Interview with Thomas Kraus in Major Street Newspaper in Belgrade

7th European congress Living in the Encounter keeps drawing media attention in Serbia. Have you already heard about Lice u Lice? Lice u Lice is so much more than a local newspaper in Belgrade – it’s a city platform for the public appearance of people who would otherwise remain invisible in our society that keeps inspiring the entire region.

The magazine brings together our less fortunate fellow citizens and in the latest issue you can find out a lot about persons with disabilities in Serbia and EU through the eyes and mind of Thomas Kraus – the founder of Living in the Encounter worldwide congresses. We give you a short sneak peek of the article below and the rest of the interview is available in print issue of the magazine.

Interviewer: What is the position of people with disabilities in today’s modern and integrated world?

Thomas Kraus: Their different ways to express themselves, along with activities and fight for their rights lead to the so-called declaration of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. It has been ratified by 195 countries worldwide, but paper is yet paper. The inward attitude towards every human being is what’s most important. Do we look at them as marginalized persons whose obstacles we are under an obligation to remove?  Or are they individuals like us who are living their lives in a unique way like everybody else is doing? In that sense, a lot has already been achieved compared to 90 years ago.

Interviewer: How was the movement “Living in the Encounter” brought to life?

Thomas Kraus: Around twenty years ago a lot of discussion was going on about how persons with disabilities should live or work. Yet nobody asked them personally. So in Berlin we came to the idea to organize the first European Congress where they could all come together and express themselves. At the beginning we faced a lot of obstacles in the preparation process, but when it finally happened in 1998 with 500 participants, everything changed.

Interviewer: Why did you choose Belgrade as the host of the last European congress?

Thomas Kraus: When I started these activities, it was the year of the bombing of Serbia. Married to a Serbian woman, I was trying to do something to make a difference here at home and started a project named “Initiative for Serbia”. Moving across Europe with the congresses, I was waiting for the right moment to bring “Living in the Encounter” to Serbia as well. Nearly two decades later, the time is right. Here we are, the journey that started in Berlin comes to an end in Belgrade!