2

After a week of informative and inspiring lectures, workshops and discussions, our group was ready to put what we had learned into practice.

But before that, we had a „break“ day, when we went altogether for an very interesting and inspiring excursion. We went first to visit an orthodox monastery, Visoki Dečani. Meeting the monks, visiting the church and listening to the story of all they went through during centuries was impressing and a very strong experience.

After that, we went to Prizren, a very beautiful city were we could discover another face of Kosovo. After simply walking along the river and enjoying the place, we visited the mosque and had a great talk with the Imam, who welcomed us warmly, introduced us to the place and its history, and who had beautiful and inspiring speach about peace and tolerance between religions.

The day ended at the fortress, watching the amazing view on the city, the mountains, and the sunset. Definitely a strong moment of this Youth Exchange, when we all felt connected and shared precious time.

Once back to Brezovica, it was time to put our words and talks from the last few days into action! Our idea was to spread awareness and knowledge about climate change and climate justice. We wanted to create something meaningful, something that would make an impression on people and make them reconsider their behavior and habits.

We came up with two action plans. The first one came as an idea after part of our group went to the ski center in Brezovica. They told us how ridiculously polluted the ski slopes were and how people were absolutely uninterested in the state of their own surroundings. We wanted to bring the absurdity of the situation to the attention of the people. Our plan was to gather the garbage, make statues of it and simply talk to people. We also designed banners and flags, useful tools for putting the emphasis on what we want.

Upon arriving, we found out that the trash had been gathered and dumped at the entrance. This was a temporary setback, but it also meant we could focus on talking to people about climate change. We set up our banners, our dedicated team of snowboarders and skiers went down the slope a few times, carrying banners and wearing white painting overalls, to attract attention. Meanwhile the rest of us were doing our best to attract people’s attention and make them curious. After the initial shock of people wearing overalls and waving flags around had subsided, we were approached by all kinds of individuals. Naturally, some of them waved us off the moment we mentioned the word climate, but others took genuine interest in our campaign. One particular fellow was even convinced we were from National Geographic, because we “knew so much”.

In the end, we did what we went there for – we talked to people, we shared our views and explained our mission. After hitchhiking home, we started preparing the action in Prizren. After rehearsing our march and synchronising our little routine, we were ready to take the stage in the city- the public square. The plan was to separate in two teams, march to the center drinking fountain and start reading stories of climate change victims. Every person of our group had a different story. It worked like a charm. Even during the marching bit, we had already gathered an audience. Once we started reading, people approached us and we explained what we’re doing and what our mission is. It was quite the experience. After a while, we ceased action and went to dinner, exhilarated and surprised how much interest people had shown.

Besides the flashmob we also organized an exhibition in Prizren in a pub near by the square. For the installation we used the same stories and pictures that show the reality of the so called “climate change witnesses”. We decided to use the open space of the bar, where Gipsy Groove were performing. They supported our campaign and putted our banner “Wake up before the nightmare comes!” on the stage behind them.

It was quite interesting and intense day for all of us. Unfortunately “Winter Peace in Brezovica”, first part of the project “Mountains connecting people” is over, but we did a great job and we are all looking forward to the next part of it in the beginning of the summer in the eco village of Vlahi in Bulgaria.

Hristo, Elitza, Amelie

Youth Exchange Winter Peace in Brezovica

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

Create a climate for peace

Service Civil International (SCI) is a  worldwide movement dedicated to promoting a culture of peace by organising international voluntary projects for people of all ages and backgrounds. Velebit Association Kuterevo is a partner of SCI in Croatia.

This year, SCI is running a climate justice campaign: Create a climate for peace. The biggest challenge of today´s world is climate change: a growing threat to peace, non-violence and human rights.  Our fossil-fuel based economy and culture of consumerism is contributing significantly to this process. Communities around the globe are already facing the consequences of climate change: draughts and famine driven by changing natural conditions cause escalation of existing conflicts (for example in Syria, Somalia), destabilisation of governments and disruption of social cohesion in countries that are already struggling with other challenges. It is expected that we will witness 200 million climate refugees leaving their homes by 2040. SCI, as worldwide, can have a impact in different areas, such as mitigation (reducing the footprint), disaster relief and in building resilience of impacts of climate change.

As part of the campaign, we hosted in Kuterevo in February a preparation meeting for Nonviolence needs nature project. This year, we will organised different activities part of this campaign, like join the Week of Action this week (see program below) and adjust all our workcamps to the goals of the campaign: sustainable activities, challenging educational part and contribution to climate justice.

Scientific reports

One focus of the latest report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is the impact on Earth’s ecosystems. The report says that in recent decades, many plant and animal species have moved their range, changed numbers or shifted their seasonal activities as a result of warmer temperatures. Hunters in Croatia has already witnessed “spring advancement” earlier breeding by bears, which is supposed to happen in May or later. Researchers are finding that changes in a region’s climate are affecting hibernation behaviors around the world. The three main triggers that activate hibernation behaviors in an animal include changes in air temperature, food availability, and day length (also called photoperiod).

For example, in Spain, scientists have found in recent years that a European brown bear species that inhabits the Cantabrian Mountains no longer hibernate during the winter months. Mother bears (sows) and their cubs have remained active due to warmer conditions and the ability to find abundant food resources year-round.

In general, the reports says that the world faces threat to food supply, conflicts over water rights and growing inequality. The only option to is cut emissions and to adapt to the unfamiliar changes of climate.

Week of Action

This week, from 7th till 13th of April, we will be organizing in Kuterevo different activities related to climate justice and sustainable living.

Every evening at 8pm we will be screening documentaries in the volunteers’ station. Don’t hesitate to join us! For more info, contact us.

Monday: THE ISLAND PRESIDENT
Tuesday: THE AGE OF STUPID
Wednesday: ANIMA MUNDI
Thursday: ESTABLISHING A FOOD FOREST
Friday: THE KINGDOM OF COAL
Saturday: POWER OF COMMUNITY: HOW CUBA SURVIVED PICK OIL
Sunday: CLIMATE REFUGEES

Besides, we will:

  • built a new composting toilets for visitors of the Bear Refuge and empty our toilet in the Volunteers’ Station 🙂
  • start up a food forest with combination of forest and domestic fruit trees
  • sow and plant in our gardens

As usual, we will be eating local products, lots of bear garlic 🙂 reusing ‘expired’ food, taking less shower, saving energy and exchange seeds and groceries with neighbours.

Helena