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If there is one thing that I learned

If there is one thing that I learned in the past month in Europe, and to put it in one (or two) sentence is: “If everyone has the right to pursue happiness, than we can understand the right of refugees”…and until you will see the plight of the refugees with your own eyes, you will not understand the full extent of their desperation for happiness… DSC_0814

A story of a volunteer

When I joined the team that went to the refugees camp in Dobova (Slovenia), I was picked up and driven by a young volunteer Josipa Knez.
We had coffee together in Zagreb, and she told me part of her story. Josipa is a 25 years old gentle woman. She was born in Zadar, some 300km from Zagreb. Her father was killed in the Yugoslav War in 1993. As a result, she and her family became refugees for about two of months in Germany and then in Rijeka in Croatia…
Josipa has an inclination for the Marxism ideas, mainly to do with the notion of “no borders & no nations”. She studying Political science. She is her own humanitarian opinions based on what she develops while putting herself in other “marginal” groups (gay, refugees and so on) shoes. Josipa see herself continuing as an activist mainly to do with climate change and environmental issues. She is a member and activist at “Zelena Akcija” (Green Action), and “Young friends of the earth, Europe”…Today we met again in Paris when I took this picture of hers…

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The story of “Are You Syrious” a refugees aid organisation

In my quest to photograph the story of the refugees in Europe, I came across an organisation called “Are you Syrious?” in Zagreb (Croatia). I joined them in the field assisting refugees and became fascinated with the organisations’ story. It all started in their lunchroom at the end of August 2015. Luka and Lejla Juranic (Husband & wife and the co-founders of “Are You Syrious?”) saw what we all saw on TV. They decided to collect food and other things that refugees might need and stored in their garage at home. They approached their friends and drove to RÖSZKE on the Hungarian border. That was the first time that they saw the 1000’s of refugees had no support beside one tent used by “Doctors without borders”. Upon their return, they organised a concert (Luka is a musician). They called the concert “Are You Syrios”, (The name was suggested by a friend musician and a poet). The name became the organizations’ name.  Since then the organisation has grown and now has four storage points which are full at most times. Firstly they decided to send aid to Serbia, but they were returned as they didn’t have the right paperwork. At the same time problems with influx of refugees started in Croatia due to the closure of the Hungarian border. In the meantime the organisation grew and recruited many volunteers who all wanted to go and work in the “field”. For a start they went to TOVARNIK (entry point to Croatia for the refugees) with enough food for 4000 people. Although the police set a blockade, the refugees crashed the blockade, and surrounded the organization’s truck. It took days for the government to set an official camp at OPATOVAC and to get there the refugees went via border crossing BAPSKA. The refugees had to walk 17km from the place in Serbia where they were “dropped” to the Opatovac camp. At Bapska no one was there to help, not even the Red Cross, there were no tents or other necessities. So “Are you Syrious” established a station with supplies for the marching refugees. At the height of the crises there were 7000 refugees crossing the border. Only weeks later the Government provided transport for the refugees and volunteer help was not needed in Bapska any more. But soon a new hot spot opened, as refugeese started to travel through Slovenia after Hungary completely closed its borders. An unofficial border crossing between Croatian and Slovenia was used at KLJUČ BROOVEČKI – RIGONCE. 7000 refugees a day passed through this crossing, without any help provided for them in Slovenia and thousands of children were sleeping in the open field, surrounded by army and police. Even they did not allow volunteers to provide help to the desperate refugees who were freezing and hungry “Are you Syrious” managed to provide clothing and food to these people. I can carry on telling the fantastic work of this organisation, but I am sure that you got the picture by now. Within the 3 months of operation of “Are you Syrious” has grown to have a base group of volunteers of about 40 people (mainly young), and about 250 other volunteers that coming and going. They have 4 warehouses stocked with aid. The volunteers are mostly young women (and some men) highly motivated with a strong humanitarian inclination. They do the work without fuss, going for all night to help refugees in their transfer camps, organising flee markets and other fund raising activities. I hope that these young people will show the way, and some will become future leaders. They organised “responsibility groups”:

  • Co-ordination – about 40 co-ordinators co-ordinate the teams that go to the field as well as the warehouses  and other activities
  • Intelligence – to find out what is happening in each region and also other countries
  • Communication – to work the Facebook page and to answer all questions asked
  • Donations management
  • Stores –they call them the warehouses fairies
  • Transportation – to drive the teams to the camps, and deliver aid there

As Ian Grgiƈ (Luka & Lejla’s son) says: It is not only about going down to the field (as rewarding as it is), behind each humanitarian organisation there is need for a large logistic and back room support. And still. “Are You Syrious” organisation doesn’t have address or accountancy practices, but within 3 weeks, it will become recognised as an “official” aid organisation in its own right…

Every organisation has coordination and decision making meeting regularly

Every organisation has coordination and decision making meeting regularly

Lejla, the co founder of "Are you Syrious"

Lejla, the co founder of “Are you Syrious”

Luka, the co founders of "Are you Syrious"

Luka, the co founders of “Are you Syrious”

Ines Grgurevic - one of the volunteers responsible for donations, also  seeing how to raise sensibility in our society for refugees as well as volunteering in the field

Ines Grgurevic – one of the volunteers responsible for donations, also seeing how to raise sensibility in our society for refugees as well as volunteering in the field

Donations are coming...

