The remains of the grief, death, time in the “cage” without freedom.Will this cage be full again?
A cobweb in the cage that stretches from one end to another keepsthe transience and smells of the former camp.
How many more years will the cobweb continue to grow?
Rundown walls and ceilings that are falling apart day by dayremind us of suffering.
Every glitter represents the lost life of a camp inmate,the sprinkling of glitter symbolizes the eternal memory of the people.
Instead of growing the hair is getting shorter and there is less of itlike the life in the camp each day getting harder and shorter.
According to many, a cobweb is just dirty and useless. For me, though, it had a different meaning. When I first came to Staro sajmište and entered the pavilion, the first thing that caught my eye was the rising cobwebs and dust on the walls. It symbolizes the passage of time and the forgetting of tragedy. A tragedy locked in a cage.
My name is Iva Vujović and I am sixteen years old. I live in Belgrade and attend the second grade of the Third Belgrade Gymnasium. After high school, I plan to study law. I was a jury member of the 14+ selection within the Free Zone Film Festival in 2020 and 2021. I’m a big fan of movies.
The light was the one that gave the source of life and that time of sorrow was shown with the colours and other light effects. We got the opportunity to get familiar with the development of light installations, as well as their functioning, colour matching. We conceptualized how we could position the lights and made sketches.Then we moved on to work with lights. Our main tools were spotlights, projectors, “babies”… Mostly we worked at night, and we got the opportunity to get acquainted with the light, and its power. We blended lights of different colours, we played with shadows, lighting elements in the space that we wanted to highlight – to discover Sajmište and show the history of the location.Colors and lights are good indicators of feelings.By using light our goal was to show the history of the concentration camp, to give a mysterious effect with the colors, and to solve ambiguities by illuminating certain elements… The location and its history inspired me, so I combined those two concepts. For a long time, I observed the space and tried to feel the energy of the camp and its time of suffering. I imagined the events that happened there and then turned them into light installations. In my artwork, I used light to show details, shadows, and portraits.My performance aimed to feel pain, wounds on my skin… By looking around the space, I imagined an inmate fighting for another day of his life. I tried to escape from the Italian pavilion, but I couldn’t. The performance which I named Silent Quest for Freedom was filmed under UV light. Only my shirt was seen under that light, without my face and the rest of the body, it shows the mystery, fear, and also struggle.In the second performance, which is similar to the previous one, I psychologically entered the character. My goal was to show the continuation of that struggle for freedom. The performance shows how the detainee struggles to cope, by rolling on concrete and dust and not giving up on life. The title of this performance is In Silent Search of Freedom.
Definitely the space that surrounded us. That part of the city is very neglected. That left the strongest impression on me because that disrepair contributed to a better understanding of the conditions in which people and children lived.
Uglješa Surdučki, student of the School of Economics and Trade in Bečej. I like to read, sing, act, film, edit, write and make art out of everything I experience. And I love Free Zone! Thanks to Free Zone, I got the opportunity to express my ideas for the first time, to turn them into art and realize them. I got the chance to work with lovely and creative people and combine history and art.
Being a part of this project, and the performance workshop, was a great experience and a great honor. As someone who encountered this kind of art expression for the first time, I was skeptical at first. I was not sure if I would find myself in it in the right way. Due to the rich history that Staro sajmište hides, there are inspirations everywhere. Both of my performances were held in an Italian pavilion as this place occupied my attention. Its dilapidation, the obvious creepiness, especially at night, gave this place a special dimension. In my first performance, In the Shadow of the Hungry, with shadows and movements, I tried to convey the emotions of this place to various reflections that look like food. Since the Italian pavilion was a food warehouse during the Second World War, I wanted to present this fact at least in some symbolic way. Performance is a set of movements, emotions, and artistic actions, and its essence can be seen and understood differently by different viers.
The second performance Chains of the Past symbolizes how it feels when there is no exit. I was in a dark room with chains that didn’t allow me to reach the light. I tried to connect with this place and the people who used to be here. They wanted to reach that light, even though they didn’t have the strength to reach the exit. Something or someone denied them that light. That someone or something in this case is represented by chains that dragged me back into the darkness. The performance left a big impression on me. For the first time in my life, I was in a state in which I did not feel anything, neither physically nor mentally.
The strongest impression left the pavilions as each tells a different story. Also, a conversation with Ester Bajer, who revealed so many things about her life and Sajmište. I will remember some of her sentences forever.
My name is Ljubica Dragojlov, I am 19 years old and I am a future student at the Faculty of Law in Novi Sad. I love various types of art, from music to movies and performance art, and writing, and in addition, I am a big fan of travel.
