Our vicinity is citizens, friends, colleagues, diversity, joy, natural beauty, strength, and even exaggeration, which does no harm and is great for jokes.
Among other things, we are also big fans of anniversaries in our vicinity, so if we tried hard enough we could say that this year we are celebrating the tenth anniversary of Vicinity. Let’s not forget that Vicinity actually appeared 11 years ago, as a pilot project. You already know everything about us, and if you don’t and you are interested, you can find everything on this portal, so I won’t be getting into that.
Regardless of the jubilee, I was reminiscing on the beginnings and remembered one illustrative episode of the team that was launching the project at that time. We had a name, Okruženje, but it also had to be translated into English – for those who do not speak any of the 3 languages of the vicinity (in this case, the so-called WB6), and for those to whom we wanted to show that not everyone in this region is prone to outbursts away from essential democratic values. Show that we have understanding and empathy, and the ability to judge what is good for people, not for members of a nation and religion.
The translation turned out to be a challenge, despite the fact that we had three colleagues in the office whose native language was English. Neighbourhood? It is, but it’s not just a neighbourhood. Environment? It’s somewhere in the middle, but again not quite it. Circle? It is a kind of circle, but it seems claustrophobic… And then we came to Vicinity – a word that means proximity, neighbourhood, closeness. That’s it!
At the end of this season, I suggested to editors from all countries, my colleagues, to write something on the subject – what is the first thing that comes to mind when you say the word vicinity and why vicinity is important. Then I found myself facing the same task. I immediately wrote down my words, the first associations that came to mind right then, without giving it too much thought. I wrote: anxiety, limitations, constraints. I was terrified! Among other things, because that is the complete opposite of how much I believe I am free, of how much I love this space, how much I experience it as my own, regardless of which part of the vicinity I am at a given time; it is completely the opposite of what this project should mean, what we want to avoid with it, and the message we want to send.
Is our vicinity, which we often call a region (Balkans, Western Balkans, Southeast Europe…) anxious, limited and constricted? It seems that our political elites did a good job of getting my subconscious to tell me what I was thinking in this random self-psychological test.
Those associations must have been the first to come to mind, because the Vicinity portal has been under permanent hacker attacks for a month now. We didn’t want to believe that we were a target, but it seems like we were. Who are we bothering and why?!
Maybe the associations are like that because when I go back to my Montenegro, I don’t see citizens, but Montenegrins, Serbs, Albanians, Bosniaks… Because in Serbia, where I live, I see patriots and domestic traitors. Entities in Bosnia and Herzegovina, excess of enthusiasm and lack of action in Albania, betrayed Europeans in Macedonia and our region in miniature in Kosovo. But, Vučić, Rama, Đukanović, Gruevski, Dodik and Kurti are not our vicinity. Our vicinity is citizens, friends, colleagues, diversity, joy, natural beauty, strength, and even exaggeration, which does no harm and is great for jokes. It’s proximity, neighbourhood, closeness.
Let us have a joyful jubilee, whether it be one or not, with a message to leaders that it is their duty and decisive role to recognize messages from the vicinity or the Vicinity in order to free ourselves from the feeling of anxiety, limitation and constraint. But, it’s not all up to the politicians, some things are up to us too.
Zvezdana Kovač, general secretary of the European Movement in Serbia and editor of Vicinity