C.S.I. Nadez is featured in the travel-diary of Andrea Wechsler: Read an excerpt about the dreams of our students

15 Dec C.S.I. Nadez is featured in the travel-diary of Andrea Wechsler: Read an excerpt about the dreams of our students

The Roma Children from Shuto Orizari and their dreams

“ To Shuto Orizari?”, repeats the Skopian taxi driver skeptical, after we announced him our destination and adds with a quiet groan: “ Oh well …”. Which sounds like: “If you really want to go there; well it’s your decision.”

Yes, definitely. We are interested in the dreams and wishes of the Roma-Children, who find a second home in the Center for Social Initiatives Nadez.  And Nadez after all means “hope” …

Last stop of the bus line 19 in Shuto Orizari. Immediately after we called Nadez, one staff member named Sejadin picks us up and brings us to the “Kanzelarija”, at whose entrance stands Klara, greeting us with a “chestnut-eyes-smile”.

Klara’s office is the best place to discuss details. She guides us through a room, in which many Roma Children are cutting out pieces of advertisement papers and are waving at us.

“Over and over again the kids have been asking when will you finally come”, tells us Klara.

Klara Ilieva is the President of Nadez. 20 years ago the sociologist started in Shuto Orizari with a project dedicated to the reintegration of Roma people who have returned from Germany.

When the project ended in 1997, former staff members of that project founded their own organization- the Center for Social Initiatives Nadez- and have been active within it ever since. The aim of  Nadez is to make it possible for children and teenagers to attend additional classes outside of school with the purpose of improving their performance in their primary school. The center confirms the importance of education to the children and the parents. This is achieved by visiting the families, educational support for the children and youngsters, tutoring and workshops for parents. Besides that the organization provides humanitarian aid in clothing and sometimes hygienic products to the poorest families.

Help came and still comes mainly from Germany.

“Our experience with Germany is great”, says Klara. “For example, the location of the center was provided by the government of Nordrhein-Westfalen (one of the 16 states in Germany), and the primary support since was provided by Caritas Essen, which also took over the construction of the house. The organization Schüler Helfen Leben (Students Help Life) has been supporting Nadez since 2006.

According to its concept Nadez is divided in two parts. First of all there is a group for children from 4 to 6 years of age, who visit the kinder garden, while the youth center is visited by children from 6 to 11 years of age.

The kinder garden itself is divided into two groups of 20 kids. One group comes from 9 to 12 o’clock and the second from 12 to 15 o’clock.


“This kinder garden is free of charge and more creative than the others in town”, proudly states Klara. To her it seems especially important to integrate the parents and to insure they are engaged meaningful and creative activities.

Over and over again the financial problems have the highest priority. The increases in prices for among other things, water and electricity are reasons for worry. But the fact that there are many very good students, who want and have to proceed, shows how important the support of Roma-Children is. One of the main challenges are that the parents often are unable to see the importance of education of their children and are not able to support their children in the process of education because they themselves have not obtained their primary education.

We walk through the rooms of Nadez. On the furniture and on various objects are small labels, which state the name of the object in Macedonian. The main goal for the children is first of all to learn the Macedonian language, since in their families the spoken language is Romany.

Stanika Gligorova, the organization’s social worker, and Klara, make coffee, offer us cookies and then we start.

Klara calls in one child after the other as they enter the office. The children, who are going to tell about their dreams, have been selected by her.

“It took years to raise the children”, explains Klara. She repeatedly caresses each child and gives every single one her fullest attention.

The procedure of the interviews is a ”jumping” through various languages and always follows the same pattern:

I introduce myself shortly to every child and formulate my questions in English. Klara translates them into Macedonian. The answers are given in Macedonian, and Klara translates them into English, after which I note them down in German.

Klara announces that we have been invited in some of the children’s homes in the afternoon. Stanika is going to accompany us.

At that time, the guest workers returned to Shuto Orizari, also known as Shutka, and there is a lot going on. The Roma settlement has about 30.000 inhabitants, the only one in the world with local self-government by Roma. 85 % of the inhabitants are Roma, 10 % Albanian and 5 % Macedonian. The unemployment rate is around 80%.

