Dates of the event: 12-18 May 2018
Place: Zatonie, Poland
When I signed up for the „Identity. Stay connected!“ project in Poland, I had no idea what to expect. The reactions from people were different…some were full of words of praise for Poland and Youth Exchange projects, while others (like my paranoid brother) kept mentioning human trafficking in hopes of turning me down from the project.
And honestly, I think it was one of the best decisions in my life. But let me start from the beginning…
The first day was memorable. After a whole day of traveling from Zagreb to Zatonie, the Croatian team was hungry, tired and cold. Looking around the station in Zlocienec „Where did we come to?“ was the main question. Far from civilization, far from any road. The sight screamed „adventure time“. When we finally arrived in Zatonie, it was like coming to heaven. Food, shelter, a most wonderful forest by the lake with a sandy beach…what more could you possibly ask for?
And it got even better.
At first, I had very low expectations about the whole project since it all seemed like child’s play, but after a few days, I came to realize what sort of impact it makes on all of the participants. People were starting to get to know each other a lot better, sharing their feelings and thoughts, their past, their fears and themselves to complete strangers. But then I realized we weren’t strangers at all. We were all so different yet alike, all of us wanted to connect. I don’t think anyone expected it to happen so quickly and so deeply, but in the end, in the process of finding our own identity, we really did connect with each other in a way that is hard to explain.
So yes, I would say that the project was a complete success.
In those few days, I kind of felt like I was in a bubble far away from reality. A bubble filled with love and support, coming from people whom I’ve just met yet felt like knowing my whole life. Last day, when it was time for all of us to go back home, you could see the people overwhelmed with emotions. While hugging each other and promising to stay in touch (I’ll hold you to that!), I realized that I want to do this project thing again and again, because it really leaves a mark on you. Participating in these wonderful carefully organized workshops (A big thanks to our trainers Marta, JB, Juliette, and Anca!) and wonderful people from different countries made coming back to Zagreb feel like a bitch slap from reality. But as they say, the best trips are not the ones after which you come back feeling happy, it’s the ones that leave you feeling sad because its over.
Now that the dust has settled, seeing all of the lovely notes and pictures from the project makes me feel like I’ve gained much more than I ever thought a project could give me. So what am I bringing back home with me?
In one word, Zatonie.
Author: Helena Grahovac