A Travellerspoint blog

By this Author: Coulter Adams

Sarajevo, Bosnia

sunny 35 °F
View A Journey to the East on Coulter Adams's travel map.

Some parting thoughts

  • The vast majority (easily 80%) of refugees are single young men and large numbers of them were Afghans.
  • Nearly all I spoke with said they would not have left home if life there wasn't so dangerous
  • Without exception, All expresssed repeated thanks for what we were doing for them.

My time here has taught me more than I could have imagined. I'd the good fortune to work with so many dedicated people. Each one had interrupted their lives as well as self-funded their journey to help. In brief moments of realitive calm we'd often share with each other our concerns of not only what we were witnessing but of what awaits us when we return home.

Beginning in Greece then again in Turkey, Bosnia, Croatia, Serbia and again in Slovenia I spoke with as many people as I could asking how they viewed the world. Eventually the conversation would turn to "what was their biggest fear for the future". Without exception everyone I spoke with expressed in their own particular way, a deep concern for the ever increasing split between the political right and left. I heard the same refrain from the volunteers from Germany, Austria, Great Britian, Switzerland, Czech-Republic, Slovenia, France, and Belgium I worked alongside with as well. We all shared the same fear. As is the case in Germany, with the resurgance of the neo-nazi party and similar far right leaning groups in each of our respective countries, we all expressed the same concern that concepts of tolerance, understanding and compassion are under seige.

Posted by Coulter Adams 12:28 Archived in Bosnia And Herzegovina Comments (2)

Rigonce, Slovenia

sunny 45 °F

Directly on the border with Croatia. The situation here is very controlled. The police in full riot gear are backed up by a strong military presence. Soldiers carrying assualt rifles with full magazines. Unable to move freely about the camp and taking photo's is definitely out of the question. There was some kind of major disturbance here two days ago. The police are convinced is was caused by someone with a GoPro camera who got inside the camp and was filming. I'm told it's now available on Vimeo. I've witnessed real tension between Afghan's and Arabs in all the camps. This one's no exception. The cutural differences between the two are great. Resentment of 'lower class' Afghan's is palpable amongst the more educated middle class Arab population and fights break out several times and day. When they do we try and get the women and children out of the way while the police use heavy handed tactics. When I entered the camp this morning the water canon at the main entrance gave me a sense of just how the Slovenian police handle things

Teamed up with a Hungarian relief agency here today. Were very successful in handing out literally tons of food stuffs, and blankets to the couple thousand that arrived by train from Croatia. Can't help but feel I'd be of so much greater asistance if could speak Arabic, Farsi, or Pashto and even more so if I could speak one AND was a trained EMT. The need for both translators and doctors is never ending. We're constantly having to run from inside the camp out to find one or the other to help those needing medical assistance. Saw several women today who I'd guess were easily in their 80's being helped along by devoted family members. I'm told a few days ago, a TV news team interviewed an Afghan woman at the last camp I was at who claimed to be over 100 years old.

Posted by Coulter Adams 12:48 Archived in Slovenia Comments (1)

Donations

overcast 42 °F

Anyone wishing to donate money to this worthy cause I'd strongly suggest you do so via the following link.

http://www.iha.help/english.html

IHA is the agency I've spent the past many days with. I can confirm they along with Save the Children, and UNHCR are doing wonderful selfless work.
This is a lot more than I can say for the Red Cross who in Serbia, Croatia and again here in Slovenia are AT BEST, an impediment to getting things done.

Thanks

Posted by Coulter Adams 01:29 Archived in Slovenia Comments (1)

Opatovac

overcast 39 °F

Can't believe I've been here a week. Had to ask someone what day it was, he didn't know either. It's as if time has become irrelevant, or at the very least, a distraction. Buses from the Serbian border keep arriving. Inside the camp there's a large tent we're contstantly re-stocking from our storage tent 1/2 Km away using the only form of transport we have. A small wheelbarrow we "appropriated" from the Red Cross. Haven't yet decided if they're totally inept or deliberately obstructive. Either way I'll never again donate to them, particularly with so many other NGO's here preforming miracles.

