So here it is. My last day in the Czech Republic. As always with traveling (and life in general), it feels like I just got here! But soon enough it will be back to school, abundant with readings and research papers. Luckily for me, I get a whole week to move into a new apartment and settle in before its back to the daily grind!
My time here has been, well, different than I anticipated. I have become kind of a rogue Peace Fellow. Unlike my fellow Peace Fellows, I really did not have a community based organization. As you can see in my previous blogs, I did not do a lot with Dženo, especially since Ivan closed the office in the end of July. Instead, I have been focusing my energies on learning about Roma issues, interviewing activists, and working with the group of women in Mimoň to create an advocacy quilt.
Yesterday was my last visit to Mimoň. It was so wonderful to see the completed panels the women made, many with no experience whatsoever in embroidery. They put a lot of thought and effort into creating pieces which showcase the normalcy of their lives, but still including the underlying current of intense discrimination they are faced with everyday.
I got to say goodbye to all of the women except for Leona, who has been in and out of the doctor’s office with her one year old daughter. The poor thing has been quite sick. However, the other five women who have been working on the quilt were all present for the final presentation of the panels.
I am finding it hard to find the words to truly express the impact these women have had on me. My experience as a Peace Fellow would have been infinitely less rewarding if I had not found this group of women to work with. Initially we had about fifteen women lined up to work on the quilt, but as time passed, the number dwindled to only six. These six women were the only ones brave enough to take the chance to give up some of their time and try to make a difference.
Their enthusiasm has kept my spirits high, and gives me so much hope for their futures. Emilie, our translator and newlywed, is already talking about expanding the project into Macedonia, where her husband is from. She told me how empowered she felt by being able to tell her story. The women in Macedonia, she told me, have even harder lives, and their empowerment could be even greater.
After an exchanging of gifts for our final visit with each other, it was time to say goodbye to these wonderful ladies. Many hugs, kisses, and thank yous were exchanged and promises to stay in touch were made. When it came time for me to walk down to the bus stop and take the final long trip back to Prague, Renata walked me to the bus station.
She made sure I got on my bus, and waved me off as the bus pulled away. I will truly miss these women, and I am so grateful for this experience to work with the people policy affects on the ground. I hope that one day they can see the fruit of their labors, and I am so excited to see how both similar and different their stories are from the women in France and in Kosovo.
Thank you to everyone who has been reading this summer. I hope to come back and give everyone an update complete with pictures once we complete the quilt in full. Until then, Na shledanou!
Posted By Beth Wofford
Posted Aug 18th, 2011