Daniela Krajčová

SLOVAK FOR ASYLUM SEEKERS

Rohovce, Slovakia
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Slovak for Asylum Seekers is a collaborative project with asylum seekers living in a refugee camp in Rohovce, Slovakia. The project begins with weekly Slovak language lessons, as one of the primary problems for refugees is the challenge of communicating in a new language. Slovak grammar lessons are modeled on conversations with the refugees, becoming more difficult as the project unfolds and the refugees are able to speak and/or write about their conditions for living. The difficulties in the lessons mirror the difficulties in the everyday life of the refugee. Thus, the project had a two-fold purpose, to teach and practice Slovak with the refugees, and to give them the ability to express their thoughts and concerns in the native language of their adopted home.

 

Working closely with Daniela Krajčová, the refugees also produced material to be used in an animated film that addresses the challenges that asylum seekers face in Slovakia. Krajčová talked with the participants about their lives in the camp and in their native country around subjects that, on face value, seemed to be easy to talk about, such as food, daily activities, work, friends, and hobbies. She not directly address the dramatic moments and traumas of their lives, yet even in talking about a subject such as food, larger life problems or challenges came to the surface.

 

In the creative workshops, the immigrants were invited to create short texts or drawings and bring photos to use as a means of expression. It was forbidden to make photos or videos in the area of the camp, which is one of the reasons that the final outcome of the piece as in the form of  the drawn animation. The manual work needed to create the drawings referenced the limited employment opportunities available to the immigrants, the only working possibility for them being hard, manual labor.

 

After six months of regular workshops in the camp Krajčová, the refugees organized a public presentation of the work in a gallery. The presentation included was a projection of the animation and a table with all of the drawings and texts. The participants were present in the gallery throughout the exhibition, continuing to talk, draw and write in the gallery as they had done in the workshops in the camp. The visitors could talk with the refugees, an opportunity that is rarely available in Slovakia. One of the primary objectives of the project overall was to help change the perception about refugees in the general public through these impromptu dialogues as well as organized public discussions. The material created in the gallery (including drawings, texts and audio recordings) was subsequently added to the animation, creating a new piece that can be used to continue the mission of the project in other venues. These have included a presentation of the project in the city of Košice during the International day of Immigrants and in the collective exhibition Jeune Création Européenne, produced in eight different European countries.