Deutschland: Bosiljka Schedlich

The trauma of war fills all our cells with fear; healing allows a return to peace, to trust, as a human being.

— Bosiljka Schedlich

Bosiljka Schedlich, born in 1948 in what is today Croatia, founded the Southeast European Cultural Center in Berlin in 1991. Since then, some 30,000 war refugees from former Yugoslavia have received care, counseling, and therapy. Bosiljka led therapy groups of people traumatized from the war and soon became an expert on trauma. Meanwhile, many war refugees have returned voluntarily. Bosiljka and her colleagues have recreated their reconciliation projects in former war zones through sponsorships or "storytelling cafés" in which people can speak freely about their war experiences.

The Southeast European Cultural Center in Berlin, founded by Bosiljka Schedlich, runs many projects for traumatized war victims in former Yugoslavia. These include: therapy groups, social counseling, language courses, training programs for youth, children’s art groups, sponsorship of people returning to war zones, and schools for Roma children in Bosnia. When asked about her favorite project, Bosiljka’s answer is clear: “the storytelling cafés” in Bosnia which she organized and now number more than 60. The basic idea is that older people from the community and foreign guests can tell the stories of their life in a pleasant coffee house atmosphere. In this way people can acknowledge the suffering in the stories of others without an ethnic context. The report of elderly about World War II and others tell of their experiences in other wars. There was, for instance, someone who had escaped the Algerian war. Or a German couple who had hidden Jews during the Hitler era. In Bjeljina, still one of the strongholds of Serb extremism, a Muslim woman had the courage to speak about her encounter with one of the infamous Serb militia leaders. “She told about the many corpses outside of the hospital," Bosiljka said. "People shot by the militia. It was deathly quiet. An old teacher, whose son had founded the extremist Serb party and for whom this leader was a hero, kept signaling me to interrupt the woman. My colleagues left the room. They thought that now the bombs would fall. When she was finished speaking, I let the teacher speak. He rattled on in a loud voice all the Serb propaganda. When he finished, I thanked him, but said that we would not go into it further. We were only interested in what each individual had experienced, not their ethnic or religious group. That was the worst bomb for him. It really worked. Afterwards, everyone was more relaxed and we sang together.”

Southeast European Cultural Center Berlin