Drustvo UP’s 30th Anniversary

The UP organization marks 30 Years of providing the Slovenian population with addiction prevention, treatment and recovery services

Drustvo UP 30th anniversary

Among other issues, the event addressed addiction stigma, a problem that needs to be forcefully challenged through cooperation with NGO and public stakeholders – Photo: Drustvo UP, all rights reserved

Established in November 1993, the UP (Hope) organization, member of Dianova International, recently celebrated its thirtieth anniversary at the Ljubljana Castle under the motto “Together We Grow”.

Among many other issues, the event addressed the ever-present stigmatization most substance users have to face, the importance of cooperating with the media to challenge addiction stigma, the necessity of strategic cooperation with non-governmental and public organizations, as well as the need to promote a compassionate to and social acceptance of addiction as a brain disease.


The special guest at the event was Katarina Grabnar Apostolides, who today lives a life free of drugs and has recently published the book Zadnja vijoličasta bledivka (The Last Amethyst Deceiver). Some other former users were voiced by actors Maja Martina Merljak, Zvezdana Mlakar and Domen Valič. Drug therapy through dance was presented by dancer and educator Liza Šimenc.

As honorary members and UP founders, Nina Souvan and Vida Najdič received the organization’s honorary recognition for their outstanding contributions during its establishment and development.

The celebration was formally opened by the President of the Republic of Slovenia, Nataša Pirc Musar, PhD, in a video address which is also available on the association’s website www.drustvo-up.si, with Bernarda Žarn serving as the event’s master of ceremony.

Among the guests who offered congratulations and support were Tatjana Bobnar, MA, Adviser to the President on Human Security, Borut Sever, President of the National Council of Disabled Persons and Nataša Sorko, President of the FIHO Council.

Drustvo UP panel of participants

“Trust and grow, together” – The event’s panel of participants, including the organization’s employees: Anita Grbić, Mateja Debeljak, Nina Malec, Tabita Ruiz and Robin Turk – Photo: Drustvo UP, all rights reserved

The organization’s employees, who provide free psychotherapeutic treatment and counselling services at four locations (Ljubljana, Trbovlje, Črnomelj, Metlika) to people who have encountered problems related to substance addiction, then spoke about their personal encounters and experiences.

Nina Malec, an expert working in the programme for young people, emphasized the challenge of meeting the society’s and young people’s uncritical attitude towards illegal drugs; Tabita Ruiz, an associate in various programmes, emphasized the importance of creating a safe space and confidentiality; and Mateja Debeljak, expert programmes manager, highlighted the necessity of achieving change through the therapeutic process – a change that must be complete and comprehensive rather than just partial – and spoke on the importance of group therapy. Robin Turk, a long-time associate of UP, meanwhile wished that all who find themselves in trouble find the courage and hope to change for the better, and stressed that the organization is open to everyone.

During the event, the “Together we grow” project was also presented, a prevention initiative launched by Dianova International.

UP’s president Anita Grbić, stressed: “the ‘Together we grow’ project aims to provide families with the tools they need at a very early stage. Unfortunately, many young parents had to grow up in families where addiction was present. Their own parents weren’t there for them as children, and they never felt truly understood and taken care of. It is necessary to examine the unhealthy patterns stemming from dysfunctional families so as to address this intergenerational trauma.”

The main aim of the project is to enrich the knowledge and skills of these families and empower them to assume their key role as parents and help them achieve healthy lifestyles and prevent the development of addiction.

The therapist and organization’s president Anita Grbić concluded the event with the following thought:

“The family represents an education in responsibility, based on love. One of the key duties of parents is to respect the child on an ongoing basis, to exercise calm self-control, and above all, to put up with difficult situations with adult maturity regardless of the circumstances in which children or teenagers find themselves.”

This closing thought was underlined by singer and songwriter Andrej Šifrer, who responded to the organization’s special request and for the first time in his career changed the chorus of his hit song to: “For our teenagers, you have to make time. Be happy together and patient sometimes. Let’s pour out the water like never before, for our teenagers we can always do more.”

Prior to that, Mr Šifrer played a live rendition of his new song ‘Kdo to prav?’ (Says Who?), which coincided perfectly with the stories of the programme’s participants who freed themselves from the grip of illegal drugs.

At the end, the UP organization thanked its founders, former employees, and contributors including the Ministry of Labour, Family, Social Affairs and Equal Opportunities, the Ministry of Health, and the Foundation for the Financing of Disability and Humanitarian Organizations (FIHO), as well as its donors, and all those who selflessly contributed to making this anniversary come true.

For more information please email us at: anita.grbic@drustvo-up.si