Our group established a schedule of sorts. Some of us distribute fruit, cookies and water as the buses arrive, others staff the volunteers tented camp kitchen while still others are inside the main camp in one of the three 'zones' the refugees are constantly shuttled thru. We were told there was an average of between 4k and 10k people every 24 hrs here this last week. They arrive at all hours. Inexplicably, the greatest numbers come between midnight and 5am. We run on shifts to allow everyone at least some downtime. Several of the nights I worked along with four others, in the clothing tent distributing warm blankets, jackets, parka's scarves, all donated from agencies in Europe and trucked here. Our shifts ran from 10pm - 3am. The line outside the tent often was 75-100 people long and often a real challenge to maintain order.

The group with whom I joined are all such amazing people. Each one has taken time off from university studies, or jobs to drive here. In some cases like the guys from Newcastle in the UK, it was an 18 hr trek. They'd arrived in rented truck, with 7 TONS !! of donated clothing they'd collected in 36 hours from their home town. Everyone I've met is commited in the same way - to make a difference in the lives of those now are facing such hardship. It's a great honor to be here amongst them.

Posted by Coulter Adams 07:21 Archived in Croatia Comments (4)

Bapska, Croatia

overcast 40 °F

[
The flood shows no signs of ebbing. Been twice now to the border crossing into Serbia. The first time was two day ago. Before the police began
putting restrictions on aid workers and journalists. That experience will always remain with me. The conditions were frightening. The police had barricaded the road just outside Bapska, 1 1/2 Km from the border. I'd driven there with a Spanish journalist I'd met earlier that morning. Together we walked the single lane road that snakes thru wine vineyards and freshly plowed fields of rich dark soil. The region has a long histoty of wine making dating back to Roman times. We weren't there for that nor were the hundrends and hundrends of refugees now trapped in the no-mans-land between Serbia and Croatia. They'd been 'released' from Serbia but the Croatian authorities in an attempt to bring some order, were severely restricting the flow on their side. This was the setting for the scene we'd entered.

As we approached the border it was clear the police were desperately trying to maintain some control of the throngs trapped behind the 8' barricades. Hundrends upon hundreds of people all standing ankle deep mud, the few possessions they still had at their side caked in thick grey clay-like mud. Littering the ground was a carpet of countless discarded shoes, childrens clothes, and hundrends of blankets with the blue UNHCR logo just barely still recognizable in the filth. Unlike Opatovac, there were no portable toilets here. These people had been trapped here overnight and in an desparate attempt to stay warm first stripped the trees of all the their branches, then as the temperatues dropped into the low 40's, resorted to burning the sleeping bags and camping tents they'd carried with them in some cases from as far away as Greece and Macedonia. The choking smell of the toxic smoke was overpowering,

No food or water had yet reached this hellish sight, and what small bits of stuff we'd carried with us was gone in a moment. By late morning the situation had grown even worse. Apparently the camp at Opatovac was filled to capacity and the Slovaks were also severaly limiting the number allowed to be sent there. By this time the refugees had become nearly uncontrollable and fights began to break out. In an effort to get away the women and children were forced against the barricades the police were determined to keep standing. There was screaming and yelling everywhere. The police were on bullhorns tying to force the people back had nightsticks in hand and it looked as if at any moment they'd begin using them on the crowd. It was at this moment I found myself at the front of the barricades just steps behind the police. There were perhaps 15 of us, all aid workers. A mix of men and women who instinctively without any clear orders came together and began rushing past the police grabbing women and children
as they were about to the trampled. We formed a sort of instant army of our own pulling the most vulnerable out of the crowd in some cases ripping children from their mothers arms in order that they not be trampled. We'd then run back from the police lines hand the children to one of our own and charge the line again. The childrens screams of terror as they were torn from their mothers arms was something I don't think I'll ever forget.

After what seemed like eternity, the police re-gained control and we were able to begin to reunite the traumatized children with their mothers. When the scene calmed those of us who'd worked together in such a surreal way all stood and looked deeply into each-others tear filled eyes. All of us knew we'd bonded in a way few people ever do. In that moment we were no longer Croats, Serbs, Austrians, Germans, Slovaks or Americans....we were all just human beings who cared about each-other anbd or fellow man.

Posted by Coulter Adams 07:49 Archived in Croatia Comments (9)

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