“Today I am becoming a pioneer and I give my promise that I will be … and do …”
I cannot remember what exactly I did promise when I was 7 years old. It was a regular thing in the former Yugoslavia, when you were 6 or 7 years old, and therefore in the first year of your school, to became a member of the Pioneer Organisation which was a part of a Communist upbringing.
That event of becoming a pioneer was very exciting, a very festive event that would make you proud of becoming a part of something big and important. I had no clear understanding of anything more than just a sense of togetherness and everybody in the school being excited and preparing for the event. It always happened on 29th November, so just few months into the first year of school; that was the Republic Day and it was a festive day all over the country on all levels.
So, every school celebrated the Republic Day and as a part of that celebration the new generation of pioneers was declared. We received our red scarfs to wear them around our necks and a little badge with the faces of two young persons who were part of the WWII. Those were the signs of the membership.
We would wear that scarf if there was any important political event where children are suppose to stand around and waive or give flowers. I do remember having to wear my red scarf again few times as told by my teacher.
Singing together and performing as one big group was a nice experience but I also remember that I did not like to be as everybody else. I completely hated being dressed up as everyone else and had troubles with my mother and teacher for that. I remember taking off some parts of my uniform just because I did not like to copy the other students. It felt to me as copying the others.
I am not sure if this influenced anything I do now. If I only think about these sorts of events I can say that I had a safe and happy childhood completely unaware that this was a part of an organised political system. Things like this make children feel safe and some of the nostalgia for the former Yugoslavia comes from that lost sense of togetherness and belonging.