I will examine the memories of extreme experiences; of offences undergone or offences inflicted. In this case every, or almost every thought which could obliterate or deform mnemonic recording is laboured: the memory of a trauma, suffered or inflicted, is in itself traumatic because it hurts to remember or, at the very least, it will disturb. He who was injured, tends to remove that memory in order to not renew the pain; he who instead inflicted, chases the memory back into the depths, to free himself, to reduce his guilt.

Primo Levi
The drowned and the saved

Every man is distinguished by his own history. His choices and destiny depend upon it. Knowing the story of who surrounds us allows to know ourselves better. Bombed by images of war and tragedies from the rest of the world, in part addicted to evil, we forget to question what happens to the people that truly experience the reality of these tragedies.

In 1991 Ex Jugoslavia was subjected to a terrible civil war which seized everybody unprepared. The pecularity shared by who survived the conflict is their incredulity over a war, violence and hatered which seemed impossible to occur in their own homes, from their neighbours, from who had always just been a normal citizen.

It seemed that in Europe the disgraceful and shocking veil of ethnic cleansing had been buried at the end of nazism, or at least the brutal force with which it shattered our continent. The Balcan wars proved the contrary and reminded everybody that the most dramatic tragedies can occur even in front of our own house door. The ill-omened event re-opened many injuries showing how a group or indiviudual capacity’s will can desire the annihilation of another.

All of a sudden, in western European countries, citizens witnessed a massive amount of refugees seeking political asylum. Who went to elementary and middle school in the ’90s can surely remember new children sitting in the classroom with strange names, different looks speaking a language never heard before. We all knew of a war that was going on on TV and we knew they came from there. However nobody knew what a war was nor what these children had gone through before entering the door of our classroom and sitting between us. Childish racism broke out against who couldn’t integrate immediately, who wasn’t fun at first sight. They would defend or ridicule themselves just to be recognised in the eyes of the others.

This work wants to show what happened to these children who lived and experienced war, in its different aspects and from different sides, which all have something in common: that is of staying in the country that first hosted them during the conflict.

Twenty years from the last great European conflict, this project wants to reconstruct some of the stories of modern exiles which have by now lived the most part of their life in a country not of theirs and which had to reinvent an identity in an unknown place. They have blent into the moltitude of people living in Switzerland (and abroad) leaving the traces of their own past to vanish. Traces they carry inside, and one of the most intense experiences for human beings: war.

Alan Alpenfelt