Written by Suhida Dermani
Albania, September 2016.

Every time I think about the Balkan countries, I recall in my mind my old neighbors, with whome I used to live for so many years. We shared almost the same geographic space, we listened to the same traditional music, we shared sometimes dhe same problems with the other neighbors. With one of them I never had any conversation in 20 years and I never knew why.

Growing up I understood that even my mother and father never talked to him, so I decided one day to ask my mother, why ? She answered me that they never talk to him, because some years ago he had some conflicts with our grandfather and we were not allowed to talked to him. But, why ? What really happened ? She didn’t knew, she only knew that they had a conflict and than no one from the family talked to him anymore, without knowing the reason.

Last year I had my first training course in the Balkans and some of my friends “ adviced me” to take care as I was traveling alone and to speak in Italian because it could be dangerous for me to say that I am Albanian, especially if I will meet anyone from Serbia. For me, it was the strangest advice I could ever get. As I arrived in Ljubljana I met some girls from Crnomelj, which were traveling with me in the same bus and when I said I am Albanian, they were very courios to know more about our country and I felt good and in the same time released. In Crnomelj I met all the other participants, mostly from the Balkans and a special couple, Stefan and Jelinca, from Serbia. Talking with them, spending my whole day with them, remembered me every day of my neighbor in Shkodra. Why I never talked to him as I was talking with my friends from Serbia? I understood that we had such things in common, that we shared the same ideas about youth and especially about reconciliation in the Balkans. Yes, I can say that I have a special place in my heart for my special friends since those days and when I get any message from them, they always light my day. But then, I continue thinking on how we, the youth, have let all the old conflicts and all the prejudices devide us and why we are not moving to do something about this ?

In my opinion and experience, only us, the people of the Balkans and especially the youth, have the power to change the past and to give a sense of our “ home “. We are literally neighbors, we share the same geographic space, we have almost the same song, culture, even in the way we express ourselfes we are so similar. In my experience with the youth exchanges and training courses in the Balkans and Europe, I understood that these are good practices to reunite us and we must work very hard on this. Every time I have to travel abroad, I always wish to meet different and new people, but in my heart I knew that something, somehow will always joint me with youth from the Balkans, it is maybe because I really feel that we are one big family, meeting for the first time, but each one of us, somehow knows the other.