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Freedom is a big concept

The situation in Ukraine has not left anyone unmoved. There are many questions, uncertainties, expressions of support and actions to help. The harrowing situation reminds us of the war in the former Yugoslavia. As part of the ‘Unprecedentedly Special’ project, a whole series of oral history interviews were held with refugees from the former Yugoslavia between 2014 and 2016, mainly people from Bosnia. In in-depth, filmed interviews, they tell their life stories. They tell about the bewilderment that people who were neighbours suddenly started killing each other. And about the road they took to build a new life in the Netherlands. Some of these interviews can be read and watched on the Ongekend Bijzonder website. 


It is inconceivable that these stories are still as urgent and topical as they were before. The war in Ukraine teaches us that war in Europe is not just a thing of the past and that freedom and peace cannot be taken for granted.


For the National Committee 4 and 5 May Foundation BMP conducted additional interviews with Bosnians who came to the Netherlands in the 1990s. These interviews are about Freedom. Unfreedom and commemoration. Based on these interviews and with Iraqis who came to the Netherlands in the same period, the report “Vrijheid is een groot begrip” was published. The interviewed Bosnians warn explicitly for the role of propaganda and wonder how it is possible that one person, or a small group of people, can influence the mindset of so many people.  


Unfortunately, their warning appears to have been justified. Our thoughts are with all those affected by the war in Ukraine and with the Russian citizens who are taking to the streets and demonstrating against the war. Because even in 2022, freedom appears to be a big and not self-evident concept.