Dear dreamers, dear future volunteers, dear you,
Here is a letter for me to share the experience I had the chance to live this year through the European Solidarity Corps. If you hesitate, if you are lost or if you lack confidence, here are words for you that might help.
I had to pass through multiple steps in my life before being able to go to Zagreb with ESC. Every step helped me to gain something that got me taken to Amazonas. This year in Zagreb has been the most fulfilling year, the year that made me grow the most, personally and skills wise. Through this article, I want to describe this year, what it brought to me, what I learnt, the lessons of life, the memories, the good moments as the bad that I had to overcome in order to make this year a success in the sense that I achieved projects that mattered a lot to me, and that taught me a lot.
I want to celebrate a lot of things.
First of all, I want to celebrate the people I met. When I arrived in Croatia, I didn’t expect to be welcomed that much into Croatian’s life. They accepted me so fast and I felt directly like jumping into the culture, culture that I adopted. The generosity, the help without counting, the philosophy of life, the security. Like the famous expression “Pomalo” says, Croatian people have this spirit to take it easy, to not stress, to relax. This word exactly describes the Dalmatian lifestyle, which is to slow down, relax and experience the world! But that doesn’t mean they are not hardworking, that just means they know how to live and enjoy life! And this is really a good lesson. All of this made my stay easier. Jumping into a new culture, living surrounded by people with a different point of view, different past and different habits is not something easy. But I would have been able to stay forever there.
I want to celebrate emotions.
If there is something that I learnt here it’s how to deal with emotions and how important it is. And I want to thank my roommates for that. They always supported me on every mental breakdown I had. And god knows how hard it was sometimes to go through challenges that I had to face. But they always gave me a certain strength to overcome everything. Being surrounded by people that give you love and carry you in every moment is precious. I have a tendency to be lonely and always figure everything out alone. But I realized through this experience that sometimes, if you don’t have people around you to talk to, to express yourself and share your emotions with, you just sink.
I want to celebrate Capoeira.
I had the chance to discover it through my volunteering. Capoeira is, also, a tool for people with autism or behaviour troubles. It helps them in social interaction and communication skills and a lot more. But I think it’s actually a powerful sport for everyone, both physically and mentally. Physically in the sense of it allowed me to do sport. To get more flexible, but also to be more comfortable with my body. I learn how to listen to it, to my needs and to my limits. It also helped me in handling other bodies. In the sense that I was more aware about the space around me and how to play with it and deal with the unexpected.
Regarding the mental part, playing Capoeira made me more aware about my mental health, and helped me to channel my emotions and let off steam. It gave me so much energy, and taught me transmission, sensitivity and control. Because it’s not an individual sport, it’s a real exchange with the one you play with, spiritual and energy-giving. And you become part of a community. This feeling of belonging somewhere is precious. It gives me a lot of confidence and knowledge and a certain vision of life. And it finally made me relaxed. God knows how tense I am, and it made me give up on my shield. It also decreased my social anxiety, because when we do roda, it’s a public performance that gives more confidence also regarding the look of the others. Anyway, this sport has been a revelation and I’m planning to keep doing it in France.
I want to celebrate the music that followed me through this year.
Music is therapy for me. And through the challenges I had to face and the taught moment that brought me down and made me wanna give up on everything, I had music and particularly Dino Petrić. Yes I know, again him? Always. When I want to give up, I cling on something to survive, to go through, to overcome, and if he wasn’t here, I don’t think I would have made it. He was my air bubble, my support without even knowing it, my exit door. Just the fact of going there and forgetting everything was like a drug but allowed me to achieve everything I wanted to.
When people are in their worst shape they fall into drugs, into alcoholism, into depression. I fell into a voice, a feeling, music. So, I want to celebrate Music that followed me all this year, through my activities, through my projects, and through my personal life, for helping me to accomplish the projects I wanted so much to come true. Dino Petrić has a big big heart and it’s certainly why he touched me so much. He has this energy when he is on the stage that can bring you anywhere. And this link with his public. He gave me the motivation and the strength to go all the way.
And it’s the same for Dominik, a talented singer and pianist that is part of the band. He is the one that followed me directly, without hesitation, when I presented him with this idea of a charity concert. And this is the kind of people we need today in our world. Altruistic people that don’t hesitate to help and jump into a project just because they believe in it and they want to support the cause.
Meeting them also allowed me to be part of Croatian culture: discovering local bars, Croatian ways to party and enjoy the evening. And I liked it so much, because at every concert, the crowd knew the songs, were singing and happy. I could see stars in their eyes. And in mine too because I have always been a fan of 80’s music, and the band were always playing old Croatian songs. So, now I have a whole playlist of Croatian songs in my pocket that I listen to all the time. So in the end, it also increased my level of Croatian because I used to translate every song. Thank you also to the amazing musician Luka who always gave me hope and supported me when I was doubting. These are ones of Croatian artists and people that I will always have in my heart.