The two Roma girls, Dzejlan and Gülistan, accompany us through Shuto Orizari. They work as volunteers at Nadez.

Outdoors on the street there is loud music coming out of every house.

All doors are open, everything is visible. Young girls carry naked kids in their arms. In front of the houses, the men are repairing their cars and they smile at us.

“How are you?”, shouts a boy in German down from a house.

Colossal wedding posters are glued to the facades. In Shutka this is the typical way of announcing the upcoming weddings. Bride and groom are therefore “pre-seen” in the wedding look. There are a lot of weddings in August because of the returning guest workers from other countries. Roma weddings start on Thursday and unfold in the next 4 days. 200 – 300 guests isn’t an unusual number. The celebration takes place in a restaurant, which looks like a palace on top of a hill.

Together we stroll down to the bazaar, until Gülistan squints her eyes again and again. For her it is too hot, the heat collects in her raven-black hair. No wonder. The sticky air basically buzzes. Threatening thunderstorm-clouds appear on the horizon. And suddenly the sky opens its gates.

The Roma are sweeping the mud of the streets shortly after.

Shutka has all the looks of a patchwork-dress. Drums, horns, and various wind instruments sound through the lively streets, on which there still are muddy streams flowing down. Garbage collectors with bikes and wheelbarrows squeeze past cars.

It is a ringing, a rattling, a shaking. A concert of senses.

One year later are we back in Shuto Orizari.

The children that we met the previous year are excitedly waiting for us and we are equally excited to see what has changed in one year and how they see their hometown.

Next to Klara and Stanika, this time there is also Slave Angelov welcoming us. He manages the public relations of Nadez since April 2014. Slave speaks perfect English and is therefore an excellent partner for the interviews.

Muhammed (12) and his dreams

With big, glowing eyes and styled hair, in the room enters Muhamed. It is clearly visible that he is excited. He dries his sweaty hands repeatedly on his pants.

He finds a fast answer to the question about his hobby:” Well, playing soccer.” After all Real Madrid is his favorite team.

Now, during the summer break, of course that soccer is his daily routine of course, unlike during his weeks in school.

After breakfast he goes out to play with his friends and at quarter past one he arrives at Nadez. Besides Nadez he has another favorite place. He very much enjoys being in the center of Skopje, where he preferably plays. He just needs the space.

At home, like most Roma-Children, he lives in a small space. Muhamed has three brothers and three sisters. One of them is Sinanda, who we will get to know soon.

When I asked Muhammed about his most interesting dreams, he told me that his uncle, who had recently died, appeared in his dream.

And nightmares? To this he can only recall the vampires which were stuck in his memory after he watched a movie. Or maybe they also appear in the books, which he likes to read.

Muhammed wants to graduate school with good grades. And then he wants to become a teacher. No, better: a doctor, to help others. He is sure that he can make it.

Other things that he wishes for? His own house and to be independent. And to live in Germany. After all his aunt already lives there.

One year later:

His wishes for his future profession are unchanged. But one major event has happened within the last 365 days.

The international Roma-day was also attended by the US-Ambassador in Macedonia. Muhammed explains with glowing eyes, how he personally handed the ambassador the Roma flag.

One month later Muhammed received a package. The ambassador had sent him a book about the history of basketball in the USA, with a personal note.

To be able to read the book one day, he wants to learn even better English. Without doubt, this aim makes him show his entire willingness to learn.

But he has also discovered another passion: Dancing at weddings, which in Shutka there are plenty of. Folklore groups, that play the fitting music are especially in his favor.

And what associates Muhammed with Shuto Orizari? The big difference between poor and rich – and the conscience to be himself a Roma.


Sadber (10) and her dreams

Honestly, I would have guessed Sadber older. The girl, who enters the room, smirks knowingly. Her eyes are serious and playful at the same time. Long, black hair surrounds her face.

Sadber sits down slowly and patiently. She gives a well thought out answers to every question and doesn’t take her eyes off Klara, until she turns to me with a broad smile.

