Yesterday, celebrating the World Refugee Day, the Festival of Tolerance in association with Croatian Television and the Karlovac City Museum, under the auspices and in association with UNHCR Croatia, showed a video installation under the title Us. by director and producer Jure Pavlović in Dubovac Old Town in Karlovac.
The essential proposition of the installation stems from the fact that the issue of refugees in today’s globalised world concerns us all – finally, all of ‘us’ can experience the same problem. Our not-so-distant past testifies to that, therefore we should treat refugees they same way we treat ourselves. The idea is to connect the current moment in Croatia and the world with the long tradition of exile in Croatia through intimate experiences of a number of persons who were refugees at a certain point of their lives. From World War II to the Croatian War of Independence, almost every generation in Croatia carries very living memories related to exile.
“Those acting from exclusive positions, from the positions of intolerance, always try to portray the problem as ‘none of their business’, as something happening to ‘others’, neglecting the basic principles of humanity leaning on the world where all the people are equal, where people are brothers – even in need. The video installation Us. is trying to evoke these collective traumas from our own past and connect them with the present moment and the issues of refugees today – the aim is to raise awareness that this is something that can happen to us all. I hope the screening in Karlovac opened people’s eyes in that respect,” said Jure Pavlović, the exhibition’s director and producer.
“Conflicts and persecution forced over 80 million people around the world to flee their homes. On World Refugee Day we celebrate and pay tribute to their strength and courage. Through stories of four extraordinary people who shared their refugee experiences with us, yesterday in Karlovac we joined millions of people across the world expressing their support to refugees. Working together we can create a stronger, safer and more vibrant world. Together we can do anything,” said Mrs. Anna Rich, the UNHCR representative to Croatia.
“Since 2012, the Festival of Tolerance and its programmes have been focusing on the issue of refugees, as well as their integration into new communities. The refugee crisis resulted in enormous migration surges towards Europe. Apart from institutional support, this vulnerable population needs respect, acceptance, empathy and attention from the local community. With our involvement, the Festival of Tolerance and our partners are implementing programmes aiming to stimulate respect and compassion in the local community,” said Nataša Popović, the director of the Festival of Tolerance.
“Today is World Refugee Day and we’re not here by accident; Dubovac has always been a meeting point of different routes and even today when you climb the Defence Tower you can see three current states and two former empires. Here in the area we encountered refugees on a regular basis, they crossed the area in the past, we ourselves fled the area and this territory in the past embraced refugees. This issue is not unfamiliar to us, it is only a matter of how much we raised awareness about it in our everyday considerations and in life,” said the managing director of the Karlovac City Museum Hrvojka Božić in her welcome speech.
“The importance of this day is demonstrated by today’s situation. We should all think about what we can do personally for the people who left their countries, who hail from different cultures and who find it hard if we don’t accept them and don’t help them integrate into our society. I believe we will all wonder and try to find in ourselves the little tolerance and strength to help them, so that we could grow too, so that we could make progress as individuals and as a society. I am happy that this screening takes place here, in Dubovac Old Town and I invite you come again next year,” said Ivana Fočić, deputy mayor of Karlovac in her address.
The directorial concept is based on a testimony of several people who represent refugees from different periods of history. The first story evokes the experience of life in exile during World War II at a camp in El Shatt in Egypt. This testimony is important because in today’s world most refugees arrive from the Middle East and are Arabic by origin. It is good to be reminded that refugee surges used to take opposite routes. The second story evokes the refugee experiences from the Croatian War of Independence. The third and fourth story evokes experiences of travelling to Croatia: these stories come from people who experienced exile, but now live in Croatia and are integrated well into the society they now belong and actively contribute to.