Grade: Senior

#1901. Learning about war through personal stories

Social Studies, level: Senior
Posted Wed Aug 9 07:27:00 PDT 2000 by Erica Ginsberg (
Crucible of War Home Page
Crucible of War Project, Maryland, USA
Materials Required: access to Internet
Activity Time: two-six 45 minute class periods
Concepts Taught: learning about history through personal stories and role playing

Students should review the Crucible of War website ( ). [Eventually there will also be a companion video]. This site includes personal stories of survival by people living in post-war Bosnia, Croatia, and Serbia.


Students will first work individually. They will each be assigned a character from the Balkans. The character might be a real person or not, but the student should consider the character real. If the person is real, the student should research as much as possible about that person. If the person is not real, the student should research the character's country, ethnic and social background to assist with creating the character. The student will take on the role of the character first in individual assignments and later in a group assignment.

Some of the Possible Characters
1. the President of Yugoslavia
2. A farmer who fought for Croatia, but now can't find anyone willing to buy his wheat
3. A 25-year-old refugee from the war in Bosnia, who has sought political asylum in the U.S.
4. A soldier in the Kosovo Liberation Army
5. An American Peacekeeper in Bosnia.
6. A Roma (Gypsy) who begs on the streets of Sarajevo
7. An Albanian artist living in Macedonia
8. A Serbian journalist who is asked to submit all articles to the authorities for approval
9. A Croatian refugee from Vukovar
10. The U.S. Secretary of State
11. A war crimes investigator, working in Kosovo.
12. A Serbian-Orthodox priest from Pristina.
13. A foreign aid worker, assigned to work with children in Kosovo.
14. A child of a mixed-marriage (Muslim/Serbian) in Bosnia

Two day exercise: After researching the character, students will be spent introducing their character to other classmates. They should talk for 5-10 minutes about how their character was affected by war in the Balkans. Other students will have a chance to ask questions.

Week-long Exercise:

Individual Homework Assignment: For a week, keep a journal about your character. Each day, a different question will be posed, to be answered in a few paragraphs in your journal:

Day 1: Where was your character born? Does he/she still live there? How does the character feel about that place?

Day 2: What does your character do for a living? How does he/she like their job? What are the challenges?

Day 3: How does your character spend free time? Does your character have a family? If so, tell us about them. If not, tell us why not.

Day 4: How was your character directly affected by war in the Balkans? How does he/she feel about this?

Day 5: What is your character's hope for the future? Why?

Individual Class Presentation: On Day 4, each student will introduce their character to the class and spend 5 minutes telling the class how their character was affected by war in the Balkans. Other students will have a chance to ask questions.

Group Class Assignment: On Day 5, each character will be paired with another character at random. They will have to interview each other to find out 5 things that make them alike and 5 things that make them different. How do the characters feel about each other's background? How do they feel about each other as individuals.

Students will reflect on this experience. How has it made them more aware of their own backgrounds and their similarities and differences with each other?