The War Childhood Museum recently launched its Peace and Justice Education Resource Center, aimed at educators who want to use WCM materials. In this article, we bring you a story about a workshop held in early November when a group of teachers from the “Dragiša Luković Španac” Elementary School in Kragujevac conducted a special class on the role of toys in the growing up of children during wartime.
In order to prepare for the class, students were assigned the task of photographing their favorite toys and sharing how much those toys meant to them during their growing up. Subsequently, the teachers showed the entire group a photograph of a short-haired Barbie. This toy once belonged to a girl named Sumeja and is now a part of the War Childhood Museum’s collection in Sarajevo. The teachers then proceeded to narrate Sumeja’s story.
Sumeja was three years old when she and her mom went through a war Tunnel of Hope to reach a safer part of the city. Due to the cold winter and Sumeja’s mom not having winter shoes, a soldier at the tunnel entrance gave her a pair of new waterproof boots. However, just as they exited the tunnel, Sumeja saw a man holding a Barbie doll in his hand. Wanting it so badly, she immediately started crying. At that moment, her mom traded the newly acquired boots for the doll.
The story of Sumeja and her short-haired Barbie doll sparked significant interest among the students. Divided into two groups, they continued discussing Sumeja’s mom’s decision, what it means for a child to grow up in wartime conditions, and the consequences on their lives afterward.
The class held at the Kragujevac school is part of the “Peacebuilding Toolkit for Educators and Students” project, implemented by the War Childhood Museum (WCM), Youth Initiative for Human Rights (YIHR), and the Croatian Education and Development Network for the Evolution of Communication (HERMES), with the support of the Erasmus+ program.