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)

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