Staring into the darkness, the full-beam of the headlights lit up the falling snow, obscuring the winding road. We had no choice but to stop in the last Croatian town before the border with Bosnia Herzegovina. The bad weather was a stark reminder of the conditions that we were about to enter. Volunteering in Bihać, Bosnia, take three.
After a wonderful weekend hiking in the mountains around Lake Bled in Slovenia, we eventually arrived back in Bihać this week. The snow is worse than at any point last year. Daytime temperatures remain below freezing, pavements stay slippery all day and great snowdrifts line the busier roads where the snow ploughs have cleared.
No Name Kitchen is the same and different too. The same problems of failing vehicles and not enough pairs of shoes are faced by different volunteers.
But actually, there are so many improvements, especially since that first summer here. In August 2020 we arrived in a city in chaos, struggling to cope under the pressure of thousands of people in need (both native and non-native) and volatile politics. Publicity surrounding the fire at Lipa Camp has led to more international support.
The harsh winter conditions lead many people-on-the-move to return to Bosnian capital Sarajevo or neighbouring Serbia. The camps there are equipped if basic, but a brave few stay in the north, somehow surviving sub-zero conditions. Where last year most people lived in the broken buildings known as the Nursing Home and the Old Factory, now most live on the edge of the city. The big squats were closed by authorities, wanting to force the problem away from plain sight. Now, up to 100 people are in tents outside of the residential streets, with others staying in smaller buildings, out of the way of too much attention.
Yes it’s cold and living conditions are harsh, but it’s so beautiful here.
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