Young spirit does not know the age and this is best confirmed by Mrs Ljilja – a cheerful lady with fiery hair, to whom even in her 70s, there is rarely anyone who can match such incredible life energy.
Mrs Ljiljana Laban, better known as Aunty Ljilja, is 73 years old with a rich life story that has been further enhanced by various volunteer experiences. She believes that volunteering is a lifestyle, she was a volunteer herself, but above all, she led a number of young people in their first volunteer experiences. Aunt Ljilja visited the offices of the European Universities Games where she and her old colleagues from the Volunteers department recalled the memories of organizing various major events.
At EYOF 2007 she was the eldest volunteer in her sixties. At the Eurovision 2008 she already led a team of volunteers and it is known that representatives of Spain at Eurovision brought her flowers and gifts in gratitude. Thanks to her, at the Universiade, entire Info Department with several hundred volunteers was running smoothly. Aunt Ljilja has truly become the urban legend of all these competitions. We are so blessed that she will join the volunteer sector again this time.
EUG2020: Where did your desire to volunteer with so many years of work experience come from?
Lj.L. This is how we were taught after the war, to be in solidarity – solidarity was the most important word. They taught us that it would not be difficult for us to rebuild our country, and not just for the sake of money. I always had my nails trimmed and gentle hands, but I thought it would be terrible if I didn’t contribute too, and I was the first to run to all the public labor actions. Later, I married and gave birth to two children, and I applied this principle of voluntary work and organization in my neighbourhood, in the community and through life. It really came under my skin.
EUG2020: Do you think that youth do not believe in these values today?
Lj.L. What really surprised me was the number of volunteers registered at the 2009 Universiade. Up to that point, I thought, watching them from afar, that they were all young in their own world and knew nothing about solidarity. I was so amazed how wonderful the children really were, I think it is not enough said how wonderful our children are and how willing young people in Serbia are to work – only when they are given a concrete proposal. It is wonderful to have such an opportunity again, and I am sure that the European University Games will be the same ground for some incredible youth, eager for work and solidarity.
EUG2020: After being the most experienced volunteer at the EYOF 2007 European Youth Olympic Festival, you have been employed in the following projects as a volunteer coordinator in the Info Center. What message would you like to send to young people who want to stand out and perhaps after this volunteering get the job, like you did?
L J. L. The need to stand out is not enough. What is more important is the need to do the job well – both in professional and private life, and in competitions like this. It is the only way to succeed. When you do something from the heart, not for some benefit afterwards, you do it for your own sake. You should not do things just to benefit from it or to receive the words “good work“. Everything comes naturally when you do things the way your genuine inner feeling dictates.
EUG2020: What would be the greatest value that volunteering has brought to you?
First of all – I have met so many great young people doing this job – that today I can say that I get along better with young people than with some of the grannies. I just want to point out that the success of the department I led was absolutely the result of the dedicated work of these young people. I’m not a humble person, but I’m aware that one man can’t do anything without a strong team – and they were one. I give myself credits only for the courage to enter in such a story at the age of sixty. And I’m sure it was one of my best decisions and it brought great value to my life.