How could it be different, she likes to be with her friends and plays with boys as well as girls, preferably in the park in Shutka.

In September she will go into 5th grade.

“She is an extraordinary student”, Klara praises her. Sadber likes to go to school. Her favourite subjects? She thinks for a while. Hm, German and Italian. Maybe it’s because her older brother, who is 27 lives in Italy and it is her biggest dream, that he returns from Italy with a big doll and a bike for her.

Sadber likes to dance, especially Arabic dances. She plays shyly with her bracelet. And where does she dance? At weddings, birthday parties or at Nadez. She likes coming here. Everyday after school she takes her books and goes to the youth center.

After she graduated school she can see herself being a surgeon.

In Sadber’s family, where we are invited in the afternoon, there are currently living 9 people in 3 rooms. Sadber’s father, who is a tailor and lived 15 years in Croatia, asks us what are the chances for finding work in Germany are.

At the moment they have a guest, a young woman, who makes her voluntary social year here and comes from Brussels. Tiana studies anthropology and has, so she said herself, gotten fast used to living with this family.

“You have to adapt to them as far as possible and you get faster used to it than you think”, she tells in English and caresses the baby’s head, which has fallen asleep during our talk in the middle of the living room.

The fact that Tiana speks fluidly Serbian makes me curious and an explanation follows immeditly: her father is Serbian.

“Shuto Orizari is an extraordinary settlement, which lives its own life”, says Tiana, who in the meantime settled herself comfortably on the carpet.

One year later:

Sadber clasps her hands together in joy, hearing that I have remembered her name. Within one year her wish for her future profession has changed. Instead of becoming a surgeon she wants to be a hairdresser. Having her own style now becomes more and more a point of focus. Meanwhile Sadber also dreams about driving to Albania or the town of Tetovo, where she has some relatives.

What Sadber thinks about Shutka? Well, it is her hometown, and it causes many tourists to be curious. That is why Sadber likes to present herself as a “director” for foreigners in her town.

Fetije (16) and her dreams

A hair bun moves through the door. A young woman, one could say, whose almond-shaped eyes look somewhat strict and at the same time energetic. Maybe it’s also the strictly bound back hair, which gives this impression.

But shortly after the introduction she is more relaxed. Fetije takes a seat and crosses her legs.  It’s a bit hard for me to get her to answer my questions though. Sometimes she has to think for a longer time. She likes to play the guitar , especially English songs. But only when she is in a good mood.

Fetije crosses her arms in front of her chest. Apparently she feels uncomfortable by only wearing a t-shirt with slim straps.

Klara interjects, stating that Fetije is very clever. One could be proud of her, because she developed very well.

Being a nurse is her dream job. Since she likes biology and chemistry. Music class she doesn’t like, because her teacher only talks about other subjects in order to kill time.

In her free time she likes to read, especially novels. That’s why she also uses the library at Nadez. Otherwise she spends a lot of time at home. She has no interest in marrying early and having children, something which at her age is pretty normal here.

We visit Fetije’s family. Serafedin, her only brother looks at us mistrusting and asks us, before we set foot into the apartment, who we are.

But he gains trust fast and tells me, that he was born in Germany and is now in his third semester studying to be a dentist in Skopje. His dream would have been to go to university in Münster, but this is very dependable on the high costs.

Sefer, the father, sits the entire time at the computer and shortly after takes out a camera. Modern technology and big stereo systems play an important role in the households, explains Klara.

One year later:

Fetije is on vacation and we sadly can’t talk with her …

Edison (9) and his dreams

He is one of the youngest. As he sits next to me with his blue eyes, I notice that he is still a little afraid.

Edison takes music lessons with the guitar, but equally important to him seems his activity in the choir. Singing is his great passion.

Now Edison will be in 5th grade. In school he especially likes maths. When he is an adult he wants to be a pilot.

Edison’s dreams are full of colors and his games with friends. And probably also Ronaldo, his favorite soccer player, or Real Madrid. It is a small wonder that Edison’s favorite place is the stadium in Skopje.

