Sit in the train and Go where you have never been earlier. (EV ENSLER)
I sat, on the chair in the plan, and travelled to Sweden. Then I took Ferryboat and travelled to Gotland, to Visby and, finally, to Nus. And then I returned to my home. With piece of everything in my pocket. And in my heart.
At the exit of Stockholm Arlanda airport, among those who were waiting for just landed passengers, was the taxi driver who picked me up. He has just arrived right from Iraq, no matter that his arrival in Sweden took place a year before than mine - it can be said that things happen before they actually happen. A taxi driver is lucky, he has an older brother. Excuse me, how do you like here? Very good, the taxi driver said. Is there something you don't like? Coldness annoys me. Me too, I thought (up). There were 14 digress in display on the mirror. During my stay at Gotland, the temperature all the time will be between 16 and 18 degrees.
The hotel is in the center of the city; through the open window I was listening to quiet music. It was 8 in the evening; the night was 3 hours far (it came on 11 pm). I went out and met rare pedestrians passing through, and mixed groups of young people sitting on the stairs. Stores were closed. Although it was the third time I visited Stockholm, it showed to me a face I liked more than during the previous visits - beautiful, peaceful, harmonious and solid, the face of the city inspires confidence. Going along the bridge from the center to the old town (Gamla Stan), on June 30 of 2014, I came to the place where I got feeling of unity of everything surrounded me. The world was as brilliant brooch on the lapel of the universe. One by one layer is peeled off of my soul until there was only love and compassion in it. Even for my own country (which usually scares me and makes feel angry, in the same time, and very often). At that moment, I was ready to forgive my country because I had an impression that it is also doing its best. And I felt gratitude. When I say my country, I do not think exactly on Serbia as a state or Krusevac as city where I was born. It is something more, something about ground that allows me to walk on it, take from it the good and the bad. It is something about the trees and their brunches through which I'm still searching for shapes on the sky and it is about the rivers, the cold and green tin or fat lines, including the one "drown" a hundred meters far from my house, which is accidentally (or intentionally) named Rasina.
Half an hour after midnight, in local (and in Serbian time), I went to bed. At 3:30 I was already on my feet, taking a shower, packing my bag and met, at 4.30, Stina Rönnlund, who took me to the central bus station and helped me to get on a bus for a place Nynashamn, where I took the Ferryboat to the island of Gotland. 2006, when I traveled to Sweden for the first time, I was expecting, for some inexplicable reason, that the nature in Sweden would be very different from the place which I came from. However, the rocks, trees, houses surprised me; they were the same as ones in mine country ... The size of Ferry is impressing. Loading people worked quickly and without anxiety. It took Ferry three hours to get Visby, the only urban place in the island, the former Viking settlement, which UNESKO declared world heritage in 1995 (http://sh.wikipedia.org/wiki/Visby). Gotland is one of the most visited tourist destinations in Sweden. It is the part of the same called province and the largest Swedish island despite that it makes only 1% of the Swedish territory. Except Gotland, the mentioned province covers the island of Faro (with the dots above the vowels) made famous by Ingmar Bergman who lived there, as well as unpeopled island, Gotska Sandon, declared Swedish national garden, in North, and the two small islands, Lila & Stora, in West. Entering word Visby in Google, photographs of ships anchored in the harbor and walls (13th century), which surround the city like a ring (Ringmuren) appear.
