Every day I go to the mountains with my colleague Dean Blažević and some Bosnian volunteers to look for people. Sometimes 20 miles deep in the woods we find women, children, teens and adult men. Frozen, hungry, with wet clothes and some sick or beaten by Croatian border police.
Silent war -
Passivity is a weapon
The day the first people from the downtown of Bihać were deported in police buses to the former Vučjak landfill, I was there. My photo exhibition from the war in this city has just opened. I happened to notice the buses and followed them. I'm a journalist and of course I wanted to document what's going on there. What followed, I did not expect. They were throwing people at the Vučjak landfill. That same day I decided to stay and not leave these people alone. The tow truck was disbanded 175 days later. That was December 6th. Since then, every day I go to the mountains with my colleague Dean Blažević and some Bosnian volunteers to look for people. Sometimes 20 miles deep in the woods we find women, children, teens and adult men. Frozen, hungry, with wet clothes and some sick or beaten by Croatian border police.
I've been active for 185 days now. Working with 1,000 men and young people in this misery in Vučjak is tiring. When it used to be difficult, I would often think, "It's not war, no one is shooting. But this is getting worse."
And it got worse. For me with the closure of Wolf. Now I no longer run an ambulance at Camp Vučjak. Now, just like two days ago, near Lohovo near Bihać, I meet seven young children, their three mothers and fathers, and a group of young people. It's dark and it's cold. The little boy screams. One of the teens vomits and falls unconscious. He needs insulin. The little girls (ages 5 – 9) hugged me in the middle of the street and wouldn't let me go. The Croatian police beat them back, with nothing left to call their own; just what they wear. There is no one here, no one cares. I gave the diabetic some glucose and called an ambulance. A few days ago, we provided the Bihać Clinic with medical assistance. When we need it, the door is open.
An ambulance is coming. The driver is a friend of our most important Bosnian employee. Zlatan Kovačević. Zlatan is the first casualty of the war in Bihać. A grenade took his leg on June 12, 1992.
When I met him in February he proudly told me that he had helped organize anti-migrant demonstrations in Bihac. Then I said that I understand that there are many migrants in Bihać and that I also understand that he wants to do something about it. I do things differently, I explained to him. I work for, not against, people. I invited him to accompany me to Vučjak in June. We have been working together since that day. The man who organized the first anti-migrant demonstration is now sitting in front of me, crying at night and saying, “My heart hurts. I have information that a woman with two children and her husband were in the mountains. I did everything I could but didn't find them. Friend, we must move on. "
Zlatan is in Germany for a few days. He gets a new prosthesis. And I've been working on it for a few months now. The money is almost raised. Only a few thousand euros are missing. I have a special account for that. And an account to help refugees. It's all a private initiative. There was no time to set up an NGO. It had to start right away.
There are no days, I have no sense of time. There are only situations that follow each other as in a series. Shopping takes a lot of time, then we drive to the Pleševice mountains between Croatia and Bihać. We drive with all four-wheel drive through 30 centimeters (11 inches) of snow and then return from the border to Bihać. It was just a group of people we helped up there. Then suddenly we see two figures where the snow was melting. When we get closer, we see it's three. The third is so small that we didn't even see it right away. Omar from Syria. He is one year and six months old. The family started the "game" of entering the EU. They have nothing to eat, no sleeping bags, no lamps, their sneakers are completely soaked. Temperatures are below zero. During the summer, it takes 12 days to get from here to Italy. Only there are they safe.
Then I tell my parents, "Please don't go any further, you could die up there. It's too cold." The mother wants to give me her baby so I can take him across the border and then give her back on the other side.
I tell her I can't do it. If I get caught, I could no longer do this job. I would be in jail. That's why I don't do it. It was the hardest moment since I started helping out on the so-called “Balkan route” on June 14th.
It still hurts. He looks at me and wants a kiss; he gets it. I can't wipe his saliva from his lips. It dries slowly. It's not dirt like in Vučjak. It's a gentle kiss, it tastes of confidence and love. It's my reward for the last few months, and I'm more than happy with it. Of the seven kids on the country road and kissing in the woods, I can no longer think, "Well, it's not war." But it's war. Passivity costs people.