I want to celebrate the charity concert we organized, this amazing evening.
I couldn’t dream about a better last night in Zagreb than what we had. It was so perfect that I still feel empty from it today. Still, it was so much work, doubts, obstacles, and fights for it. But that’s the lesson I want everyone to remember. When you believe in something, fight, make everything for it to happen, because it is worth it so much! Not only the feeling of satisfaction and pride, but also to see all those smiles and feel like you did something useful, and helped people, even a little, this is priceless. I just can’t believe how successful it was. For me personally, for us as roommates and friends, for my short movie and all the people that worked on it, but finally and mostly for the NGO, Solidarna Foundation that we created this event for.
I want to celebrate hope and solidarity.
Helping refugees, particularly refugees from Ukraine has been one of the projects I wanted to achieve here. Why does the topic of refugees touch me so much? I have been reflecting on this question, and I think I have some answers. First of all, when I was in Greece I was volunteering for a NGO that helped them. I saw the conditions they were living in, inside the camps. I saw how much they are being disrespected and not considered as human. And this unfairness made me crazy and made me want to act, do something, on my scale. And since I saw that in real life, children and adults and women are being stuck in a jail. It’s actually worse than a jail that we know. It’s a camp where there is horrible houses in plastic where people crowd and wait years to get out of there. And the only reason is that they wanted to save their life, fleeing from war or bad conditions in their countries.
Anyway, I have been thinking on this topic and I think I know the feeling and how hard it is to not feel at home. To feel like you are in a stranger’s place. That you don’t belong anywhere. This has been the feeling I had my whole childhood. The need to run away. Refugees have to leave their home to find a new one. And this is really difficult when you are not welcome to be anywhere. I know my situation has nothing to do with those brave people, women, men, or children. But I felt a bit of what they are feeling. And certainly that’s also why this cause is really important to me. It is unfair to have to leave everything behind, without knowing if you will not only find a new home, but even survive. They are handled like they mean nothing. But they mean so much, because they are humans like us and they deserve to live a decent life and have the same opportunities as us.
Thanks to this charity concert, we managed to raise more than 2000 HRK, and we also gave visibility to the band, the bar and Solidarna foundation. It’s not my role to judge, but for me it’s a success and I am really proud about how it went. I also had the opportunity to do the premiere of my short movie. I had the opportunity to present it in front of a lot of people. This was really exciting. It allowed me to make a speech, talk about it and the topics that it broached. Speaking in public is stressful but an exercise that I like. Mostly because I like to share, express myself and receive the response of the public; even more when it’s a cause close to my heart.
I want to celebrate movies and art in general.
Art allowed me to express my feelings, sometimes feelings that were very deep to find them again and almost forgotten, but that suddenly went out so fast… I don’t think anyone can understand how much we had to face and how much this project devastated us. This short-movie we made within my workshop and with these amazing people that committed so much and never gave up even through all the obstacles, emotionally but also materially. These topics, of bullying and the war, came to us like an obviousness, what was happening in Ukraine inspired us, but also our own life.
We discovered later that a lot of us had to go through bullying in our life. That’s also why I didn’t want to give up on this project. This short movie was a therapy for us and allowed us, notably through the writing part of dialogues and plot, to express ourselves, exchange on this topic and bond. I am really proud of the result and also proud of everybody that worked on it, the team, because I met amazing people. The fact of the interculturality: the fact that we wrote the movie half in Croatian and half in English allowed me to learn Croatian and understand more some expressions and ways of thinking. This has been the hardest project of my life, but if I would have to do it again, I would do the same because I have been watered with lessons, knowledge, skills and a lot more.
ESC is an opportunity
To conclude, ESC is an opportunity to express your creativity, use the freedom you have to implement, try, fail, sink, go back up, experience, and learn, succeed, be proud. I want to point out how important and satisfying it is to never give up and never forget what your main goal is when you enter a new experience.
It’s also an opportunity to meet other volunteers that are looking for themselves as much as you, and you will live a year of sharing and traveling with them.
If I wouldn’t have this experience and the ones before, I wouldn’t be able to live, to live this year of incredible encounters and all the memories I made. But also wouldn’t be able to open doors: or to destroy doors that separated me from my dream job.
And now thanks to Zagreb and Amazonas, I can peacefully go to Paris and make my projects come true.
So, don’t give up!
Don’t give up, go for it. It is not an easy road but it is worth every inch of it. Fight for what you love.
Korak po korak, možemo postići sve.
Take your time, trust the process. Step by step you will reach what you want and what you need.
With all my love,