The sea, of course, is the Baltic. It is also known as Eastern and Western Sea, and it is one of the seas with the lowest salinity in the world, from 6 to 8 %. The warm Gulf Stream does not reach Baltic Sea so it freezes on winter and up to 45% of the area is covered by ice (http://hr.wikipedia.org/wiki/Balti% C4% 8Dko). In a seminar many years ago (it is another reminiscence in this writing), we were tasked to tell what we want to be if we were not what we are, and I immediately thought (up) of the sea... Aegean and Adriatic as the closest ones geographically were in my mind but now I know that I can be the Baltic Sea, too, glassy, gray-blue and cold. When I got off the Ferryboat, Charlotte waited for me and told me the Almedalen story. Almedalen was former Finnish port on Gotland, so called park in Visby, but Charlotte talked about political Almedalen, a weekend that brings together representatives of the governement, political parties, non-governmental organizations, and in recent years, more and more, the companies - they all see it as an opportunity to promote attitudes and programs, work and products. Almedalen traditionally happens in early July and then the population of Visby (officially it is about 23,000 people) increases almost for 20 percent. To be in the Almedalen means to meet politicians, party leaders, ministers and (the) ability to communicate with them, to obtain information, exchange the opinions. This year, Almedalen is particularly rich with events, the programe consists of even 3300 public discussions, roundtables, panels, because there will be elections in Sweden, parliamentary, municipal and district ones, in September. By the way, since 2010, a coalition of center-right parties has being on power in Sweden. There are, in the Parliament, also Social Democrats and the Green Party as well as the rightists, The Sweden Democrats, which had crossed the threshold for the first time then (the research shows that they will remain in parliament after the elections in September of 2014). Sweden has 349 deputies elected on a proportional voting system. About 44% of seats are held by women, and women are heads of 13 out of totally 24 ministries: of Information, Technology and Energy, Justice, Relations with the European Union, Trade and Nordic co-operation for international cooperation and development, Gender equality and education, Economy, Employment, Culture and sport, Defense, Child care, Care for elder people, Infrastructure and of Environment.
Stockholm, Baltic Sea and Visby
The first panel, which I took part in on July the 1st, from 16:30 to 17:30, along with Lena Ag, KTK (http://kvinnatillkvinna.se/en/) and Annika Hamrud from EXPO Foundation, (founded to study and map anti-democratic, right-wing extremist groups and racist tendencies in society, www.expo.se), was about the topic of growing nationalism and its impact on women's rights. The moderator, Sarah Duarte, EXPO, announced the panel saying that there is pervasive and apparent mobilization of nationalists including neo Nazis, and "this year", she said, "they spread their ideas even in Almedalen". Then, she addressed Lena to present the results of the joint research of KTK and EXPO "Patriotism and patriarchy - New study of the impact of nationalism on women's rights" (Http://kvinnatillkvinna.se/en/files/qbank/0cb82dbdcda47e2ad7b7aaf69573906e.pdf) of the authors, Annika Hamrud and Christina Wassholm. Lena said that the idea for the research came from Almedalen, last year, when she noticed how The Sweden Democrats are becoming "mainstream" political party. The "normalization" of the radicals and nationalists was shocking and very disturbing. Based on many years of experience of working with women's groups in the Balkans, KTK knows what kind of pain, suffers and casualties are the consequences of the nationalism. The Sweden Democrats often cite the example of the former Yugoslavia as proof that multicultural and multiethnic model of the society does not work and may result in conflict. It's actually the opposite, Lena said, it is nationalism that led to the war there. Nationalism creates a climate in which the neighbor fears neighbor, which develops homophobia, ethnic discrimination and attacks women's rights.
Annika talked about the characteristics of nationalism in the European Union countries: The Netherlands, Hungary, France, Austria and Sweden, and said that whatever form of the nationalism is, whether it is, for example, the pure fascism embodied in the Jobbik Party in Hungary or extreme right-wingers with strong anti-Muslim attitudes, such as the Freedom Party in The Netherlands, nationalism is always seeking to have enemy - someone to blame for everything that is not good. It is clear that nationalism is directly opposed to feminism. Fascists, right wingers usually "complain" that society has become too feminized, (careful, softer approach to the problems ...) and that society must return to the male principle, or fast action rather than talk and a long search for a solution.
