European Identity and Human Dignity?

A Croat, an Italian and an Austrian walk in to a bar…

Or should I put it like this – a group of 45 young people who seemingly having nothing in common but curiosity about human dignity walk into the same venue, spend a week together and prove every single person that ever said “ahh, today’s youth” wrong.

This is not a joke. It is a World Youth Alliance event description.

I wish I could say I knew what was going to happen as soon as we got to the first venue, I wish I could say I knew those people are going to become so dear to me as soon as I saw them. I did not – they were strangers, speaking in languages I don’t understand, eating food I never saw before.

The thing is, as we were speaking about European identity on the second day of the project, I knew the theory – we all live in this continent, we are part of it’s history and future. That’s where it would usually end for me. I was always, first and foremost, a Croat.

But, I was, once again in my life, proven wrong. I was, first and foremost, a human being.  And surrounded with some others members of the same species, I learned some valuable lessons. For finding the common ground and understanding our common heritage, all it takes is a little bit of courage. Sometimes that includes only applying to an event like this. An event that shook the ground under my feet and left me without cover from the questions I was avoiding my whole life – what does it mean to be human? I was left vulnerable, and that was exactly what I needed. For only after trying to  answer the questions this project kept “throwing” at me, I realised not knowing the answer is also the option. And better yet, coming up with an answer in a group of people that are on the same quest as you are can be exactly the motivation you did not know you needed.

In the end I found myself feeling much more European (which I already am) than before, just to be part of the same story as people that surrounded me. Boy, was I wrong to ever call them strangers – they are my friends. And we might live in different countries, we might not see each other as much, but I will recognise them in “strangers” I meet everyday –  transitioning from strangers to friends, all it takes is to find common ground. In our case, it was the heritage that shaped us and the future we want to shape.

Published: December 16, 2019
Written by Iva Burazin, a WYA Europe intern from Croatia