Crossing borders isn’t the same as it used to be. My anxiety levels were pretty high as we crossed into Slovenia, and out of the Schengen Zone - an important Brexit stamp in my passport. Ljubljana was like a ghost town. Shops were closed but bits of the castle were open to explore, and it was great to relax.
The Croatian border was the worst. The UK is on the black list (that’s worse than the red list by the way), so we had to wait while they decided what to do with us. Fortunately my entry stamp into the EU meant I had proof that I’d not been there recently. So I was treated like I’d come from Germany. Zagreb seemed pretty normal. It was great to see a friend and eat really good hipster vegan food. The last time for a while.
Stopping in Velika Kladusa - the Bosnian border town - the reality of mosques, indoor smoking, different money, and stares in the street hit home. We were somewhere else now. Bihac is less intense than VK but it was easy to forget how it felt to be here before.
The city in winter is so different. In the summer, there were three or four thousand people living outside of the camps, now that’s just one thousand - people went south or to Serbia to escape the cold. The hostility is reduced as well. We’ve heard that the police don’t raid and clear the derelict buildings all the time like they used to. And the press attention that the fire at Lipa camp in December has drawn means that there are plenty more donations than there used to be. There will always been a need for clothing, shoes, bags and sleeping bags - but for now we have them.
The weather is warming up now, I’m writing this with the door open to the spring-like air, and whilst that means that surviving outside is easier, it also means that people will come back. Staying in a camp here is no solution, and the only way to find safety is to cross into the EU - over the mountains avoiding the brutal border guards.
Our friends will return to the city and soon we’ll have more to do. Let’s just hope that the international attention that the fire has created won’t dissipate too quickly.
To keep up with regular information, follow me on Instagram and Facebook