Exactly how many of them you will know only when the bones are found in the forest, when everything is finished. Will it ever end? The wars continue, climate change causes people to continue traveling. Migrations are as old as humans. There's nothing new here. The so-called "migrant crisis" has been ongoing in Bihać and Europe since 2017, with Europe doing nothing but sending EUR 36 million to the IOM. No one comes up with the idea of constantly questioning what's going on with that money. Bosnia, especially the city of Bihać, feels abandoned. That's exactly how it is. Mayor Surhet Fazlić was overwhelmed by the situation in June and still is. The pressure in the city was incredibly strong. He had to do something to alleviate it. That's how Vučjak came. Fazlić had to get the refugees out of town.
But to a dump? Several years ago, the problem with street dogs was similarly solved. They were collected and transported to a garbage dump. They were slowly making their way there. But he wanted something else: to send a clear signal: we don't want you here - the border is only a few kilometers away - get out of here.
Many do this every day. Then sometimes Facebook posts: “Thank you Doctor for all you have done for us. I'm in Paris now and I pray for you every day. "(The people of Vučjak call me a doctor, even though they know I'm a journalist.) The borders are not closed. Some succeed. Maybe after the 20th attempt, but it's possible. Still. failing, they stand again one day in front of us. When we still had the ambulance in Vučjak, there were dozens of them every day and they all told us the same and showed us their wounds. , unless they certainly take them over the border. Then they have to throw their backpacks and sleeping bags in the pile. Croatian cops fire the pile. Then they search them for money. If they find it, they don't have it anymore. or be destroyed. Then they get beaten with batons. If there are dogs there, they get hit by refugees. Sometimes they shoot at them if they were ordered to run. Many take off their shoes despite the icy weather. To ask for asylum in Europe; they are not allowed.
Instead, the Croatian police do what the EU has ordered them to do: protect the borders. So the EU obliges one of its members to violate its own laws. What else are they worth then? Then what is the EU worth?
There is already a group of EU parliamentarians around Bettine Vollath (MEP from Austria), Dietmar Köster (MEP from Germany) and Erik Marquardt. Vollath and Marquardt were even in Bihac to create their own image. Strong people, good politicians trying to change things. The group must increase in order to succeed in this. Then we went to Brussels for a return visit. I had 22 minutes of speeches in plenary. Here's a quick snippet:
"We were able to inform European politics as well as the media and to provide direct daily humanitarian assistance. The result of the policy so far: zero. I measure the results according to whether something has improved, even for one refugee. I don't know any. It should be clear to all of us: this is about thousands of individual fates, it is about refugees, residents of the city of Bihac, Croatian police officers who commit crimes on a massive and daily basis, and there is something else that I think is worth fighting for. he actually has to fight:
The idea of the European Union. The EU is currently destroying it itself. For example, the dignity of every human being, human rights, freedom, peace. When you are in Vučjak, you know that it is nothing but useless chatter. Dignity and human rights must also be applied to people outside the door. Or are they the others - to whom none of this applies? I had some of them in my arms as they cried because they couldn't stand it anymore. Feeling is no different than being one of you. Europe, as we know it, will die because the values that have revived it have been overcome. A clear strategy is needed - this is all just an introduction. What should happen at the EU's external borders if Erdogan opens the borders and lets 3.9 million refugees head for the EU? Do we want Croats to finance machine guns instead of guns? Do we really want the consequence of the failed action to make border protection a kill? By the end of September this year alone: 20 refugees at a mortuary in Bihac - cause of death in 16 people: external violence. Bodies were found along the way, in forests and rivers. Who are the culprits? Does anyone ask, or rather, does anyone investigate? No. Enough more! It's been a long time. "
The tug is now closed and people are being camped. Politics has partly contributed. And we find it. So it managed to put an end to this incredible wretch.
As I write, Dean is getting the car ready. Now we're back to the mountains. That's where the front of silent war against refugees is. It's only quiet when you look away. I can still hear that kid screaming from the country road. I will not get rid of that anymore. Never again.