A Little Kindness Goes a Long Way

Police guard inside the fence - Refugee Rights Protest at Broadmeadows, Melbourne
Teaser Image Caption
Police guard inside the fence - Refugee Rights Protest at Broadmeadows, Melbourne

In the last twenty five years synonyms for countries of former Yugoslavia are mostly conflict, instability, crisis, etc. This is the image we sent and this is how the rest of the Europe sees us. But in the last two years the citizens of this region showed a new face, one that has existed all along but didn’t have the opportunity to show. It is the face of solidarity. In the time we are witnessing European states building walls that we all thought are a part of the history, when populism is being awaken once again, this pictures of solidarity are giving hope that there is a different future for the region. There are good stories out there, so I wanted to share some of the energy we all have.  

During 2014. Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Serbia were hit by floods. These countries have experienced extremely heavy rain - the amount of rainfall expected over the period of three months, fell on the region in only three days, bringing about catastrophic floods. Tens of thousands of people have been displaced across the region. Our states were not ready, because bad economy and poor environmental protection dams have yielded, and governmental agencies that were in charge for emergency situations didn’t react fast enough. On the other side, citizens organized by social networks, radio amateurs instructed volunteers in boats where are the people that were stuck, various organizations collected food, clothes and medicine... In Bosnia and Herzegovina lifeguards forgot boarders of cantons and went from Bihac to Doboj, and from Foca to Zenica, in order to help their fellow citizens, regardless of their ethnicity. One of the pictures that really stayed in our memory was a picture of couple of refugees from Syria helping people in Obrenovac, town in Serbia that was worst hit by floods.  That picture connects pictures of solidarity that citizens from the region showed to refugees in the crisis this year.

Some small number of refugees from Syria, Afghanistan, Iraq and other war – torn countries pass through the region for few years now. As transit countries, this states let them go through by themselves. There were cases that people slept in the wood, in snow or in some old buildings. When the number of refugees increased this year, situation didn’t change a lot. Except for registration on the border and basic medical help, the government didn’t help much. Distrustful because of all that they have endured, most of the refugees do not want to go into the camps, so they sleep in the open, with only that stuff with which they had come.

The people organized in different ways by themselves again. In Belgrade, NGO No border Serbia started to brew tea, some different organizations started to collect wardrobe,  food and medication. Citizens and NGOs all across the region are now helping, they have people at the critical points, they share information through social networks, collect money through crowdfunding platforms, etc.  People from Bosnia and Herzegovina are collecting aid and sending it by trucks to Croatia and Serbia. Since there are a lot children among refugees, the people are coming to parks where refugees rest and play football with children. There is also a huge campaign for baby carriers for refugees, so the parents can carry their babies easier.

As the winter is coming, situation will be more and more difficult.  Refugees need warm clothes, shoes and shelter. Countries in the region do not have enough camps or funds. Citizens of this countries showed the true spirit and compassion of Europe, so we can only pressure our governments to do the same.