I have already mentioned that I met many young people during the project and many of them were or still are members of the Association of Secondary School Students of Bosnia and Herzegovina. What they all have in common is the confidence they radiate and their firm belief in their own abilities, and this is one of the most important things that a young person needs at the beginning of their life path. However, Valerija Blagojević stands even more out and I have not had the pleasure of listening to someone like her for a long time. I have no doubts whatsoever that she will achieve anything she wishes in life and dedicates herself to, because the will and desire that she has can hardly be shaken by something.
I am Valerija Blagojević, I am 18 years old, I am from Modriča and I am currently a member of ASU BiH, that is I have been a Steering Committee member for two years and I have been acting for ten years.
I had the first play when I was five years old. Ever since then I wanted to enrol at the Academy and be an actress. Then I was in primary school and this is when it somehow started with the teacher. When I was older, a became a member of the amateur theatre and I worked with them. When there were too many obligations, both at the Association and at other NGOs, I had to leave the theatre, but I therefore continued working on acting through other clubs, although I neglected it a bit. I started reading more about it and getting ready for the entrance exam.
I started preparing myself for the entrance exam two years ago, however, this year, since I am in the fourth grade, I am intensifying the preparation, getting acquainted with the material and starting to slowly choose texts that I can use for the entrance exam. I will first try in Novi Sad, Belgrade, and then in Sarajevo, because this is the order of the exams, they are not all on the same day. Wherever I manage to be accepted, will be good. :)
How did you decide to join the Association of Secondary School Students, how long have you been a member?
I am from Modriča, a small town where you can always find some comments, disagreements or doubts of the public when it comes to these issues. When someone wishes to achieve a positive change, it is very difficult to do that here, because people do not understand that one can really achieve something. I was terribly affected by it, and then, out of spite, I decided to found a group of activists, young people who think like I do. Through some acquaintances I learned about the Association of Secondary School Students and when I was in the first grade of secondary school, I was already a coordinator. Within a year, we had more than 15 activities and we thus became one of the more active teams, my 5 friends and I. The youngest of them was three years older than I.
So, although I was the youngest, I led a very strong team. However, it was very difficult because the school did not support me at all. I had great problems with the headmaster, school management, both me and my colleagues.
But those activities were not problematic?
No, you see, the Association of Secondary School Students is an NGO that has nothing to do with the school and it gathers secondary school students that would like to achieve changes without any influence of teachers. This means that at the Association, secondary school students work independently. And this is what bothered them – that they have no insight and impact on the work of the Association itself, they were afraid that the students would depict negative things related to the secondary school.
This is why we had a very strict censorship. However, as of last year, there is a new female headmaster and she is now supporting us very much in everything and it is much easier for us. She is also supporting such projects. If compared to the situation with the past headmaster, now it is much easier. But it was a gradual change to obtain all that. And then, two years ago, I applied for the steering committee and I am the youngest steering committee member of ASU BiH and currently the youngest candidate for the chairperson.
To what extent has the Association changed your life?
Well, on a scale from 1 to 10 – 15 :D
Really a lot. I cannot describe how many opportunities I have had during these four years, through various initiatives I led, workshops, exchanges, etc. In general, all projects that I had a chance to participate in through the Association were an opportunity to meet an enormous number of persons and make friends for life, friendships that are truly unbreakable.
Most importantly, this helped me understand where I am standing – where I see myself and who I actually am. That is as a matter of fact very important in the life of every secondary school student, in order not to get lost in these crazy and turbulent years, to know what we wish to fight for.
I have never been attracted to alcohol or any of the things that my peers were doing. I have always been attracted by things such as a theatre reconstruction or socialising with my peers in Bosnia and Herzegovina. This has never been accepted here and that is what made me engage in all of this. And then you get acquainted with an organisation such as ASU BiH that opens all doors for you and you understand that there is really that world where I can say that I am Valerija Blagojević and where other persons will accept me as Valerija Blagojević. That is the most important thing.
For example, if you had contacted me four years ago, I would not be able to tell you all of this, and now I am, so that experience might be the most valuable thing that you can experience in ASU BiH.
I am planning to graduate from the Academy and to then study international relations and diplomacy in Warsaw. I would get goose bumps when someone would say international relations and diplomacy, I really hated it. However, during summer holidays I went to Poland, spent several days there and I loved the country. They have a fabulous school system, excellent universities both in Warsaw and Krakow. I actually wanted to try to apply for the Academy there, but they do not accept foreign students, which is completely logical, because I do not speak the language properly, so that diplomacy would be really good, because they are an EU Member State, part of the NATO Alliance and they have a good image.
Is this your plan if you do not get accepted at the Academy?
No, that is actually my plan after the Academy, because I have had the plan to graduate from two faculties for a long time. I love to learn about things I am interested in. I am not an A student, I am a B student, but the reason for this is because I do not study subjects I am not interested in. Such as mathematics, where I have always had difficulties and German language. On the other hand, I have always been excellent in things that I am interested in.
Once you graduate from the secondary school, you will leave the Association. How will you compensate for the activism?
Well, you know, if you leave the Association of Secondary School Students, and you were a steering committee member, then you can be an alumni member. I will be an alumni member of ASU BiH, and that is like being an honorary member that helps ASU BiH, the steering committee and other members in the implementation of some projects.
What I would really like is to establish something similar as ASU BiH at the Academy of Performing Arts, some sort of an organisation that would promote acting in an activist-like manner. For example, we would do plays and would then talk to the audience about how they experienced it. Such plays would be educational, for example, about addiction in the society and then we would deal with the topic.
It would be an informal group of young artists wishing to show art in a somewhat different manner, to make it more accessible, which is very important now.
What do you think about the growing trend of persons leaving Bosnia and Herzegovina, especially among young persons?
I have just said that I would like to go to Warsaw. I was a big opponent of persons that would go abroad and not come back. I still have the same opinion. I do not wish to leave, and especially not to leave and not come back. The reason is the fact that I believe that Bosnia and Herzegovina is the most beautiful thing there is, every stone in it. I am a big patriot, because I have extensively travelled the country and I believe that great things can be achieved, especially by us, young people, that had the chance to experience all of this. We know the situation, how things function. And I think that it is a great thing that, once I come back from Warsaw with a diploma, I will create a chaos, a positive one. To make young people see that Graz and Vienna are great, but that we have here something that is valuable.