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Young European 2009

IG Alpbach Belgrade is glad to have granted Young European Award at the Oratory Competition of the Faculty of Law University of Belgrade for the 4th time. At the Oratory Competition, held on January 27th 2009, Milica Gvozdenovic, IG Alpbach Belgrade member and former Young European award-winner, awarded Young European 2009 to Ksenija Nikolic for her speech: "The Change"


How many times have you tried to quit smoking? How many times did you try to do something different than you usually do, something that will wake you up from the routine of your lives? How about that certain change that would make you immoral in the eyes of many? I look at you all here, all of you dressed in the most classic way, naturally…

Comfortable in what we know, rarely do we dare to leave that place, and that is perfectly normal, all of the people are a bit conservative. We.. We are a bit more conservative that the others. We are locked in our past, very traditional, static, xenophobic, and homophobic. Can you imagine how hard must it be for a person to deal with one of these phobias? Imagine than, how hard must it be for somebody to have to deal with all of them at once. Having that in mind, I must say that our people is a very complex case for a psychiatrist.

To change is hard. But to change, for better or for worse, is inevitable. Change happens even to the strongest people, to the longest traditions, to the most powerful regimes, and to the richest empires. The word “change” is everywhere: in commercials, billboards, songs and movies, in political speeches and propaganda, because it calls you to wake! Even Obama won the elections under the parole”Change, we can!” We are the ones who carry it, every one of us.

How many of you are for the changes in marriage? And how many are for the changes in society? Most of the people always think that change in marriage is far more difficult to make than ones in society. Serbia is an excellent example that it is not so.

Change is very powerful. Even though it happens sometimes with just a word, with just a single gesture, it is an avalanche that will reshape everything that comes its way.

We are all afraid of it, every one of us, and courageous are those who started it. A writer, philosopher, one of the founders of the First University in Serbia, and Serbia’s first minister of education, is the one who started the avalanche – Dositej Obradovic revolutionary and reformist. Let me tell you a funny story about what once happened to him.

During his visit to Serbia’s villages, Dositej brought potato with him. A vegetable that was in that time very popular in Europe, since it was not expensive and it was very tasty and easy to cook. Serbian people still didn’t know anything about it, and Dositej wanted to show it to them. The potato has traveled a long way from Europe to Serbia, and it got a bit soft and got those whips and looked a bit unusual. Serbian villagers were terrified of this vegetable’s look and they threw the potato to Dositej and shouted: “Why have you brought us this piece of Devil’s work? We won’t eat it!”

Dositej also had an encounter with a similar reaction of Serbian people, while he worked in Karadjordje’s service as his personal advisor. One day, Karadjordje decided to make a small change in his army and said that all of the long-haired soldiers must cut their hair, because he realized that the Turks use Serbian soldiers’ long hair to pull them from their horses easily, but short hair wouldn’t be a disadvantage in the battle. Serbian soldiers almost raised a military revolution!

Karadjordje vas concerned about his soldiers’ safety, and Dositej was eager to help his people improve their agriculture!

Do you see some similarities from Serbia in the XIX century with Serbia today, in XXI century?

The first reaction to anything that is new is to throw a potato at it, even if that potato could bring us some good. Back that, when Serbia was fighting for its independence, Dositej said: “I call upon the Serbian people, to take from other people’s cultures those things that are better and progressive”

Change, as something that awakes you and moves you, not as something destructive. The change which brought us from the caves to fire, from fire to the wheel and from the wheel to electricity. The one which brought us from that potato to revolution, from revolution to democracy and modern state.

A recent survey done in our country about the possible entrance of Serbia to EU showed that more that 40% of our people are scared of that! They think that it would take our soul, and our rakia most definitely! It seems to me that it might be another piece of Devil’s work …

To change and to adopt some of the European values does not necessarily mean that we have to break up with everything that we have and everything that we are. On contrary, it only means that we should make an upgrade to the strong foundations that were set for this people by Dositej and those like him.

Today, when Serbia is fighting for its place in Europe, we mustn’t close our hearts and eyes in front of everything that comes new to us, like it is somethnig sinister. Karadjordje didn’t fight his battles for that and Dositej then might have made a whole revolution in vain. My Serbian people, you musn’t let your history or tradition ever be forgotten, but will you die of hunger just because potato doesn’t look nice?! Please don’t, at least this time!

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