For Lena, nationalists without reservation, share animosity towards feminism. Although the nationalists cannot directly influence the work of the European Parliament or the events in Europe, they certainly contribute to creating a political climate that limits the economic rights of women, by reducing availability of jobs and by imposing a false dilemma for women whether to work or take care of the family. Nationalism affects reproductive rights wanting to limit them ... and always focuses on the children, not women's rights. It looks on family on stereotyped way as exclusively heterosexual union of man and woman. When it comes to violence against women, the nationalists in the developed countries insist that it happens to others (immigrants) "not to us" (which is not true off course). Annika said that French nationalists promote birth and larger number of children but only French ones; nation as collective is in the forefront, not individual. The main battle of nationalists in the Netherlands is that one against Muslims. They succeeded in portraying Muslims as the enemy of all: women, LGBT people, and every kind of human freedom. It is an example how nationalism is able to be adjusted to the context although right-wingers in The Netherlands do not have any program on women, gays and Trans people.... Admittedly, Annika noticed, they have policies against Muslim women - proposed payment of a fine for wearing the veil. Nationalist politics always affect women and, most of all, immigrants; they are not "ours".
What can be done, what should be the strategy of feminists and activists? Lena believes that we need to thoroughly analyze all forms and manifestations of nationalism, the context, causes and consequences. 26 million of unemployed is now in Europe, there is an economic crisis, and a social support system is broken. But there it is not only problem. We must, therefore, mobilize, Lena said, we need knowledge what exactly we are dealing with and what nationalists strategies are and how to fight them. Normalization of nationalism has to stop. Annika added that for her, nationalism is always associated with fascism, from the early twenties of the last century. Fascists / nationalists are changing form, vocabulary, clothes... "re-packing" themselves but their ideas are always the same. The Sweden Democrats, for example, in fact, have the same program as in 1998. Annika believes that it is important for women to be (in) solidary, to support each other, linking and networking at all the levels, including international.
Before the start of the panel, I asked my colleagues, especially Sarah as moderator, to speak slowly to me, because my English is not good enough. When I said that aloud, a young woman in the front row of the audience raised her hand: I'm from the former Yugoslavia, I can help you. (Later I saw that she was there with her friend, also from the former Yugoslavia). I said that nationalism in the Balkans threatens women's rights very much, mentioned the new law in Macedonia, which limits the right to an abortion, referendum and amendment of the Constitution in Croatia on marriage as a union of man and woman, the conflict between the entities and the lack of feeling of security in Bosnia and Herzegovina, the political climate and atmosphere, and the concentration of power in the hands of a small number of men in Serbia... Emphasized that the focus in the political parties programs is on a nation, territory, economy ... while equality and women's rights are in the bottom, if they are mentioned at all. Retold the story of the "black list" of undesirable persons (prominent activists of human rights, journalists, artists...), made by right-wingers in Serbia in 2013.
Upon completion of the round table, I approached girls who offered help and support to me and found out that they were born in Bosnia and Herzegovina; one was 9 years old when the family emigrated. Both are the students and human rights activists. When they visit Bosnia, they feel frustrated and sad when they see how strong nationalism there still exists and how people are afraid of each other and hostile to all differences. They admire defenders of women's rights in the Balkans because of the very difficult conditions in which they work and they consider them very brave.
In the evening, Charlotte took me to a party of Feminist Initiative. In the meantime, Emma Janke in whose house I spent my second night on Gotland had joined us. Feminist Initiative (http://gamla.feministisktinitiativ.se/engelska.php) is the party founded by Gudrun Schyman and this year, for the first time, got a representative in the European Parliament. It's Soraia Post, Roma. The party was going on among the ruins of the church from 12th (maybe 13th century). Name of the party was written in pink letters on a large panel, and clusters of pink balloons and tapes hung from the walls and trees. Pink was the scarf I had around my neck and I was glad for that coincidence. I both a canvas bag with a sign of Feminist Initiative for 150 kronor (about 17 euros). When we get off the party, Charlotte and Emma showed me the way to the apartment where I spent my first night in Gotland.
