“We’ve been doing this online friendship thing since 2017,
we were not newbies in the pandemic times.”
Željka and Nađa met in autumn of 2017 on a National platform in Belgrade. Minutes after entering their shared room and one politically incorrect joke later, they just became instant friends. Who knew that a 3-day event would make a (soon to be) 3-year friendship blossom?! It was just an instant closeness that only grew the more they talked over the time. Željka says that first moment when they started joking and talking about men can be idiots at 2 AM, she knew they would be friends, but wasn’t aware of how important this friendship would become, be that small everyday moments to the big ‘life-changing’ decisions.
Which way do you communicate?
- Nađa: We used to have a designated time on Thursday for “online coffeeing”, but nowadays life gets in the way, so most of our communication is on WhatsApp if it’s serious and on Instagram if it’s callouts. Thank God for voice messages because it feels like we can talk with miles and hours apart just as if we were neighbours. We both know how and where to reach each other when we need support, but it’s equally important to share the everyday funny stuff that actually makes up life. Friends are not therapy, they are family you choose to love.
- Željka: I agree with everything said, however, I would like to add that not only voice messages are being exchanged, but videos and pictures, too. And screenshots, too. God knows these could ruin us both, haha.
Is distance a problem in your friendship and how would your friendship look like if you were closer?
- Nađa: The only thing that would probably change is how often we would do the crazy things we do since now it’s limited to when we meet. Distance is only a problem if you come in the way of communication and caring about each other.
- Željka: I completely agree, however, I would add that we are both very respectful of the time we give to each other to do our own stuff. And whenever we pick up it feels like there was never a time we did not communicate.
What does international friendship mean to you?
- Nađa: It means crossing borders and differences, and realising that young people are all experiencing the same struggles in life and helping each other overcome those struggles.
- Željka: I learned how much diversity is important to all of us, the differences between us lead to some very deep and important conversations I don’t think we would have had otherwise. I have grown and changed as an individual due to this and all other international friendships.
What did you learn from your ESN friend?
- Nađa: I learned how to love myself as fiercely as Željka does because I saw how unapologetically herself she was and how she was ready to accept her own flaws and only love herself more with them. It’s not always easy being a woman in today’s world, but it’s much easier with other strong and brave women around you.
- Željka: I learned how to vocalise my emotions as well as Nađa does, especially because I have never had anyone tell me as blatantly as she had that they are valid. I am very well spoken when it comes to my opinions, but not so much about my emotions, but that has definitely changed with my close friends, and I dare say I am a better person for it today.
Did you go to any ESN events together? If yes, which one was your favourite?
- Nađa: We went to only 2 events together, since we kept just properly visiting each other outside of volunteering. We are both passionate travellers who are up for adventure, so events or no events - we managed to meet even when one of us lived in Copenhagen around 1000 kilometers away from Zagreb. It’s still nice knowing that at any point (before and after the pandemic) we can meet at a random city in Europe and have an adventure thanks to ESN.
- Željka: Honestly, meeting up outside of ESN is what made our friendship even closer, seeing our hometowns (Nađa, you still owe me one visit), meeting other important figures in each other's lives solidified our bond. But, I would also like to mention that when we went to different ESN events we made sure to update each other on everything!
Tell us one of your friendship anecdotes that you will never forget.
- Željka: Well, I actually have a few to tell, but the one how we met is my favourite. Yes, Nađa briefly touched on it in the beginning, but I have to say that my POV is a little bit more elaborate. Due to me being the only Croatian volunteer in Belgrade on the event, I was super happy to meet everyone, but the way Nađa and I bonded was due to me slamming, literally slamming the door in one person’s face. I am not sure whether Nađa remembers this or not, but there was a boy who was particularly friendly with me for the whole first evening, and me being me, well, I did not refuse a chance to see how far this individual would go with his advances. I will add he was super nice and respectful, but that night before going to sleep, in front of the door of our floor, he asked me if we should kiss. I said no, opened the door and slammed it shut behind me. Nađa was right there and the moment I told her what happened, we burst out laughing and her disbelief at me doing that was definitely the moment our friendship started. I still chuckle as I remember that an ESN event, one Balkan boy and slamming the door was what made us properly meet and start talking...and here we are three and a half years later.