February 1st, Bosnia, Velika Kladusa.
They are on the thousands, the refugees and immigrants who leave their home and their loved ones to travel across the Balkans and reach Europe, hoping for a better life.
Their countries of origin are Syria, Afghanistan, Palestine, Iraq and more.
Most of these people get stopped on the EU borders, ending up being forced to stay in countries like Bosnia.
However, Bosnia itself is a country which still faces many hardships (even though twenty years have passed since the end of the war in the former Yugoslavia), and it’s not able to welcome and sustain the people who arrive. This situation leads to great difficulties both for who comes and, unable to continue the journey, is forced to stay in the country, and for
(Living accommodations at the Official Camp Miral) the citizens themselves, who – no matter their solidarity – don’t know how to handle the needs of the refugees and immigrants.
For more than three months Ma Anche Noi – MAN – has been on the border between Bosnia and Croatia, in the town of Velika Kladusa, leading various projects to make sure the people survive the harsh winter, which is typical of the Balkans.
Here is one of the projects.
There’s no food like the one made at home
Given the inhumane conditions to be found in the refugee camp run by the IOM (International Organization for Migration) 4 kilometers away from Velika Kladusa in Bosnia, many people choose to leave the camp and live on the streets, in abandoned buildings, with no electricity, no heating, and, of course, no bathroom or shower.
(Dinner for one at the Official Camp Miral)
This life choice that is made by more than two hundred people is proof of how truly inadequate and unprepared the “official camp” called Miral is to accommodate people.
At the moment, as mentioned, the people on the streets are about two hundred.
They live in various isolated places, in small groups of friends, ranging from 2 to 10 people per group; we’ll call these groups “housing units”.
At the moment we’re in direct contact with 61 housing units.
Daily contact with them and the relationships of trust that have been built allow us to visit their “homes”, which are warm only on a human level, since these people have a great sense of hospitality.
We’re invited to eat with them, who, while cooking for us, feel human and equals again.
(A group of young people cooking dinner in their ‘home’ in which they have invited some volunteers)
(In front of a supermarket, father and son hoping to receive something from the passersby, holding a sign which says “I accept food, thank you”)
People, as it turns out, need to eat every day.
The “nice restaurant”, run by four Bosnian men who are veterans of war, allow people to have free lunch. However, the restaurant is close now.
(Lunch offered by the “nice restaurant”, open every day, 7 days a week, with the owner of the restaurant holding a sign which says “No one died of hunger during the war, no one will die of hunger now”)
The people, then, have to provide for their food on their own.
Cooking for themselves is one of the few things that makes them feel alive, useful, “normal”.
Preparing the meal and eat it with their friends and misfortune fellows is an act of freedom, self care, conviviality.
But food is expensive.
We therefore got in touch with Bosnian women that immediately greeted those young people on their journey as they were their mothers and sisters.
One of them has a little family-owned grocery. We made this deal:
Every week we give her the money directly, an amount of circa 3,600 marks, 1,800 euro.
The young received a paper, with which they signed up; for each living unit there’s a person who has the card.
Example of the MAMA paper and card for the accountancy of the group.
On average every group can spend 60 marks each week (30 euros).
Every time they need to buy some food, they just have to go to the shop “MAMA” (as they’ve been calling it since over one year), take the culinary goods needed, in case gas for the cooking stove, and show their card to MAMA.
She is in charge to write on the paper the price, the date and the goods that the person has bought, giving back the paper to its owner.
MAMA makes the sale check that she keeps in the relevant map of the group that shopped before.
These checks are weekly given to us, so that we can keep the accountancy and show to the donors where their money goes, and to understand if the living units have sufficient nourishment.
The MAMA’ shop has never sold cigarettes or alcohol, and this is a good way to prevent the substance abuse that in those living conditions is sometimes non-existent.
With this project we try to support the refugees and migrants that are stuck at the EU borders, to support the locals, Bosnians – already living in a precarious situation that has never reformed after the war – who have always showed their solidarity to whom is in difficulties.
On the field since three consecutive months, the volunteers of “Ma Anche Noi – MAN” are trying to find short and long-term solutions, to let people maintain their dignity.
Non c’è cibo come quello di casaCucinare per sé stessi è uno dei pochi atti che ancora li fa sentire vivi, utili, “normali”. L’atto del prepararsi del cibo e mangiarlo con i propri amici e compagni di disavventura è un atto di libertà, di cura di sé, di convivialità. Ma il cibo costa. Abbiamo quindi contattato delle donne bosniache che, fin dall’inizio, hanno accolto come delle madri e delle sorelle questi giovani in viaggio.1230.00 CHF donated