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OneMinutesJr workshop in Kosovo - Day 1

© UNICEF / Chris Schuepp / 2010
Nerdjivan (11) writing and presenting her story idea.

April 26, 2010 - Monday morning, 9 AM - Mitrovica, Kosovo. Fourteen children aged 11 to 17 have gathered in the workshop room in a hotel just outside of Mitrovica in Kosovo. They are all here upon invitation from UNICEF to tell their stories and produce short video documentaries about their lives as part of the OneMinutesJr project.

Except for two of the participants who are ethnic Albanians, all participants are Roma. Many of them speak German, because they were born and grew up in Germany. However, they and their families were forced to return to Kosovo recently or a few years ago.

The languages of the workshop are English, German, Albanian, Serbian and Romani - pretty much a mix of everything. Together with three facilitators from the Dokufest / Dokukids Film Festival, we take turns in translating and talking with the children. The workshop starts with introductions and the viewing of OneMinutesJr videos. A general compilation starts the day, then we switch to DVDs from Roma workshop we did several years ago in Romania and Bulgaria, because we know that the children will be able to relate much better to these videos.

The UNICEF National Committee for Germany sparked this workshop together with the UNICEF country office in Kosovo. The forced return of whole families of Roma from Germany to Kosovo is becoming a big issue right now on both sides and there will soon be a study launch in Germany that focuses on the topic. Therefore, getting together with the children themselves and asking them for their personal opinions and experiences seemed to be the best way of describing the issue at first hand.

© UNICEF / Chris Schuepp / 2010
Suada (15): "I get called names all the time here. In Germany I was just who I am, a girl called Suada."

In the afternoon, it is time for one-on-one interviews with the children on their story ideas. Mewruz, a 12-year-old Roma boy born in Emsdetten in the northwest of Germany, is one of the first. He tells us about the day that changed his life five years ago when the German authorities gave him and his family just a few minutes to pack their bags and get ready to be flown out of the country. Today, they still live in a camp in Mitrovica and are still waiting to settle in a decent house somewhere outside the camp. His brother Sultan (13) confirms the stories and adds: "It's very difficult here for us. Still after five years, we are called "the Germans" and people are envious because we used to live in Germany. But we are Roma like them and we don't feel much different from them, but still we are not accepted here. We are like foreigners here, just like we were in Germany."

Suada (15) is the older sister of Mewruz and Sultan. She spend the first eleven years of her life in Germany and speaks very good German. She remembers a lot about living there, especially the fact that she was never bullied there. "Here I get called names all the time, gypsy here, gypsy there, but in Germany, I was just a girl, people called me Suada and that was that."

Nerdjivan (11) did not live in Germany, but that does not mean that she has been living a stable life. After the war, she and her family became IDPs, internally displaced people. They moved from one place to the other, ended up in a terribly polluted place and were again resettled somewhere else. Now, after an 11-year-oddyssee, they are about to move back to the place they set off from in 1999.

Most of the children think that education is key to a better life. But the problem for them so far has been that they never lived long in one place. Also, children like Albert (15), who came to Kosovo at the age of 11, did not speak Albanian good enough to go straight to school in Kosovo. Albert lost two years after coming to Mitrovica from Germany and is now only in 6th grade at the age of 15. His classmates are mostly not older than 11.

Finally, Adelina (13) sums it up when she says that "there is a difference between returning and arriving. I returned to Kosovo a while ago, but it took much longer to really arrive here."

Tomorrow we will start filming the first stories and we will try to capture the feelings and experiences of the children and produce self-explanatory OneMinutesJr documentaries.

Mitrovica, Kosovo - April 26, 2010 - Chris Schuepp



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