Symbols of the lost past

The concept of culture of memory can be defined as a set of mechanisms and processes by which society transmits and shapes events from the past, as well as keeping them from oblivion, and in this way creates a foundation on the basis of which the present is interpreted and the future is created.

As history taught us, the greatest loss of the past was felt most by the dominant male elites who saw themselves at the peak of progress and for this reason insisted the most on restoring and preserving the past. Workers, ethnic minorities, youth and women gained access to national memories even more slowly than they were admitted to national representative and educational institutions. Women and minorities often serve as symbols of the “lost” past, nostalgically understood and romantically constructed, but their real lives are easily forgotten.

Through the “Symbols of the Lost Past” project, we are creating a space to hear the voices of women who participated in the war as soldiers, women victims of wartime sexual violence, women who raised their voices against the war and children born of war, in order to transmit culture of memory and prevent oblivion, as well as to encourage young people to learn, remember and think critically.

The goal of the project “Symbols of the lost past” is to build a different culture of memory that, based on personal experiences and stories, will convey the voice of women and children, with the aim that their lives are not forgotten, and that on the basis of this, young people learn, remember and think critically in order to prevent forgetting the role of women in war and post-war events.

The target groups covered by this project are:

  • female soldiers;
  • women victims of war-time sexual violence;
  • women who raised their voices against the war;
  • children born as a result of war-time sexual violence.

Project activities were divided into; a three-day training in which the participants were given the opportunity to learn about communication, violence and understanding conflicts, identity and diversity, dealing with the past and building peace, a two-day “Living Library” method that is used when working on on the topic of dealing with the past, but also on peace building. By using the “Living Library” method, speakers are given the opportunity to create a different culture of memory, in order to bring their personal stories closer to young people, their experiences, where they get their motivation from, how the environment reacts to their work, the challenges they face, and the messages and the lessons they gathered along the way. The final activity of the project is the initiation of a civic action, i.e. a street action honoring and memorializing peace, which was organized by the participants and which opened a dialogue about existing models of memorialization, by pointing out that it represents honoring the victims regardless of their origin, and enables the creation of space for constructive change towards an inclusive, non-nationalist, peace-oriented culture of memory.

10 female students of Faculty of  Humanities and Social Sciences from the University of Sarajevo and the University of East Sarajevo participated in the project.