Historical overview

Yugoslavia was an artificially created state, established after the end of the WWII. Six republics and two autonomous regions formed the Yugoslavian state. ‘Yugoslavia had eight distinct peoples in six republics, with five languages, three religions (Orthodox, Catholic, and Muslim), and two alphabets (Roman and Cyrillic)’ (Cameron Hewitt, 2012).

When Tito died in 1980, the union of Yugoslavia began to unravel, with each republic claiming more autonomy. Moreover, the dire economic situation, accompanied by strong nationalistic feelings and political differences led to the dissolution of the state.

It started with Slovenia declaring its independence in 1991, followed by Croatia, but this time violence broke out between Serbia and Croatia. Shortly after, Bosnia and Herzegovina also declared its independence and the conflict turned into full-scale one with mass murders (e.x. Srebrenica) and ethnic cleansing and forced migration on different sides. The conflict lasted four years.

In 1995, ceasefire was declared by the signing of the Dayton Agreement (Dayton Peace Accord).

Four years later, the ongoing crisis reached another phase with the rebellion of the Kosovars. Ethnic cleansing, forced migration and the intervention of the international community described the struggle for independence of Kosovo.

https://allthingscruise.com/understanding-yugoslavia-why-did-it-break-up-in-the-1990s/

 

Due to the forced migration and the raise of nationalism, the geo-ethnical picture of the region has changed and it is still playing an important role.

Nowadays, the Balkans are once again a hotspot for refugees, but this time they are hailing from different geographical and cultural backgrounds, thus causing an upheaval in the region and the closing up of borders that were previously open.

 

/// Personal story 1 : Dubravko, Tavankut (village in Serbia, close to the Hungarian border)

« The border was open before and during the war.  It was easy to cross… »

« I was born in Tavankut in 1986. I grow up here, went to the local primary school.  90% of the population of the village is Croatian.

I studied in Novi Sad, I returned, as I did not feel happy living in the urban area. My family was living here and there was also the prospect of a job.

Nowadays our Salaš (traditional house) consist of a folklore group, a traditional music-instruments group. There is rural tourism.  We also have youth-exchanges in our cultural centre.

The border was open before and during the war.  It was easy to cross. From 1991-1995 there were severe tensions with the Serbs. There were no murders, but there was physical violence, varying from throwing stones through windows, to bombs in houses. The biggest threat was when a group of 100 Serbs, refugees from Croatia, entered Tavankut and prepared a military action with weapons. Fortunately the city authorities intervened and send a special police unit.

Croatian people were in general quite persistent to stay during the tensions beginning of the 90’s despite what they went through. Some families left and part of them returned after the war.

The situation stayed stable around 3200 inhabitants after the war in the sense that people left and a similar amount came (back). Economic situation approved rapidly, there is a huge amount of export of apples, mainly to Russia.

The refugee-inflow and the closing of the boarder changed the situation.  Refugees from several countries from Middle-East and Africa also came to Tavankut, they stayed just for a while in the village (to buy water, food). The local population reacted kind of indifferent, even when people were beaten up by the Hungarian border police and returned through Tavankut and went further to Belgrade ».

 

 /// Personal story 2 : Dobrila  (NSHC)            

« We have many workers that were refugees themselves in the 90s… »                                                                                                      

Dobrila is working with Novi Sad Humanitarian Centre since 2009. At the beginning she was involved in the field of human trafficking. Later on she took over the coordination of volunteers and is now working in different refugee camps in Serbia.

“In my work with refugees it is very difficult to plan ahead due to the unpredictable nature of the work and the political situation. When more and more refugees arrived we needed to adjust fast. We initiated new projects and had to employ new people in little time. We work with very vulnerable groups, that’s why we prefer working with professionals that are experienced and dedicating themselves for longer term. As well we have many workers that were refugees themselves in the 90s. Regarding their personal background and the challenging situations in the refugee camps we provide regular supervision and psychological support to our staff.

