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Croatia: Culture and community for migrant women

18 March 2024

Art as a form of anxiety relief for asylum seekers and refugees is offered by the new project, ‘Circles of Care, Art and Community’, a project funded by MRG’s MARIO programme and implemented by Živi Atelje DK. This initiative fosters cultural integration for migrant women in Croatia, uniting newcomers with established residents through art and community engagement.

Through workshops and gatherings, women share skills, knowledge and empowerment, forging bonds based on mutual understanding and diversity. Amidst the uncertainty faced by asylum seekers and refugees, the project provides a safe space for healing and support, addressing trauma and fostering individual empowerment.

This project is part of their Women to Women collective, which uses art to bring together women who want Croatia to be their home, with those for whom Croatia is already home, to facilitate the integration of women into a new and ever-evolving community. Through workshops, gatherings, and excursions, women share and gain skills, knowledge, and empowerment while building on a support network and shared values of mutual understanding and tolerance and embracing diversity into a dynamic inclusionary society.

Credit: Živi Atelje Dajht Kralj.

The idea of the project is to create a safe, secure, and intimate space for women to exchange ideas, problems, and solutions or simply spend time together through connection through womanhood. Asylum seekers and refugees live in uncertainty about their status, their family and friends in their country of origin — the one they were constrained to leave — and their future. Given the fluctuating political and economic situation in Croatia, and the belief held by many that borders, control and deportations are needed, anxiety about the future is great. Together, the atmosphere of uncertainty and fear adds to the stress refugees and asylum seekers feel and can complicate integration during their time in Croatia.

Furthermore, many people within the refugee and asylum seeker community are dealing with prolonged traumas from what they survived in their home country and/or during their journey to Europe. Lack of care is sometimes due to language barriers, resources, and a lack of skills among those who do speak their language. Untreated traumas, in turn, can cause long-term physical and mental health complications (even for health professionals aware of the consequences). The trauma often spreads beyond the individual to the family and immediate community, causing social and integration problems and others, including domestic violence and substance abuse, among others.

Credit: Živi Atelje Dajht Kralj.

The project will also enable Živi Atelje DK to continue their weekly gatherings. The gathering, in and of itself, provides further opportunities to better know oneself, face one’s prejudices and improve community relations. The gathering is also a step toward healing invisible wounds, whether formally through art therapy or informally, in the sense of creating a secure and intimate space for women to express themselves and to help each other. The gathering helps with individual empowerment so a woman is dealt with as an individual rather than as part of a larger group of foreigners in Croatia or as a wife/mother in a family component.

Top photo credit: Živi Atelje Dajht Kralj.

This content is a guest post from one of our partner organizations about their work as part of our ‘Minorities, Accountability, Rights, Independence and Organisational Development’ (MARIO) programme. Learn more >

MARIO is funded by the Citizens, Equality, Rights and Values Programme (2021-27) of the European Union (ref: 101091387).


Cyrille Cartier

Živi Atelje DK