It is a flat of the member of Kvinna till Kvinna Board. Charlotte had already, during the morning, introduced me to the owner, who I am grateful for the key, a separate room and bathroom. However, when Charlotte and Emma left me alone in the street after the party, I hesitated to go to the flat, being nervous because of absence of TV in the room, though the computer was on the table, but I did not dare to ask for using it. Walking a lot, finally, through one of the gateways of the fortress, I stepped into the heaven. I do not believe in it, or in hell, but how else to call the field, the grass and trees where I am allowed to be the guest. I walked slowly and quietly, because any faster movement, higher gasp, would undermine the harmony in front of me and inside of me. In the end, coming to the coast, I run into two concerts, one, I would say, Arabic music probably prepared by a group of immigrants (rights), and other, where a dozen of women in colorful clothes, played also some interesting music. To the delight of the gathered, the performance ended with hands up and chanting: No borders, no nations, and no more deportations.
Finally, after many failures, I managed, with the help of passers-by, to find the street where my apartment is located, and found myself in front of the locked door. I was standing there for half an hour until Julia, phoned by Charlotte, who is called by Emma, who I phoned to when Charlotte did not answer my call, unlocked it. The problem was in the two locks, top and bottom, and I was not able to adjust locking the above to the bottom one. Each time I pushed the door I felt like I had to move a parked truck. At the same time, I was afraid not to wake my host. Certainly it is not polite to come after midnight, when you sleep over at someone's house. Didn't you get the key, I comforted myself, just so that you could come back when you want. Doorbell. Nobody, nothing. The tough that maybe even my host had not come yet made me happy, but it could not unlock the door too. Then Charlotte called and said: Julia arrives! Actually, Julia had already arrived 9 years earlier, from Belarus with magic in her hands and purple socks on her legs – to save the world from the locked door and to become one of (my) Superheroines.
On Wednesday morning, Charlotte and I (perhaps it will be good maybe to name this report like that), attended the panel on, let's say, gender equality in the Scandinavian way, which was spoken in English, because of the guest from Iceland. Unfortunately, I did not write down the names of any of the three women who spoke in panel and, even now at the time of preparation of this paper I cannot find them (see the photo, please). The fourth person who took part in the very interesting discussion was Vidar, who I have already met in November, during a study tour to Sweden, who came to KTK office and spoke about the organization of Men for Gender Equality, founded to fight against stereotypes and gender role models by promoting a caring fatherhood and shared child-rearing. He was wearing T- shirt with illustration of man who dressed the baby, underlined with title "man job". Moderator asked a guest from Iceland for saying the first association about the words gender equality and Sweden. Envy, she answered, laughing and explaining that Iceland, despite a high level of respect for women's rights, has much to do to reach the Swedish level of the equality, whatever that means. It means, one of other two women panelists said, that in Sweden there is a „win-win" situation, or "we all win" situation. Swedish women have acquired all the Swedish men had already had, since long ago, and at the same time the Swedish men did not lose anything. The question is then, where is the space for the real change? Does the society really change (itself)? The panelist thinks that the answer is negative because there is no resistance or challenges in Swedish society, and when they don't exist one has to be worried (about), because something must be wrong, something is not working properly. Gender mainstreaming as the model of promoting equality has brought many benefits to Sweden, but, as every model it has limitations and may now be exhausted and it may be time for new models. In particular, the question is how this model can be exported and how much it works in different circumstances and societies.
