Feeling at home in the Balkans

Autor: Chiara Silvestri

Zdravo! I am Chiara Silvestri and I am 28 years old. I am currently volunteering in Serbia for the Italian Peace Civil Corps, but at the same time I am coordinating (for free!) a project I set up in Italy about raising awareness on sexism, sexualisation in mass media, gender-based violence and gender equality. Though I was born in Perugia (Italy), I am very proud of my Slovak roots by my mother’s side. I believe that my mixed roots helped me to be open-minded and always curious about other cultures and traditions. I consider myself as a citizen of the world. Therefore, I feel that all the countries I had the chance to visit are part of me, but two are my favourite ones: Slovakia and Albania. How come? After my Master’s degree in School and Community Psychology, I decided to apply for an Erasmus + Traineeship and I spent 3 months in an educative community in Senec (Slovakia), organising activities for youth and giving English lessons. During that experience I could feel the safety and warmth tipical for “home”. I experienced the same when I volunteered for one year in Tirana (Albania) with the Italian Civil Service, organising and managing workshops and activities about women’s empowerment, gender equality, integration of refugees, female sexualisation in the mass media. Learning the Albanian language, the culture and history, getting used to the chaotic atmosphere, tasting a new cuisine: everything fascinated me and I felt “in the right place at the right moment”. I began to get more information about the Balkans…and I fell in love with this area. That’s the reason I applied for the project of the Italian Peace Civil Corps in Serbia, and I hope that at the end of this year I can call Serbia “my third home”. Regarding this first period spent in Serbia, I could say that my impression is surprisingly positive. I couldn’t imagine to adapt so easily in this Balkan country, but the locals welcomed us in such a warm manner, that I can confirm the saying which states that the guest in the Balkans must be hosted as a V.I.P. The first city I visited was Belgrade – young and active as only a capital can (and should) be. I simply loved the tons of cultural events that this city offers and the cosmopolitan atmosphere. But I have to say that volunteering in Užice is overcoming my expectations as well: the town is small but cozy, the people are curios about the foreigners here, and they are always willing to help. I love the mountains sorrounding the town, and when it was snowing… well, I was in heaven! So far, the activities I enjoyed the most to carry out were: the team-building in Vračevšnica, presenting the Italian Civil Corps and the Erasmus Plus opportunities to the students of the College of Applied Science in Užice and visiting the Women’s Centre in Užice, where I was speaking in Slovak, English and Serbian at the same time . I am looking forward to get to know more the Serbian culture and costumes (I hope I can participate in some Slava!), and to contribute by sharing my knowledge and skills in the experience with FOSDI and RRA in Užice.
Prijatno! Chiara Silvestri

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