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Children get chance to mix in Sarajevo June 14, 2007

Posted by grhomeboy in Lifestyle.

Thousands of Bosnian children have descended on the capital of Sarajevo this week for the annual Kids Fest, offering some a rare chance to make friends across the country’s ethnic divide.

Bosnia was split into autonomous halves at the end of the 1992-95 war. Pupils on the Serb side might never meet Muslims or Croats their own age, while some schools in the Muslim Croat area have separate entrances and teaching times for students depending on ethnicity.

“When I see that children here have no chance to socialize with each other, not even within the same school at some places, I think of the apartheid I saw in South Africa,” said Susanne Prahl-Landzo, a German film producer who settled in Bosnia after the war and helped set up Kids Fest in 2004. “If I cannot influence politicians, I can influence the children, show them the world can be much more beautiful.”

The festival, whose motto is “Together,” is in Sarajevo, where over 1,000 children died during the 43-month siege by Bosnian-Serb forces in the war. Artists from around the world teach children how to make puppets, play drums, paint and sculpt.

Prahl-Landzo said the biggest success was winning over the parents. Reluctant at first to let their children mix, they changed their minds after seeing how happy the kids were and let them go again. “This is how this festival grows,” she said, adding that children sent letters of thanks throughout the year. The festival is sponsored by international aid agencies, embassies, ministries and private businesses, which transport the children to Sarajevo for free.

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