Sandra

My name is Sandra. I come from the Balkans. I'm from Macedonia and I don't think of myself way too much, or I do not maybe identify myself way too much or at all with belonging to a certain nation, because I've seen that, that works wrong, always. From what I have witnessed in the Balkans, I was born in '91 which is after the split of Yugoslavia and all the wars happened while I was a kid. But because living Macedonia, Macedonia was a safe haven of the countries that fell out of Yugoslavia. We only had a conflict in 2001, but that wasn't so long and it was very minor if we compare to what happened in the rest of the countries.

Where I live, there is a lot of nationalities. There's a lot of religions. Not a lot of religions but still, when you combine certain nationalities with certain religions, you get different customs and different people. I think they're all interesting of course. There are things that you could say that are maybe progressive or not progressive or even retrogressive sometimes. Still, what I very much appreciate about that region is that you do have all these different things that function together or that at least co-exist together. Then things become richer. You become more maybe aware of the differences between people and that it can all work if we don't concern each other way too much with things which in my opinion are not important at all.

If you see what is happening now, for example, with Greece and Macedonia who for me, I think that, of course both sides would say that they had made a consensus somewhere. Which means that they have moved from their positions. It's not possible to both sides be happy, maybe completely happy, but I think that it's a historical moment, and I think that it's so good that we can finally reconcile. If we were in a fight, if you have to say it like that because we live so close next to each other and it's absurd to keep on having a fight over something that I think is really not a problem of neither one of the nations.

The Balkans have much more serious problems, in my opinion than who came from where because we've been in that part of the world. We've been mixing a lot. There have been a lot of wars. There have been a lot of rulers, let's say and it's all just a bunch of everything. If I were to identify myself somehow, I guess I would maybe just say that I'm closer to the mentality of people coming from the Mediterranean, because it's hot and then there is a large continuity of some sort of civilization that has been changing, but bringing with it certain elements of the cultures which we all share, a bit maybe different ways. Those are nuances, in my opinion. It's all the same. I think that even in the religious backgrounds which can defer a lot, there are still things because we have been living together for such a long time that we have mishmashed.

In my opinion, it's all an amalgam of everything together. Honestly, I don't even want to talk too much about nationality because I think it can get very complicated. I think that people tend to fall in a trance when they go that road. There are currently protests, probably also in Greece from what I saw, but in Macedonia, for example, if you see the type of feelings that people start developing, to me, it's scary and chilling, and illogical and morbid, almost because some apocalyptical stories are being told about, of course, not everybody, but there are people who think that it's the end of us. “Now we're going to disappear” – as if we were not going to disappear if everybody leaves the country because no systems function. It's way too poor and every young person would rather live somewhere else than there.

This is why maybe I really have all my life tried to not think of myself just as a Macedonian or whatever, but think on a more global scale and be interested in things which concern all people from wherever they might come. If I think about things that connect me to my country, that is, of course, that is language, that is people, literature. It's maybe arts that I know from there, but those things, I don't think that are so much connected to the nation as they are to just to people, especially if you have a country which hasn't had a strong nationhood almost never, it has had a nationhood in the past century which is like that nation, but if I look back into my past I can see that if I look in the cultural heritage of my country, there is Ottoman heritage. There is communist, let's say socialist heritage, modernist heritage. Before that there was Byzantine heritage, before that it’s early Christian, it's Roman. There is also like from antiquity which, so it's so much that I really can't say that I've been this one or that one.

Everything that has value I would accept and what doesn't I wouldn't, but I don't measure things through the prism of nationality. Who cares about the name of the country if it's just like, there are people who identify with being Macedonians, and that I understand. That's why may be they've been working so long on the agreements so that both sides get something that they can hold on to in front of their people, but I don't care because like there was somebody talking on, a smart guy, a lawyer, who was saying how he had a passport, he had a Yugoslav passport and he didn't say a passport of Macedonia it said that it was Yugoslav, and he still thought of himself as a Macedonian, and he had a much better time with that Yugoslav passport than he did with our Macedonian passport.

Who cares what it says on your passport basically, because the quality of life suffers a lot if you cannot move from that point, because you're having a problem with your closest neighbour. I don't see a reason why not to just shake hands finally and go on with our lives, and maybe even start to live together better, because we're basically to me I think we're the same people anyways, just no reason to dislike or to have tensions between each other. I couldn't care less who gave birth to Alexander the Great.