Brajna Greenhalgh joined TFF as Associate in September 2018. She says:
“I was born in Vukovar, Croatia, in what was at the time known as Yugoslavia. I grew up and lived there during the years of its dissolution wars.
I first met Dr Jan Oberg in early spring 1998 when the TFF conflict-mitigation team came to my hometown, which was a designated war zone with the United Nations’ UNTAES mission HQ very close to our house. They asked whether I could help them, not the least in terms of language and I, being a highschool kid, thought that was a very interesting challenge and said “Yes, I shall try!”
Our first task was to take a group of young people – also highschool students – in UN busses across the war check point to Osijek, which was understood as “the other side”, for a reconciliation workshop. We who came from Vukovar were from Serb families and the Osijek students were Croats.
This was a considerable risk as we had to twice cross the UN-supervised military checkpoint, and there were curfews, tanks along the road, police cheks and always the risk of some frightened or traumatized individual turning up with a gun.
Regardless of all this, we made it and we had the opportunity to hold a impactfull youth peace gathering. Despite the risks and regardless of the ongoing conflict, we had a chance to meet each other, listen carefully to each other according to a principled methods by the TFF team. Our perceptions of what happened are often more influential than the kind of objective truth about what had happened.
Through listening to one another’s stories and war experiences, many crying on both sides, we had a chance to minimize the gap between “the truth” and “perception of truth” and thus minimize the divide between us. We young people who had lived a large part of our lives at the time in a war situation and had heard all kinds of bad things about “the others” found out that we had much in common too and wanted a future in peace.
TFF held several such seminars and arranged dialogues with leaders on both sides. The ones I participated in are described here.
Without TFF and Dr Jan Oberg none of this would have happened. It is thanks to them and my experience there and then that my “journey” into the areas of peace, reconciliation and community development began.
So, when I had started my studies here and settled with my family here in Wales, I contacted Jan and asked, do you still remember me? He indeed did and now, working on my MSc on altruism and in 2019 continuing with a PhD, I am happy to resume the cooperation…”
MSc Psychology student at Bangor University, North Wales (UK)
BA (Hons) International Management & Business European University – Belgrade (Serbia)
Higher Education Diploma in Law – University of J.J. Strossmayer – Osijek (Croatia)
Prof. Qualification in group facilitation and mediation- Jonkoping University (Sweden)
Post Graduate Certificate in Education (FE) – Wrexham Glyndwr University (North Wales)
Level 5 Certificate in Del. ESOL – University of Wales, Newport (Wales)
Level 4 Certificate in Adult Basic Skills Delivery – Coleg Menai, Bangor (Wales)
United Nations (UN) – Interpreter and Field Assistant (May 1998- Sept. 1998)
OSCE (Organization for Security & Cooperation in Europe) – Interpreter and Field Assistant
(Sept. 1998- Oct. 2000)
PRONI Institute for Social Education and Youth Work, Osijek, Croatia (Jonkoping-Sweden) – Director
(Oct. 2000-Dec. 2001)
Primary & Secondary Sector, Croatia – Tutor (Dec. 2001 – Oct. 2005)
Life Centre International, Reconciliation Programs, Croatia – Core Team leadership & Program Coordinator (May 2006 – Oct. 2007)
The Interchange Conference Centre, North Wales – Operations Manager (April 2008 – May 2009)
Coleg Menai , Bangor, N. Wales – Lecturer (September, 2010 – December 2017)
Member of the observer team together with the Chair of Governors Aberconwy School and the director of MerseyStem – partnering with the “New Zealand Peace Foundation” and “Talking Works” in leading mediation workshops, teaching mediation skills to pupils of St. David’s college (North Wales) as a part of school’s initiative to provide pupils with conflict resolution skills.
Core leadership member in conceptualising, developing and leading a group of young people from Colwyn Bay area to orphanages in Bulgaria in partnership with Star of Hope Organisation in Sofia, Bulgaria. Training social workers in orphanages of Sandanski and Sofia in “better life skills” and support toward adult orphans leaving orphanages and seeking employment.
Participant at International Reconciliation collaboration exchange program between Northern Ireland and The Balkans with PRONI Northern Ireland, Belfast.
Participant at International Reconciliation and Community Development exchange program between students from Germany, Holland and the Balkans – RSG Pantarijn – Wageningen (Holland).
Project coordinator at “One International” NGO – Houston (Texas USA) in leading a team of volunteers to New Orleans in February 2006 after hurricane Katrina in 2005. Helping the homeless and displaced communities in restoring their homes.
Other volunteering experiences also involve homeless centres in United States, Salvation Army, CAP Debt Advice Services in North Wales and small civil sector projects lead by UN and OSCE in Croatia.
Previous international involvement and memberships
PRONI Institute for Social Education, Jonkoping – Sweden
VIMIO Vukovar Institute for Peace Studies, Vukovar – Croatia
LCI Life Centre International, Rijeka – Croatia
Youth Bank Croatia & Northern Ireland – Northern Ireland
NATECLA – UK
HUPE/ CATEL Croatian Association of Teachers of English, Zagreb – Croatia
English – fluent
Serbian, Croatian, Bosnian – fluent
Italian – intermediate
Welsh – beginner
“Peace and reconciliation is something bigger than just meeting or loving your “enemy” and making them friends – which is big enough of course.
It goes beyond dialogue and diplomacy. It is about seeing things from the other side, the other perspective. It’s about listening compassionately, opening your heart and mind to possible pain and choosing compassion, which ultimately brings freedom.
And it’s the only way.”
– Brajna Greenhalgh
Born in former Yugoslavia, Brajna was 11 years old when she experienced one of the darkest civil conflicts in modern European history. With ethnically mixed marriage parents (a Serb and a Croat) she was separated from both of her parents and had to flee from war and become a child refugee in Serbia. Her parents remained in their hometown of Vukovar until they were reunited in 1992.
Growing up in the UN-protected war zone and following the aftermath of the Balkan wars in 1998, at the age of 18, she became the only breadwinner in her family but still determined to pursue her education.
She simultaneously completed her undergraduate degree in Belgrade, Serbia, and an Associate Degree in Law in Osijek, Croatia. Both alongside full-time work as an interpreter with the United Nations and OSCE (Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe).
Over the period of 20 years she has been active with the NGO sector in her war-torn hometown and developed a number of reconciliation projects. Brajna has managed international humanitarian programs in post-conflict areas such as Bosnia, Croatia, Serbia, Kosovo and Northern Ireland.
Specialising in working on recovery and reconciliation programs both with groups and individuals who have been through the trauma of civil war conflicts, Brajna was an active facilitator in mixed ethnic groups in peace education, violence-prevention and conflict transformation.
For 3 years Brajna has worked as a program director and peace advocate with Life Centre International Forum for Leadership and Reconciliation which brings together politicians, social activists, professors, journalists, artists, students, founders and directors of various non-governmental organizations from conflict-ridden countries such as Iraq, Afghanistan, Rwanda, Uganda, Iran and South Africa.
Brajna has also presented various papers at conferences and debate forums on non-violence, peace, post-conflict resolution, group mediation and psycho-trauma (PTSD).
Having lived in the United States for a brief period, she arrived in North Wales in 2008 and has settled in its’ beautiful part of the world with her family. Refusing to be a victim of her past, Brajna is determined to combine her formal education with her personal experiences to help others find true freedom in making the choice of forgiving, letting go, and moving on.
She is currently planning to pursue a PhD in psychology.