Students create cartoons in solidarity with refugees

Seven enthusiastic students from the Ss. Cyril and Methodius University in Skopje joined the project called Now a Refugee – Always Human and decided to help refugees by doing what they do best: draw and write.

The UNHCR Skopje awareness raising project Now a Refugee – Always Human is implemented by the Centre for Human Rights and Conflict Resolution and the Association for Research, Education and Development, RED Center, with financial support from the European Union. Its goal is to deepen solidarity with refugees and sensitize the citizens of the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia about the rights of refugees and the difficulties they face in accessing them.

Gathered at a creative camp, fine arts students Aleksandra, Kristijan, Sandra and Marko produced drawings, whereas Saranda, Marija and Verche, who are literature students, penned the scripts to complete the jointly created cartoons depicting refugee life.

“Those three days spent at the camp were interesting, creative and extremely useful because we shared our ideas and inspired one another,” says Saranda.

With professional guidance from professors Aleksandar and Irina and Maja, Renata and Filipina from the project team, the seven young women and men now and here became the voice of refugees from anywhere and anytime.

“I hope that our stories and cartoons will achieve what we intended, and that is to raise the awareness of young people that these are people who simply need help… And this is our way to help them… Everyone in the way they can,” says Aleksandra.

Marija says that before the training they received, she had no specific information, data or facts about what was going on in the countries from where refugees are fleeing. Verche continues and says that the revelation of the information came as a shock to them: “It was very sad yesterday. Many people followed these sessions with teary eyes. We understood where these people come from and how wrongly people see them, including us, who should be forerunners of change.”

Many of the students could see themselves in the shoes of the refugees. “That question – what if it were me, my friend, my relative?” continues to work its way through Marija’s mind.

Some of them even had refugee or internal displacement experiences in their families. “I spent my childhood with some short versions of their life. That ordeal on their way, that pain, starving, sadness…” recalls Marija.

It is truly amazing how much a cartoon can convey. “In fact, the cartoon is in a way like watching a film. There are frames, camera, sound in the cartoon, too,” Kristijan explains. The final product are three phenomenal cartoons that vividly and unequivocally advocate for solidarity with refugees: The Boy with a Rag Desire, On the Trail of a Dream, and Pearl of the Desert, published together in one book called Black and White Lives. The book can be accessed here.

If you are wondering what you can do to stand with refugees, read the cartoons and be inspired to inspire more people.

UNHCR is grateful to the following individuals for uniquely standing with refugees: students Verche Karafiloska, Marija Gegoska, Saranda Mehmedi, Aleksandra Ristovska, Kristijan Popovski, Marko Stojanovski, and Sandra Simonovska; mentors Aleksandar Popovski, Irina Talevska, Renata Dedova, and Filipina Negrievska; creation process manager Maja Cvetanoska and project manager Violeta Petroska-Beshka.