A bit more self-confidence is something he will have to gain, since sometimes, so he says, softly, he is afraid of adults, which also appears in his dreams.

One year later:

Edison is on vacation …

Emerson (8) and his dreams

When I ask Emerson about his dreams, he first tells me about one special dream: his grandmother, who he had never seen, recently died and wanted to take him with her.

“It was a nice dream”, says Emerson, but he admits that he was scared a little bit. Within the next days he will turn 9 and go into 4th grade. He likes maths and wants to become a policeman. At home he is the oldest of three siblings.

Emerson likes to help his father, especially with construction work on the house.

Playing soccer, reading, swimming and going to the zoo are on the very top of his favorite activities. What he likes about Nadez? The classroom, that would be the best part.

And then he recalls one more thing about his dreams:

Two days ago he dreamed about a mobile phone, which he always wanted to have and shortly after his father actually bought him one.

A long electricity cable goes from one of the rooms of the apartment out to the street. The reason: electricity was turned off, after the family didn’t pay the bill. Now they get electricity from Emerson’s uncle’s house.

In the front area a few men build a kitchen shelf.

Emerson’s family lived for six months in Berlin. They went five people, only the grandfather stayed in Macedonia.

Now they have been back in Shutka for 2 months. Six people live in the small apartment. Emerson sleeps with his grandfather in the living room.

Emerson’s mother hands us water. She has decided for a third child. This way the family will get 140 Euro from the state (a measurement to increase the birthrate), but because of that, the 45 Euro in social help will not apply anymore.

One year later:

Emerson spontaneously remembers the hiking trip with his father as highlight of the last year. They went into the Pelister-mountains in the south of Macedonia. He remembers sharp-edged, treeless mountains.

And what is spectacular about Shutka to Emerson? He finds extraordinary the self-governance of Shuto Orizari, with its own Roma-mayor.

A lot of shops, streets, people and playgrounds – that is what Emerson associates with Shuto Orizari.


Samira (10) and her dreams

Samira has a very concrete idea of her dream world. She sees herself as a princess in a paradise flower garden, with a beautiful crown upon her head.

At the moment the little princess first has to manage 5th grade. But she managed 4th grade pretty good. She is especially interested in social studies and imagines working one day in court. Or maybe as a nurse?

She plays with dolls, cooks, or helps in the house.

Samira explains, that she has a little brother.

When we visit her  in the afternoon, we are also seeing other “siblings”. Petar, a boy with down syndrome, and a baby, which sleeps in the room next doors with the grandmother. Samira’s mother wants to give the baby for adoption, she has been waiting for it two years.

Petar hugs us immediately. Stanika explains to me: “Because there are no orphanages in Macedonia, families who have more space are encouraged by the state to take in orphans. For this a family gets 120 Euro every month. The kids stay for a certain time in the family, mentally disabled ones until they are 26 years old.”

Petar is Macedonian, but this is already his 4th family. A “moving child” so to say. Everyday a bus takes him to the special school, 5 to 6 kilometers away.

Eight people live here in 4 rooms. Within the family all children grow up bi-lingual, explains Samira’s mother, who every once in a while takes a look at the boiling pots on the stove.

One year later:

Samira counts hair dressing and making jewelry to be her new hobbies. Last year she has been three days at her grandmother’s place in Veles.

Shuto Orizari is in Samira’s opinion a dirty place, she thinks it is huge chaos, but as everywhere there are good and bad people.

Samira would like to have a clean center. She would even help to make it prettier. And she does not just want to make the city more beautiful, but also the people in it, she says while playing with her hair again.

Angelina (9) and her dreams

At Christmas Angelina played in the theater piece Snow White and is very proud of it. This role seems to be made for her. Let alone her black hair and her blue eyes make her perfect.

Angelina is in 4th grade and wants to become a dentist. But she wouldn’t say no to becoming an actress either.

In Shuto Orizari she lives in the house of her grandfather, who currently lives in Italy. She has three sisters and one brother. Her little sister is only three months old.

