After our first sessions today, all of the students at the Nansen Center visited Lillehammer’s 1994 Olympic games ski jump. Along with a stunning view of Lillehammer, we climbed down the 1000 steps following the steep chute into the valley. While we were carefully descending, some Norwegian skiers appeared at the top of the jump. After some (hopefully) encouraging cheering, we watched them take off. It was incredible. They hung motionless in the air for several seconds like they were frozen in time. Skis crossed in a V, they were strong in their form and position, yet still in movement. Our group was filled with gasps and different variations of “they are totally crazy.” I tried to imagine how it would feel to hurtle down a slope and lift into the air with the conviction that when I hit the ground again, my knees wouldn’t buckle and I would slide to safety.
I guess it was most striking that while our classmates from the West Balkans shook their heads and said they would never be so brave or crazy to jump like that, their decision to come to the Nansen Dialogue Center shows enormous courage. During our dialogue sessions and a screening of the film about the Nansen projects, they sat among people from ethnic groups by whom they have felt victimized. Steinar Bryn has presented multiple times at the Peace Prize Forum over the years and many have heard about the dialogue process. However, being here, the true strength required to dialogue is clearly visible in people we are laughing over coffee with during breakfast.
Today Bryn said something along the lines of “Dialogue is not some magic cure of conflict.” As observers, we are becoming more and more aware of the truth in that. However, even after one day, it is showing that in being here and participating, our West Balkans peers are maybe a bit like those skiers — strong in their values and political positions, but willing to trust themselves to take part in a process that is characterized by significant movement.