Commemoration, forgiveness and manifest for the future: Time Travel event in Kragujevac, Serbia

Two years partnership between Kalmar County museum and Serbia civil society organizations Fund B92 and C31 – Centre for Developing Children’s Rights Culture continues in 2014, with the same focus: to exchange experiences and develop innovative pedagogical approach in the human rights education based on the use of history and the Time Travel method.

As a part of this cooperation at the beginning of 2014, C31 and Kalmar museum started to work on development of the Time Travel event connected to the educational program “Museum of the Past for the Future” in the city of Kragujevac. It is a long term pedagogical initiative based on the use of the local history of WWII as a starting point for dialogue with young people about human rights, causes and mechanisms of discrimination in history and contemporary society. It focuses on the particular event that happened on October 21st 1941 when German soldiers executed several thousand civilians of different ages and backgrounds as retaliation – for one killed German solder 100 civilians were executed and for a wounded 50 of them. The educational program is implemented as a part of the school curriculum in partnership with 16 local schools, Museum 21st October and the Ministry of Education.

The idea of cooperation between Kalmar County Museum and C31 was to create a Time Travel event that will gather representatives of all schools who participated in the educational program, as some kind of final ceremony that will enable them to engage holistically, emotionally and intellectually and to reflect upon the process of learning.

In consultation with young people we decided to create a concept of commemoration of 21st October massacre in 1941 in a quite different way then of a traditional one. We wanted to focus not just on the past and rememberance as it could lead to victimisation, but also on human state and necessity of forgiveness. And above all to emphasize our potentials to contribute to the better society based on mutual respect and solidarity.

The Time Travel event was organized at the Memorial Park on 21st of March 2014, gathering 80 students and 20 teachers from 16 schools. The whole event was prepared together with young people and it was rich with different forms of expression and symbols which had a deeper meaning for students. It involved poems about “Kragujevac October tragedy” and importance of forgiveness, sounds of music of pipe and hitting stones, scenography (5 canvases in shape of flowers hold by students). Students also wrote their manifests to express dedication to values such as equality, freedom, respect, humanity. They were telling their manifests as a final part of the ceremony and let pidgins fly to “send their message”. After the event all participants gathered for reflection.

In the evaluation of the process and the final event students expressed very positive impressions emphasising that the program was inspirational, encouraging, meaningful and educational. Many of Commemoration, forgiveness and manifest for the future Time Travel event in Kragujevac, Serbia them stated that it helped them to gain deeper understanding of the past and its value for today:

“Now I understand the importance of the past but also the importance to overcome it and forgive”,
“We should learn about the past, remember, but also to learn from it and use it as inspiration to make a better society”

Students stated that the program helped them to connect with their peers by sharing the same values and ideals and that it enabled them to reflect on discrimination nowadays and how they can contribute in building equality and solidarity in the society. And maybe the most important in Serbian context they expressed hope for the future.

“I am now motivated to act against discrimination”, “I feel more self-esteem to react”, “I know we can do something to contribute to the better future”. It is encouraging to know that together we can do something.”

Masa Avamovic, Centre for Developing Children’s Rights Culture