Another important part of my work is the communication with donors, fundraising and documentation of my work to share it with journalists. On ground we provide social care and we want to prevent human trafficking in the refugee camps.

The refugee crisis has influenced the cities in our region and helped some people to find employment. The social and cultural life also improved in some small villages due to various activities and the presence of young people.”

 

/// Personal story 3: Tibor VARGA

For me, helping people is not a job, it’s a pleasure. This is my life…

«  I am Pastor in a Church and co-director of the NGO ISTOCNO EUROPSKA MISIJA (Trg Košuta Lajoša 1, SUBOTICA).

This NGO exists for 13 years. It is based on Christian principles, with different objectives: Helping people in needs in the surroundings (poor people, children, gypsies, marginalised people, elderly people, homeless); Helping them to maintain their lives; Educating the youngsters; Assisting in case of environmental disaster, etc.

Five people have the leadership of the NGO (some of them are from my family) and the rest are volunteers from everywhere. At the beginning, the organisation was helping the people in need with « out of date » products. In 2008, the main activity of the NGO became helping refugees.

‘ You know, I have felt that it was the right thing to do and I just want to do what is right. Today, at school, you learn how to earn money. Is that life? In Europe, money and gains are more important than people. For me, I don’t want to advertise our actions. I don’t care about websites, Facebook or existing in the media. I just want to help.

You (the youth) are facing a very hard world today. You have to be brave, XIXst century is really rough.’

The crisis of the 90’s and the current crisis are both similar and different at the same time. Today, the crisis is bigger, longer and more complicated. A lot of people have no destination and the assimilation is taking longer. What can we offer to the refugees? They have hard life… What kind of help? Can you give them hope?

In 2015, we have helped refugees living in the old brick factory of Subotica. Food was given once a day (cooked meal) and something small was given for breakfast and dinner. We have distributed and we still distribute a lot of rice to these people in need.  

Look at our stock!

When you see people from the NGOs wearing masks and gloves while helping to distribute food to people… what kind of help is it?  I don’t want to be a new disappointment for them, after war, after the fairy tales that they imagine about our countries…

Europe lost its principles and it seems like no politician knows how to solve the problem. They have no feeling that these are people in need. A lot of money for refugees is wasted. But it is not a problem that we can resolve with money!

Look, I have a wall with some pictures (not so many, as you see!): here is an afghan man. This man was a nurse in a hospital in his country. He told me that he was attacked by a Taliban, during his work. This man had to run away from Afghanistan, with his family. One day, I asked him “how do you feel?” He answered to me “You know, you are the first person who asks me how I am doing after 6 months.”

Actions in some datas

13 years of existence

700 breads distributed per day in 2015

140 000 eggs given by a farm (1 extraordinary gift)

2 months to finish these eggs

150 persons regularly came to the office

10000 refugees are in Serbia today (camps included), from Syria, Afghanistan, Libya, Turkmenistan, Iran, Bangladesh…

 

Some other inspiring sentences

To do what is right, what is the important.

Everybody want to be loved, truly loved.

God provides and he guides. (Christian principles)

It was always sad when somebody left, because we made friends.

If anything else, in your heart, you know that is right.

 

Conclusion:

In the aftermath of the Balkan wars, seven independent states emerged. Even though a de-facto peace is now present in the region, a reconciliation process never really took place, leaving room for tensions.

The current refugee influx has brought back the attention to the Balkan region as the countries are part of the Balkan route leading to Western Europe. Instead of serving as a uniting point, the influx has actually revealed the ‘fresh wounds’ from the past (instability).

The dimensions of the forced migration in the 90s and the current one share a lot of similarities, as well as differences. Insecurity, dependence on humanitarian and legal aid and the intense uncertainty concerning the family situation are all common features. When it comes to the differences, in the 90s, there was relative stability in the ‘collective’ refugee centres, while currently, the situation is constantly changing with closing and eviction of camps, barracks and even ‘jungles’, along with the closing-up of the borders.  Another aspect is the different socio-cultural background of the refugees now, including the different languages.