Three years ago, a Polish newspaper, Gazeta Wyborcza, republished a story originally written in 1989 about a young boy who wanted to become president. The story highlighted the atmosphere of the time: young Poles were enthusiastic and optimistic. The time was one of excitement, with Poles looking forward to the promises of life in a democratic society. A reporter for Gazeta Wyborcza tracked down this boy over fifteen years later to see whether his outlook had changed. Today, this same boy, once so full of ambition, is apathetic. The boy who once dreamed of becoming president now wants nothing to do with politics and is uncertain of his future.
Poland is not alone in this regard. Throughout the entire ex-Communist bloc, the possibilities of democracy were replaced over the years by political back-biting, economic difficulties, and inter-ethnic tensions. Macedonia, while spared the large-scale bloodshed of other former-Yugoslav states, has seen its share of political difficulties. While there are signs that conditions are improving, such as the increase in rights for ethnic Albanians that followed the Ohrid Framework Agreement, voter turnout remains low, as does participation in civil society. Even as Macedonia takes steps to join the EU and NATO, indifference among young people is common.
In the very short time I have in Macedonia, I hope that I will be able to help the Youth Cultural Centre in Bitola develop and expand outreach for its youth volunteerism program. It seems like such a small step, but I am optimistic that organizing and promoting cultural activities for young people is a step in the right direction.
Of course, like any other student intern, I am experiencing the gamut of emotions in preparing for my work this summer. My mood fluctuates from nervousness to excitement. I also harbor no illusions. Ten weeks is not a lot of time for an American who does not speak the local languages or even understand the complexities of Macedonian society to combat apathy. But I am willing to try.
Posted By Katie Wroblewski (Macedonia)
Posted May 23rd, 2014