Slavs and the City

By Barbara Haenen

The Slavic student population in Maastricht is higher than you might initially think. If you’ve ever wanted to immerse yourself in Eastern European life, there is a new association in town that can help you do just that. As soon as they raise enough money, 106 Slavs will join together as Maastricht University’s first official Slavic Students Association. This includes 6 board members, as well as an eclectic combination of Russians, Bulgarians, Poles, Georgians, Bosnians, and more. And I recently had the pleasure of meeting with these 6 board members to discuss their unique initiative.

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The association is very committed to making the Slavic community in our city strong and cohesive. In other Dutch cities, such as Amsterdam and The Hague, Slavic people are already organized together and well-represented, vice-president Beata Stolnykh explained. These groups are a form an inspiration for the Slavic Association of Maastricht. The President of the association, Dajana Vukajlovic, told me how their main goal is to “contribute to the cultural diversity in Maastricht”. While the group did initially form in an attempt for Slavic students in Maastricht to find like-minded people, and establish a kind of home-away-from home, their aims have expanded significantly over the past few months. They believe that it is important to introduce Slavic culture to Maastricht. An association can do so in a direct and personal way, and provide people with the opportunity to learn about this part of the world “not only from reading books and articles,” as Dajana explained. Which means: the Association is also open to all you non-Slavic students out there. Others who they are encouraging to join are Slavs who know little about their own heritage. After all, many of its meetings and events revolve around teaching. Through giving presentations, as well as by providing members with the opportunity to study Slavic languages, the Slavic Association aims to educate.

On top of that, they hold their events on Slavic holidays. Most recently, on the 30th of November, they celebrated the Polish holiday of Andrzejki. It revolves around fortune telling, and the event was conducted by Polish volunteers. All this is to further their mission “to promote the Slavic culture” and a more interesting way, Dajana and Beata told me, of “exploring each other’s heritage”.

The association is relevant to a wide range of students, not just those who are already familiar with Slavic culture, but also those who aren’t. One thing they want to make very clear is that this isn’t an association which is primarily about drinking. Except, that is, tomorrow night (8th of December), when they’re hosting a Slavic Pre-drinking-Games Night, from 7 PM to midnight, at the Mandril.

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Barbara Haenen

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