Charlotte and Emma had obligations and left me to think of another panel which I should participate tomorrow, from 9 to 10; the topic is women's participation in peacebuilding. Again, I was on the coast, on the bench trying to make a concept until my two friends return and we went together to meet with Lena Ag and Louise Olsson, Folke Bernadotte Academy (Swedish Agency for peace, security and development, http://www.folkebernadotteacademy.se/en/). Lena noticed that sometimes she did not understand why women's rights activists in Serbia and in the Balkans avoid participating in political life, and are not looking for allies. They should not cooperate close with the authorities if they do not want to, but it would be very good to have contacts with other participants in the political life and find a way to be the part of the social scene, whatever it looks like, because it is only way to change it. To my impression, Louise thinks similar mentioning that recently, in Serbia, she saw a play "Men", and it is, according to her, one of the good ways to break stereotypes.
Late in the afternoon, I said good bye to Visby and moved with Emma in Nus, deep in the interior of the island. During driving, landscape was waving on us with high treetops. One of the street signs pointed the way towards the island of Faro but Faro, Bergman and the beaches I will see during the next visit to Gotland, believing, that this sentence written in paper, can help to make next visit happen. The house in which Emma spends the summer is deep in the yard, painted, like most others on Gotland in Sweden, in a dark red color. Emma introduced me to her daughters, partner and friends with two children. At the table in the courtyard, where the delicious dinner was served, we talked about the situation in Sweden and Serbia, in Europe and Russia, and Ukraine. Emma's family and friends were, same as Emma, well-read and curious; it was exciting to talk with them. Emma's daughters played soccer ball very well - both are trained in real football club. After dinner, Emma and I were leaving for a walk through the fields. It is possible to walk here for hours, she said. Indeed, the way we walked took forever and all around the meadow was intersected by similar paths. We came back just in time to drink freshly made coffee and eat strawberries with cream, before sleepy, I plunged into the light Swedish night grateful for the hospitality and attention, and especially for Emma's patience, suggestions and recommendations during a joint "passing" through panel's agenda.
Discussion that involved Lena, Louise and me, was moderated by Peter Walensteen, from the Department of peace research and conflict resolution at the University of Uppsala. Everything was better than I thought, I managed to articulate what I meant, the atmosphere was relaxed and sort of friendly. I said it's logical that women should participate in peace processes and decision-making on war and peace, they make half of the population and it is, not needed any other, sufficient reason. Women have different life experiences, different personal history than men. We (I mean both women and men) form interests and priorities based on our experience and if we don't participate in making the decisions, then our interests and priorities remain unrealized, unrecognized and unappreciated. Lena supported my words; I thanked her for that, talking about women of the Balkans and the fact that the issue of war and peace is in men hands. As a positive example she mentioned Kosovo, in which women have important positions in the negotiating delegations. Louise said that it is important to first define what peace is. On the one hand, it is an absence of something, conflict, war... but we can define it by the actions on its construction. Would the situation in the former Yugoslavia be different if more women were involved in the negotiations and making decision process? – Peter asked. Everyone agreed that it is impossible to know, and not necessarily true. Greater participation of women in the political life does not necessarily mean peace or cessation of the conflict, if it exists, but it is important because women have their own interests and priorities. Women have developed their own negotiating styles often different from the way in which men negotiate. No society should deprive itself of resources and experiences of women when it comes to such important issues such as war and peace. Peter asked what women in conflict and post-conflict areas need, or how developed countries could help peace activists. I answered that we in Serbia (and probably in other Balkans countries) need recognition (that we have done a lot and still do very important things), appreciation (of what we achieved in difficult circumstances), and confidence (that we know how, when and with whom), money (to implement programs and activities), new knowledge... inspiration, energy, solidarity and support. Before, together with Charlotte, I left a panel for boarding the ferry, I thanked again for the privilege to be a part of Almedalen and paid tribute to the way in which KTK supports women's groups in Serbia, systematically and continuously working on increasing their knowledge, skills, motivating, encouraging and stimulating them to work together, connecting and networking, sharing knowledge and experience...
Charlotte's smiling face greeted me when I arrived in Gotland and say good bye when I left it three days later, thankful for her commitment and care. I reached Belgrade airport wearing a piece of I have never been earlier place, in my pocket. And, in my heart.
Sit... and Go...