Our group had a very complex task. Our mentor Susanne helped us to come up with the principles according to which we will look at the history of this historical place and dramatize it by presenting in short and clear outlines the closest possible events that characterized this important place. The work was filled with a good atmosphere and great mutual respect and mutual trust that we gained during the project. We were inspired by the absurdity of the purpose of this space throughout history from its inception (as a fair) to the present day (illegal living space and undeveloped green areas). We were interested in the fact that so many different stories were told at this place, which gave us direction for the setting of the work.
At Sajmište, I felt very calm and special, both because of the wonderful atmosphere and the people I worked with on the project and because of the mystery and pride of this place, which despite its historical significance does not have adequate protection and status in the country. From the colorful “historical dossier” of Sajmište, I would like to single out the first period and purpose of this place, the first Belgrade fair, which left the biggest impression on me through the work on this project. I can’t even leave out the hospitality of the residents of Sajmište, without whom my experience of this extremely unusual place would not be as it is.
My name is Mateja Jovanović, I am 16 years old and I am a student of the Third Belgrade Gymnasium. I have been acting since I was five, and I am currently a member of the DADOV Youth Theater ensemble. Although I plan to do theater directing, I like to watch quality movies in my free time. Participation in this project left a very significant positive impression on me and a change in the way I look at things around me.
Our comfortable shoes separate us from grass, earth, concrete, and asphalt. Our feet have become accustomed to this pleasure. But walking 24 kilometers is a lot. If we take away the comfort of that walk and add beatings, hunger, thirst, exhaustion, and more beatings, it becomes unbearable. That is what my fellow Jews experienced. During the death march, from Novi Pazar to Kosovska Mitrovica they were sent to the death camp. They couldn’t smell the Valley of Lilacs, nor any other smell than the smell of themselves, the air must have been missing. Who knows how many of them did not survive that journey.
I often pass this way, in my shoes, safe in the car or on the bus. In this artwork, I have tried to make visible their missing steps on that path. The ground they walked on certainly remembers them. For us to remember them we must become aware of their suffering and pain. And what is the better way than to feel the same way they did? Take off your shoes, walk barefoot, on the cold or warm concrete, dry or wet ground, rough or fine surface. So we walk and try to feel every blow of the cane. So let’s leave our mark on the ground, which we will not forget.
I always avoid places where a person has been killed. The thought of someone’s identity being extinguished there makes me avoid that place out of respect to them. Being at Sajmište was traumatic and difficult. The human ability to adapt left the biggest mark on me and encouraged me to think. We have all adapted to the place where we work, we have adapted to the people who live there. People who were forced to live there for various reasons have also adapted. And Sajmište itself has adjusted five times. From the newly built modern fair, through the camp, the workers ‘pavilion, the artists’ workspace to the living space of the people who are there today.
My name is Adem Tutuć. I grew up in a multicultural Novi Pazar. I have just finished Gymnasium. Through theater and film, I have been actively dealing with the topic of the Holocaust in our region for several years. The video installation is a new format for me. Every piece of my work so far is about the Jews of Novi Pazar who have never returned to that city. I try to explain that the responsibility is in our hands. And that it is up to us to remember what was done to our compatriots and all the Jews of the world.
The first video work is a short documentary that tells an interesting story about a woman born in Sajmište while it was a concentration camp. It speaks of the desire for life, about hope and striving for our bright future! The flowers that appear in the video symbolize something new, young, alive, tender, and full of hope… which I also connected with this touching story that inspired me to record an honest conversation with Ester Bajer and compose it into a short documentary.
A second short film is called Hopelessness. It is about almost every historical period of Staro sajmište. The past, the present and the future. The video describes the conditions people currently live in and shows what they hope for. During my work, I collaborated with the light installation workshop that inspired me to make a completely new story out of ordinary neglected space.
The strongest impression at Staro sajmište was socializing and collective work; the possibility of trying out and using modern technology. I am satisfied with the organization. There were also a lot of beautiful unexpected moments such as life lessons and new perspectives provided by our mentors. I would like to participate in the following Free Zone projects.
My name is Tara Dragojevic. I am 15 years old and I live in Belgrade. I am going to the Stanković High School of Music, in the jazz department and I am playing the piano. I have been selected as a jury of the Free Zone Film Festival and the Free Zone Junior. I have also been a member of the Young Theater Experts for two years.
The biggest impression on me at Staro sajmište was the people who live there today and the bad conditions in which they live. Also, the dilapidation of the place stunned me.
