Sweden: Erni Friholt

We need development that is driven forward with consideration for the various traditions and cultures and for human beings and nature.

— Erni Friholt

For 37 years, Erni Friholt has been an activist in peace building and peace education, women's rights and solidarity, both locally and internationally in the Balkans, Bangladesh, India, and Ethiopia. She has been a journalist, speaker, volunteer and project manager, a demonstrator and organizer of an alternative solidarity fair trade café. For many years, she was editor-in-chief of the women's magazine "Vi Mänskor" of the Federation of Leftist Swedish Women and chair of the organization. She has participated in many international women's conferences, peace marches, and peace organizations.

In Erni and Ola’s Solidariskt summer café, there are cakes that Erni baked in the wee hours of the morning. A Rosa Luxemburg cake with rum, one with meringue and almonds that she calls Amandla Mandela, a cake with nuts and coffee cream called Mahatma Gandhi’s Dream, and the Elin Wägner bread, a homemade rye named for the feminist writer. The small handwritten tags offer guests interesting reading from the biographies of the namesakes. Since the 1990s, there has also been the Zitzer cake with red currants. How did this come about? During the war between Serbia and Croatia, 200 men from the village in Tresnjevac in the northern Serbian province Vojvodina were called up for military service. Prompted by the village’s school principal and the women, those who had been called up decided to refuse to go. They refused to shoot their compatriots simply because power-hungry politicians wanted them to. In the village’s pizzeria, The Zitzer, a peace camp was established. The government in Belgrade ordered numerous panzers to encircle the village. The peace camp lasted two months. Afterwards the village declared its independence from Belgrade and called itself “the Zitzer Spiritual Republic that has no territory and is a community of people who want peace.” Erni drove there with her husband to learn about the local peace movement and to refute the lies about the alleged violent nature of the Serbs. She was impressed with the spirit of peace that reigned there and supported the population. In autumn 1995, the peace movement on the island of Orust, Sweden, opened a Zitzer consulate. In Tresnjevac in 2001, Erni and Ola, as Zitzer consuls on Orust, received the Pro Urbe Prize, an honor awarded to those who had helped the town in its time of need. Today, the Zitzer Republic no longer exists, but it lives on in Erni’s heart. The sign “Consulate of Zitzer” still hangs on their house.

Svenska Kvinnors Vänsterförbund (SKV, Federation of Leftist Swedish Women) Women’s International Democratic Federation Swedish Women’s Council for Development