Angelina likes to read, she is creative and also knows some English, which she immediately tests in the conversation with me.

What does she dream about? About what she reads and learns. But her biggest dream would be to be the main character in one of my books.

When we visit Angelina in the afternoon, she has a new hair style. We sit in the big living room, while outside a thunderstorm pours down.

The father was sent to the market. Angelina’s mother makes coffee for us. She is 29 now and is breastfeeding right now. Her mother had her when she was 13 years and married at 17.

Seven people live here in 3 rooms. Angelina shares a room with her sister.

In winter they all share one room, in Shuto Orizari the only way to heat the room is with wood.

There are flashes up in the sky. One more reason to stay a little bit longer with Angelina’s family.

One year later:

Angelina tells about the school trip to the Vodno mountain, which she and the other children reached on the cable cars. Also, she has already visited the newly built Aqua-Park in Skopje.

The idea of a new dream job has come to her mind: she wants to become a doctor.

The first thought that comes to her mind about Shuto Orizari is rather negative: Angelina thinks about conflicts and fights in the streets …

Sinanda (14) and her dreams

Sinanda with her big eyes seems sad, if not depressed. Right now she repeats 8th grade and wants to become a hair dresser. But can she finish school and make her dream come true? Sinanda shrugs with her shoulders. She is not sure. Klara intervenes by stating that she has not appeared in class a lot of times.

In her dreams Sinanda’s grandmother often appears to her. Sinanda doesn’t tell her mother about it. Nightmares only occur when she has seen too many horror movies.

I ask Sinanda why she didn’t go to class often and hope not to make her uncomfortable.

I can see rather fast, that Sinanda’s family situation is problematic. Like in many households, the girl has to commit herself to her family. When her mother was pregnant and had to stay in bed, it was Sinanda’s duty to take care of the household and therefore she couldn’t go to school.

At Sinanda’s home: In both rooms it smells like mould. The six sisters sit bored on an old and damaged couch. Sinanda’s mother is not home, she is cleaning at another family’s place.

Sinanda likes to sing English songs. She even wants to become a professional singer. Generally music is a big deal for her. Her biggest dream is to once go to the Ohrid lake.

One is sure: Sinanda wants to change her life, to have money and a family, she wants to be able to stroll through the center and to own a mobile phone.

Can she imagine what her life will look like in 10 years? Sinanda thinks for a long time.

But in any case she wants to have a job and see a lot of cities.

One year later:

Sinanda is married in Belgium and therefore went far more further than the Ohrid-lake.

Delon (10) and his dreams

Delon decided to tell us about him.

The small, fragile boy wants to go to university and become a doctor, to help his parents. He would like to have a nice house.

His favourite subjects in school? Macedonian, maths and English.

Delon learns very well. He is proud of his good grades.

Delon is happy: his father now got a job and therefore they have more money.

One special event is clearly in his mind from the last year. His birthday in May had been very funny. Delon laughs. His guest had thrown a cake into his face. No joke. It’s a ritual here and he just thinks it’s really cool.

And Shuto Orizari? A pretty town, thinks Delon. And the streets are in his opinion rather clean.

Mirbeta (11) and her dreams

Mirbeta also is “new”. No, please no picture, she decides. Mirbeta knows what she wants. And she wants to become a lawyer or a detective.

The good grades she gets in school make her confident, because she desperately wants to go to university.

There are seven people living in Mirbeta’s house: 2 grandmothers, 2 grandfathers, one sister, who is 7 years old and a 2 year old brother.

Mirbeta likes to tell her mother about her dreams.

Her parents gave her a Tablet and her grandmother gave her a bike, with which she drives in the park in Shutka. In the future she wants to live in the USA or in Germany. She has three uncles abroad. And she wants to see how they live.

And what represents Shutka to her? At the name of her hometown Mirbeta thinks especially about the history of the Roma people. How they settled here and made this to the biggest Roma-settlement in the Balkans.

To read the rest of the book and support the author Andrea Wechsler, please buy her Balkan-Geschnetzeltes.: Kein Kochbuch online.

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