My name is Matija Sabo Vojnić and I am going to the 3rd grade of the IT department at the “Svetozar Marković” Gymnasium. I am very versatile, and I like improving my existing knowledge and broadening my horizons in other areas. There used to be a saying: Man learns while he is alive, but I would reformulate it into Man is alive while he learns.
The inspiration for the performance was the victims of the concentration camp Staro Sajmište. I wanted to pay tribute to the innocent, poor people who fought for their lives. To those who were separated from their loved ones to those who were overnight deprived of their freedom. The bricks represent the Nazis who hold prisoners like dogs on a leash.
The red thread is the people, the victims, who are seeking freedom, but without success, and it also represents the red carpet for the people to whom the whole world should bow.
The three types of flowers represent Serbs, Jews, and Roma, the nations who were taken to the camp.
I chose a monument for the victims of the Second World War as a place for my performance. The place gave me an idea, it inspired me to show honor and respect to the victims. The monument consists of two parts trying to merge, but never succeed. Same as the victims, who are only a few steps away from their city, exit, and freedom. While looking at the monument, I could imagine people, who used to walk there happy. And when the war started, that happiness was taken away from them and silence reigned. That inspired me to make a red carpet for all the victims of that horrible place, because that crime should never be forgotten, and those people are our heroes!
The strongest impression on me left an elderly lady, who came to visit us during our work on Staro sajmište. Her name is Ester Bajer, and her life story is very inspiring. From her birth until today, she has not forgotten her mother, although she has never met her. The great tragedy that befell her family only strengthened her. I am very glad to have had the opportunity to meet her and understand the circumstances in which she grew up. A sad story with a happy ending. From that day on, I began to think more about the lives of innocent people during the war and realized how happy I am to have a family that I can rely on and I know they will always be with me, no matter what.
Hello, I am Helena Sekulić, a fourth-grade student of the Tenth Gymnasium in Belgrade, an athlete, journalist, and swimming coach. I love reading books, I love challenges and I enjoy making new friends.
A Woman as a Canvas that Keeps the Memory is an idea that was born after visiting the Jewish Historical Museum. One of the exhibited statues in the museum was made in Jasenovac. Although I thought I knew a lot about the suffering during the Second World War, I was amazed that the detainees created art during the war. I was fascinated by the fact that a man sentenced to death creates, that no one could suppress his search for a higher meaning. Then I’ve got an idea that we all need to mark down our impressions on the body – a canvas that breathes. In that way, we are reconnecting the memory of suffering, reminding us that a person exposed to the worst torments does not lose touch with creation. The fact that the canvas is a person, that breathes at the same place where camp inmates at one time were, is a statement that we will continue to preserve the memory, that the living must remember the dead.
To understand Sajmište, it is important to spend time at Sajmište, not just to read about it.
Time seems to be lost between those cold and dark walls, and the impression is that as if it was yesterday some people, children, women who had their family histories, interests, desires were imprisoned in those abandoned buildings. We, young people from all over Serbia, have continued the thread that has been broken and faded all these decades. The strongest impression is that we all have participated in rescuing from oblivion one great truth – the truth about people who had names and surnames, family albums, and beautiful lives until the world was taken by evil.
My name is Dunja Trifunović and despite my diverse experience in the field of art, I have encountered performance for the first time during the project The Light of the Fireflies. This experience was extremely important for me and broadened my horizons.
I was one of the three members of the theater-drama workshop led by German artist Susanne Chrudina and Serbian screenwriter and poet Maša Seničić. I got to know the Staro sajmište better from the period of its opening until today. Our work consisted of two phases. In the Tenth Belgrade Gymnasium, we were brainstorming and everyone would present their ideas, or we watched various documentaries and interviews about people who survived the camp. In Staro sajmište, we rehearsed various plays. Susanne would say – We are not actors and we do not play German commanders, nurses, or camp inmates, the text we are playing is a kind of performance. We added personalized reactions and in our way, we expressed, with movements and facial expressions, the messages that the text carries. While we were rehearsing plays, we asked for help from members of other workshops.
My performance of Hilda Deajč was the most difficult for me to do because it was a girl my age who left everything to go to the camp and help others. Until I performed it properly, I felt awe, but also honour. In the end, I felt some relief, because, at least I hope, I managed to show the amount of humanity and care that she had and that we should all look up to. I am sure that the content of the application will not leave anyone indifferent.
The children from Staro sajmište left the strongest impression on me. Although they do not have the best living conditions, for many of them Sajmište is love and home. People do not appreciate what they have until they lose it. Children at Sajmište were cute and friendly. We shared everything with them – from lunches to some of our stories. We played or talked to them during breaks. They also helped us with some performances. I was glad to have direct contact with the Roma population and the poorer part of the population. During those ten days of the workshop, I felt like I was living with them.
