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Report on meeting in Macedonia

Bridges of Understanding

International Western Balkan Meeting in Macedonia 2018, Photo: IPPNW

Since 1995, medical students from different countries of former Yugoslavia have been taking part in the IPPNW program "Bridges of Understanding". They are invited to Würzburg to serve a one-month internship at the Missionsärztliche Klinik / Juliusspital (Klinikum Würzburg Mitte). They work in various departments, staying together in the house of St. Michael near the hospital. IPPNW medical students also organised a good program for their free time.

Every year, there is also a meeting to network in the Balkans. This year, the participants met from 11.-13. May 2018 in Mavrovo National Park in Macedonia. Over the weekend, we held discussions and friendships were built. Former and future participants of the program were invited to take part, as well as the IPPNW members in the region, members of IPPNW Germany and the Würzburg regional group.

The first impression was the capital Skopje and its huge heroic statues, like the statue of Alexander the Great. But the Ottoman old town also showed us how diverse this city is, characterized by different religions and ethnic groups. Next we traveled to the actual venue: across the country and into the green Mavrovo National Park, the largest in Macedonia. Covering an area of 731km² it is located southwest of the city of Gostivar. The "Western Balkan Meeting" took place located directly on the picturesque Mavrovo Lake, in the midst of this rural idyll.

After a warm welcome, we took a small walk that provided wonderful views over the wide hills of the National Park. During the obligatory coffee break, we exchanged our first personal experiences and made each other‘s acquaintance before the following day‘s program demanded our full attention.

Each nation had prepared presentations for the plenary: on themes such as "peace and reconciliation", "nationalism", "social media", but also "mindfulness in medicine" and "migrant medicine". It was a colorful mix of various lectures, including both fun and thoughtful content. After that, it was wonderful to enjoy a great common evening meal of regional specialities and, of course, many ideas were personally exchanged. Anyone who still had energy than went out to party. Celebrating and being together is just part of life!

On the following day, there were mainly reports from all the countries and cities represented: local IPPNW groups introduced themselves and showed us parts of the IPPNW network. It's great to see how the Balkan IPPNW network continues to play an active role in society. This year, the "Western Balkan Meeting" was a wonderful experience for IPPNW members from Würzburg. We are already looking forward to the continuation of this series of meetings. Next year, we are going to travel to Banja Luka in the north of Bosnia Herzegovina.

But before this, the annual meeting of students from various Balkan countries will take place in Würzburg. This will be four weeks long where new contacts are created, bridges are built and finally gaps are overcome: Bridges of Understanding! 

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