Inside a border free bunker

Sunday 15 May 2016

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Before my arrival in Doboj I did not know a lot about Bosnia and Herzegovina and everything I knew was from television during the conflicts in 90s. In addition, I did not know about the existence of Republika Srpska in Bosnia and Herzegovina where Doboj is located.

I was quite confused about the Balkan history when I moved in Doboj, and I tried to be more open minded, so I asked local people and heard their stories to have a bigger picture of the situation.

I listened to the “contradictions” to understand better the environment. I call them “contradictions” because it can happen that people who got involved in extreme situations like war they refuse to agree with the historical facts by focusing more on their own personal experience, their victim  status or often reporting something different comparing with books or article I found. I understood that point. It was not easy for me be a simple listener especially when I heard stories about the civil war happened between 1990 and 1995, because war brought a big change in every family of the town. I admit that during these episodes I felt uncomfortable.

I got a really warm welcome from the locals and I felt a connection with them from the very beginning. I liked the town, in particular the medieval fortress and the view from the river Bosna. At first, I noticed many traces of war like bullet holes, damaged roof or minefield sighs; after two months, I started ignoring such aesthetic presence considering it some sort of decorative pattern. I enjoyed the kaphana, pubs, and the traditional music, and because I am vegan, krompiruša (pie with potatoes) and ticvica (zucchini) made my day several times.

I worked six months in the Youth Center as EVS volunteer in cooperation with Carpe Diem organization that gave me the chance to implement my initiatives. The Youth Center is situated in a Bunker who has been damaged by the flood in 2014 and recovered with the economical support of the Norwegian Embassy.

During my EVS, I organized many events to promote human rights, peace and cultural exchanges. The contrast between the place (bunker) and the topics we dealt have been quite interesting. Sometimes it has not been really easy to cooperate with the local organization, e.g. when I organized an event to support LGBT rights ( It turned out that it was the first time local people get to know this topic, and I have to confess that besides stereotypes and prejudices, I had to face insults and threats.

Living in the Balkans it has been important to me because I wanted to get to know more on the European migrant crisis, especially through the Balkan route. I have always been interested in this topic, and I felt powerless so many times. In addition, I left my hometown, Palermo, where many people were arrived after being rescued at the Sicily Channel therefore I needed to clarify to myself this complex topic. I tried to change my point of view and I focused on myself as a stranger in a foreign country, I was the migrant.

The explanation has come at first as a doubt. I wondered if privileges are the consequence of absence of privileges for someone else. I thought about Europe, and I thought again about the word “contradictions”.

My experience in Doboj ended the first of March, and what I have learned is that I didn’t choose to born as Italian but I got some privileges in any case, and I can be a migrant, if I want. I have more opportunities, freedom, and I can choose to move to a European country that suits me more according to my interests or job opportunities. I thought about all those people that don’t have the same freedom as I do, the one escaping from violence, the ones how died on the way to Europe piled up inside trucks through the Balkan route or among the waves of hope in the Mediterranean sea. That’s what I really learned.

The European Voluntary Service thought me that Freedom cannot be a privilege but a right that has to be extend to everyone without conditions, from now on.

I am outside the bunker now.

Emanuele Cusimano

EVS volunteer within the Erasmus+ project “Many Opportunities Real Equality”



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