Hello everyone, my name is Katarina Beković and I am 18 years old. I am a graduate of the Fifth Belgrade Gymnasium.
At the entrance to Staro Sajmište, I felt some bitterness and discomfort, I suddenly became nervous. It was as if that place lured me to itself and constantly said: “Come, meet me.” It was difficult for me to approach something that poses a threat or even associates sadness and pain. I started researching the place, getting to know it, and maybe it got to know me too. The first entrance to the pavilion was stressful, difficult and exhausting. I didn’t know where to start, I was constantly turning around and checking to see if anyone was behind me. Although the pavilion was empty, there was a sense of presence. In time, that fear disappeared. I tried to express everything I felt as best I could. Each role was demanding. I think that the aim was to live at least a second of someone’s life, even in my mind.
All my life I passed by the Sajmište, but I never wondered what that place represents. All I knew was that it was a former camp. In the beginning, I felt some discomfort, as well as constant tension due to the discovery of every event – a historical moment. The fairground taught me how important history is, it made me think, rethink and research, which I think is most important for us teenagers. At Sajmište, I met various people with different attitudes and opinions. The location of Sajmište itself is extremely interesting and unusual, the left bank of the Sava, and on the right is the most exclusive part of the city of Belgrade. I saw a huge contrast between life, and Belgrade itself.
The stories stay remembered, so we must talk about important topics as much as possible. I fell in love with Sajmište. It was as if I was experiencing everything that happened, of course, within myself, it was some kind of my inner struggle. Every day, even today, I think about those people and that place, they carved themselves into my memory. I often visit Sajmište. I became part of its history after 15 days spent at the Staro Sajmište. Thanks to the Free Zone for allowing me to get to know an exceptional place like this and for making it very dear and important to me.
My name is Nevena Mitrovic. I am 18 years old and I am a high school student of the Fifth Belgrade Gymnasium. I am an active member of various organizations and this year I participated in the Light of the Fire project organized by the Free Zone. I love theater and film. I would like to study film and television directing or acting.
By installing adequate stage lighting, our workshop provided other workshops with the opportunity to present their artistic skills in the best way. Since this was the first project I did on this topic, I can say that each lighting opened a path of light to a new perspective. These perspectives were not reflected only in my thoughts during the project but also in the feelings I had while walking through the place where genocide against Serbs, Jews, and Roma was committed by the occupying forces of Nazi Germany.
People from Sajmište left the biggest impression on me. Not just those who are part of the project and with whom I cooperated every day, but also those who struggle every day at the Sajmište. The struggle for the preservation of history, culture, consciousness, art, the struggle for one’s own life. Trying to do a lot from the little they have and to create the most beautiful space for themselves. Also, a significant impression on me left the collective awareness of the people who live at Sajmište about the need to respect their neighbors and their relatives.
My name is Marko Perunović, I am seventeen years old and I live in Leskovac. I am a student of the Petnica Science Center. Apart from acting and creative writing, I am also very interested in history.
I had an idea for two performances. The first one was called Repurposing, and I didn’t come up with a name for the second one at the time. Now it’s called Heads. In the first performance, I tried to wash the dirt under the window.I tried to “wash” all the atrocities that happened in that place, but my goal was not to get rid of all the “dirt”, because the past of Sajmište should not be forgotten. After that, I took a brush and white paint as a representation of something pure and new, as the life that people made in that place. Then I drew a white line. The line should be associated with the continuity of life as well as the beginning and the end. At the former entrance to Sajmište, at the sculpture of heads, I did my second performance. I inflated colorful balloons that represented what Sajmište used to be. Once people and children visited the Fair to have fun and have a good time. Then I tied the balloons with red thread, climbed on one of the sculptures, and stabbed all the balloons on the thorns, which symbolizes the end of something beautiful and cheerful that suddenly turned into horror.
The story about Sajmnište left the strongest impression on me. I will never forget what I learned during those two weeks on the Light of Fireflies project.
My name is Kalina Petrović, I am 18 years old and I am a student of the Music School “Živorad Grbić” where I have been playing the flute for nine years. I like to travel and meet new cultures, and thanks to music, I travelled half of Europe and met a lot of interesting people. I also love reading and learning new languages.
From the very beginning, we have been searching for the right way to present the history of Staro sjamište with light, shadows, and colors.My idea was to work with shadows and portraits and to show scenes of violence against camp inmates using shadows.
My name is Lazar Kručičanin, I am fifteen years old and I live in Belgrade. I attend the Philological High School and I am interested in creative writing, photography, and comics.