Getting to Know EUSTORY Alumni: Milena From Serbia
Milena’s European Couch in Belgrade
During every EUSTORY youth encounter, young people from Europe and beyond come together, engage in history, exchange ideas, share their creativity and become EUSTORIANS. Let us introduce some of them and begin with Milena from Serbia. She participated in her first EUSTORY event in 2004 and has been actively involved ever since. Now she is part of the Editors’ Group of the EUSTORY History Campus Blog and helps coordinating the group. We asked her about her personal EUSTORY story.
Name: Milena, born in 1987
Lives in: Belgrade, Serbia
First EUSTORY activity: 2004 in Berlin
Milena, you are a true expert when it comes to EUSTORY activities… How did it all start?
I entered the EUSTORY universe 15 years ago in 2004. As a participant of the Serbian History Competition, I had the chance to take part in a EUSTORY history workshop in Berlin. It was the first time that I left Serbia, my first time flying with a plane and the first time that I met people from outside my home country. These first times in a way marked the starting point for a new era in my biography: Since then, encounters with other young Europeans have become an essential and formative part of my life. I am almost addicted to the feeling of being part of something that exceeds my national, cultural and personal boundaries.
Thinking back to your first EUSTORY experience, is there a special memory that comes to your mind?
I remember that in a workshop we were talking about prejudices and stereotypes. Some of the other participants only associated murder and war with Serbia, whichshocked and hurt me. Of course, I had wrong and way too simple ideas about other nationalities as well. It was crazy to share these thoughts so openly, looking into each other’s eyes and getting an idea of your associations having nothing to do with the person sitting in front of you. But I realised that prejudices are constantly reproduced by our own surrounding and spread over generations, and it is only by meeting people from other countries that they can be eliminated.
Does this awareness affect you in your everyday life?
I work for an international logistics company in Belgrade, where I interact with people from all over Europe. Thereby, adopting to and empathising with other mentalities is extremely important and quite easy for me. I would surely not be that relaxed while speaking to a German, an Italian or Irish colleague if I didn’t have these experiences with other Europeans during the past years. There, I learnt to be open towards foreigners and I significantly improved my English skills. In the end, both helped me to get the job in the company I currently work at and to be good and self-confident in it.
What about the people you get to know during events like the EUSTORY Summit – do you stay in touch with them?
To some I do, of course! This year I met a Greek friend in Thessaloniki, we got to know each other during a history project in 2015 and it was crazy to meet again after four years. Peers from Slovenia, Finland, Germany and Poland already visited me in Belgrade and slept on my “European couch”.
What is a “European couch”?
It actually is a quite old and ugly sofa in my apartment, but it means a lot to me because it stores unforgettable memories of funny nights and long conversations. European politicians might meet in Brussels, Paris or elsewhere, but Europe’s young generation can also come together in a living-room in Belgrade.
Fun Fact: Milena had her first kiss at a EUSTORY Youth Academy
The interview was conducted by Melina Heinze.