My cousin and I grew up together. We spent pretty much every weekend and most afternoons with each other. Curiously, the Serbian word for cousin is the same as the word for sibling and so it was that she was, and always has been in my heart, pretty much, my sister.
As a child I always perceived that because I was older I must definitely be more mature – she is after all 9 months younger than me; always has been, always will be. In the land of a 7 year old this is a vital difference, particularly when it spans across an academic year and means that as the “older” one you are always one school year ahead. It didn’t take too long however for her to question this seemingly indisputable, immovable setup, and I at 7 was not willing to give up my ground and my perceived authority on all matters that 7 year olds feel that they have an absolute understanding of.
Memories of this time fill my heart with such joy (although I do cringe at the thought of how obnoxious I must have been at times). To this day my cousin and I, even though we do not see or speak to each other anywhere near as often as we would like or we should, love and admire each other beyond all measure. She is an incredible academic working in the field of women’s rights and displaced peoples and her interviews in newspapers and on TV are always well thought out and intelligently argued.
One thing that we shared, and which shapes so many of our childhood memories, is the music of a singer who tragically passed away earlier this year. His songs not only spoke to us as teenagers whilst we worked out how we felt about ourselves and about the world we lived in, but they spoke to a generation of people who lived and grew up in the Balkans. His name was Djordje Balasevic and his passing was mourned on a national and international level. Vigils were held in major cities across the whole of ex Yugoslavia (he started his singing career when this was one country and his songs spoke to each and every one of us about the sadness and disappointment of all that had been lost in the conflicts that ensued during the 1990s). In fact, not only were his words powerful enough to move a whole generation, no matter which side of the border they were on (because they spoke of love and humanity which binds us, and not the political views which divided us) but they were so powerful as to have been posthumously determined as important enough to form part of the “lektira” required text that all children in Serbia should read and analyse in order to understand the cultural and historical context in which they are growing up.
The thing about Balasevic’s songs is that his words have an incredible power to evoke emotion. He was, at the very core, a poet, and his words have stayed with me and evolved in terms of their meaning and depth as the years have passed and I have moved from childhood to adulthood and to having my own children.
Words, written or spoken have an incredible power. Admittedly, this is not a very profound statement given that human communication is unique for its use of language. However, the understanding of the power that words can have is something that has been very much at the forefront of my mind recently and something that at Rossall we ensure all pupils are aware of. With this gift of language and the power of speech comes significant responsibility to communicate, celebrate and protect the values of a community that is welcoming, warm and inclusive. There is no better example of that than the presentations given in assemblies this week by our new School Captains, Sam and Mary and our Deputy School Captains, Tineka and Myles. Their desire to cherish, nurture and make a positive difference was palpable in everything that they said. Their positivity and their warmth shone through their eloquence and what they said and how they said it was an endorsement of all of the values that the school holds dear. They have great ambitions for their roles and we are exceptionally excited to see how they, along with our superb monitor team, will contribute to the life of the school over the coming year.