Donations are coming…

MEDIKA, is a vibrant place with many purposes … It is used by squatters, It is a club, it is a theater and workshop, it is a place for music training, and flea market. It is also a collection center donations to “Are you Syrious” before distributing it to their four warehouses

MEDIKA, is a vibrant place with many purposes … It is used by squatters, It is a club, it is a theater and workshop, it is a place for music training, and flea market. It is also a collection center donations to “Are you Syrious” before distributing it to their four warehouses

Volunteers at work (organising  a flea market) for fund raising

Volunteers at work (organising a flea market) for fund raising

Volunteers at work (organising  a flea market) for fund raising

Volunteers at work (organising a flea market) for fund raising

The flea market is still in full swing...

The flea market is still in full swing…

The flea market is still in full swing...

The flea market is still in full swing…

The busses with the refugees arrive in Dobova (Serbia) camp

The busses with the refugees arrive in Dobova (Serbia) camp

The busses with refugees arriving at the camp (Dobova, Bosnia)

The busses with refugees arriving at the camp (Dobova, Bosnia)

What they tell me about refugees

They tell me that 80% of the refugees passing through Turkey, and then to Greece, and then to Macedonia, and then to Croatia, and then to Slovenia, and then to Austria, and then to Germany or any other destination are Immigrants and not refugees….so I am thinking to myself, if someone taking his little children through all these countries by sea, foot and busses through border control (with tough treatment), MUST BE EXTREMELY DESPERATE… DSC_0624

Europe’s Refugees

Tonight was one of the most significant nights for me for understanding humanity. As I am traveling through Europe trying to follow the Refugees story, I arrived in Zagreb (Croatia) yesterday. Last night I was invited by an organisation “Are you Syrious” to join them crossing the border to Slovenia to the refugees camp of Dobova. Three young girls picked me up at 10pm and we drove to the border (crossing the border is another story in its own right). At the camp we joined the Red Cross staff, and waited for the refugees busses to come…and they came, thousands of refugees being picked up at the train station in Croatia… old, young, men (a lot of young men), families and babies… all exit the busses in groups as been directed by the “fully armed” Police…carrying plastic bags with some belongings… As the “fully armed” police prevented me from taking photographs (aggressively), I just joined the volunteers. My job was to help people with “full” hands that were carrying babies to go through the Red cross food supply, and then to stand in the line (for about 45min) waiting to be processed…I was carrying babies young as 4 DAYS OLD…!…The faces of the refugees were weary and mostly blank…after extensive search, the refugees had to be processed and registered. All that taking about 3 hours per a group, and then back to the busses to the border with Austria, and there to go through this process again, and again “My” volunteers were young girls in mid-20’s going almost every night to give a hand to the refugees. We were working from 11:00pm to 7:00am…All in all, looking at these people and carrying their babies made me think about my life, my kids and my granddaughter in Australia, and how different lives are to different people just because they were born in different places…The world is not a fair place…

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The trip is almost over. Last few images from today…

As I am getting to the end of my trip to Haiti, I realised how much there is more to photograph, and actually, I just been able to touch the surface only…never the less, I hope that the images that I put are enough to ignite some interest in people regarding Haiti and its people. Upon my return home, I will post a detailed view of Haiti as I seen it, although I do not pretend to have a comprehensive study from just a 2 & ½ weeks trip…

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Down to the sea at Port au Prince…

Today I went to the beach, for some change of scenery, and it is a different scenery alright …the roads to the sea are full of people, and full of “hustle & bustle”… the sand road that is actually going down to the sea (at least where I went) is full of makeshift huts and tents, with quite a poor look to it…But never the less, I was not bothered, and people went on their daily life…the sea had few fisherman, and few bathers there… I always (or most of the times) ask for an “OK” to take a photograph, and in Haiti most people don’t like or agree being photographed (I usually need to use my “limited” charm to persuade people to be photographed), but today was my lucky day, everyone was happy to be photographed (including the topless woman in the sea) as they were going about their business… – See more at: http://nathanmiller.co/?p=3926&preview=true#sthash.G2j5vvWB.dpufDSCF5181DSCF5179

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Tonight’s, ceremony

I just came back from a ceremony of changing periods and its spirits. It is too late at night now for me to elaborate on the religion aspects of this ceremony and its rituals. in any case, like all ceremonies in Haiti, it is full of singing, drumming, movement and sweat…all
erupting to a kind of a trance. If anyone is interested in the details…than write me a note on the blog, and I will reapply (too late for tonight)… here are few of the images from tonight – See more at: http://nathanmiller.co/tonights-ceremony/#sthash.cX3FWyx4.dpufDSCF5002

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