(from: Waldorf Education Worldwide, pp. 106-107, Note the Copyright!)
During the twentieth century Bosnia acquired a sad reputation in Europe, and indeed in the world at large. Bosnia-Hercegovina came under the administration of Austria-Hungary in 1878 and was annexed in 1908. Franz Ferdinand, the crown prince of Austria-Hungary, was assassinated in Sarajevo. This led to the outbreak of the First World War after the end of which Bosnia became a subservient part of the Kingdom of the Serbs, Croats and Slovenes. After the Second World War Yugoslavia became a federal people’s republic with, from 1947, a Communist social order. In 1991 the socialist state of Yugoslavia came to an end. First Slovenia and Croatia and then also Bosnia-Hercegovina declared their independence, whereupon the “civil war” also spread to Bosnia-Hercegovina which remained at the centre of bloody and terrible conflict until 1995.
The word Sarajevo is derived from “saraj”, Bosnian for “house”, and for a long time this city was a house for people of various, mostly monotheistic, religions. It is felt by many Bosnians to be the Jerusalem of the twentieth century. For the poet Dzevad Karahasan Sarajevo was like the centre of Europe reflecting its European surroundings and being reflected by them, in a good sense at first but then, alas, also tragically.
Built on ruins
A Waldorf play group, soon to become a Waldorf Kindergarten, opened in Sarajevo in the year 2000. At the same time an “out of hours” school began offering schoolchildren afternoon artistic and craft activities like those practised in Waldorf Schools. Leila Kostic is in charge of the play group while Alma Begic runs the afternoon school with Parthena Tsanakidou and Micaela Sauber. An establishment for social therapy is planned.
The Waldorf Education impulse came into being here during the Balkan war. As refugees from that war Alma Begic and Leila Kostic were able to take the Waldorf teacher training in Germany. Leila had known about the education before the war and, even though no training possibilities existed, secretly hoped one day to run a kindergarten in Bosnia. The war began in 1992 with all its tragic consequences. Leila Kostic left Bosnia with her children and, after a short while spent at the Croatian Waldorf School in Zagreb, finally ended up in Germany where she was able to take the kindergarten training in Kassel.
Alma Begic also left her country during the war and was able to take the social therapy training in Germany before returning to Bosnia in 1999. After her arrival in Sarajevo she began her work by first of all meeting the need for an “out of hours” school.
Promoting peace through education
From 1993 onwards, individuals mostly from Germany and the Netherlands travelled many times to Croatia and Bosnia-Hercegovina both during and after the war. Their efforts led to the formation of a group through which Alma and Leila got to know each other. The group met regularly and acquired new members from the social therapy establishment at Weckelweiler, Germany. A circle of “godparents”, donors and friends was formed through the efforts of the establishments where the two Bosnian women had trained. This initiative was given the name “Phoenix Initiative for Waldorf Education in Bosnia-Hercegovina”.
The first steps towards founding Waldorf Education in Bosnia-Hercegovina were taken once the two women had returned to their now much altered country. Early experience showed that the healing effect of artistic activities on wounded souls was the best way of helping children build up their self-confidence. Artistic activities also call for collaboration which works towards the development of peace skills.
Let us trust that the seeds of hope arising from this initiative will grow into healthy and strong foundations on which Waldorf Education and social therapy based on anthroposophy will be able to develop in the future.
Trained in anthroposophical curative education. Studied at the Christian Community Seminar. Story-teller.