Every time you stop violence, there is hope

Katarina Ristanovic is an ordinary thirteen-year-old girl who, while still in the lower grades of primary school, experienced bullying by her peers.

UNICEF Serbia
Kristina Ristanovic talking to  UNICEF
UNICEF Serbia/2017

09 January 2017

Katarina Ristanovic is an ordinary thirteen-year-old girl with an unusual, almost movie-like story. While still in the lower grades of primary school, she experienced bullying by her peers.

“When I was on a school trip, the other girls were making me walk around our hotel room until they fell asleep. They poured water on my clothes and told me I couldn’t tell the teacher. I felt very frightened and uneasy because I didn't know what to do. I did everything they told me to and I tried to hide it. So that the other children wouldn’t notice that they were bullying me,” Katarina recalls very calmly, as if telling a story.

Katarina showed no outward signs of the turmoil she was experiencing. Still, it was all too much for a child.

“It was difficult for me and I was scared. I was really torn,” she recalls.

Katarina couldn’t stand up to the bullies and so she changed schools.

In the new environment, after some time, her peers started mocking her.

As time went by, it became more and more unbearable. She was afraid the situation from her previous school would repeat itself.

I tried to get close to them in different ways … to find common ground with them. To resolve it all. I thought I could do it on my own. I didn't talk to any grown-ups about it. 

Katarina (13)

“I tried to get close to them in different ways … to find common ground with them. To resolve it all. I thought I could do it on my own. I didn't talk to any grown-ups about it. However, it got worse, it became more frequent. It was happening on a daily basis. It’s then that I told my parents, and the school's psychologist and pedagogue about it, who really helped me by first talking to me and then to the children who were bullying me. And then to my parents and the other children's parents,’’ Katarina explains.

The school staff was understanding, but even more importantly, the school set up a violence response system.

One of UNICEF’s many projects was aimed at ending violence in schools. Fortunately, Katarina’s school participated in the project.

“Thanks to UNICEF, which started the Schools without Violence project, that my school participated in, we can end violence. In our school we have a team of children fighting against violence and I am a member of this team,’’ Katarina concludes triumphantly.

From victim to protector – that is the movie-like story of Katarina Ristanovic.

As a child who experienced bullying, who overcame it and became stronger, Katarina has a message.

A short, but powerful one.

‘’For every child, hope.’’