When my cousin came up with the idea of a daytrip to Belgrad, I was more than surprised and up for the adventure. I have never visited the Serbian capital and was rather curious about the life/lifestyle etc there. I was sort of expecting something similar to Bucharest, since well it’s a capital city in Eastern Europe: magnificent early 1900s architecture that is left to decay, visible remains of the Communist Era, proof of the (newly) adopted capitalist lifestyle marked by high-street brands & restaurants/coffeshops etc. and of course a mass of people busy/angry, who are always in a rush. Well in part that is was we discovered there, and then some more.
After a relaxed, GPS-less 2h drive, we reached the outskirts of the city and crossed the bridge over the Danube. Finding a parking spot on a Sunday was a bit tricky though. Since we parked in a residence area near the main train station, we decided to visit the station, maybe get some info/maps. And there it hit us… at first we thought it was a bit strange to see two tents set up right on the grass right next to the entrance. In those tents was an Asian family with two babies. ‘Maybe, they are homeless…’, said my cousin. Yet as we passed the train station, there was a park. And there were more tents, and hunderds of people sitting on the grass as if a large scale picnic was taking place. Yet there was no music, rather quiet – you could hear only the street noise. The passerbys were ignoring the people sitting down, but the ones on the grass were watching each one of them quietly. There were women, children, elderly people mostly. The men were sitting separately or walking around the park. It was sort of a surreal atmosphere – as if two worlds met here.
They were not just average homeless folks. They were refugees, trying to get into the EU and escape the conflicts happening in their homelands – most likely Syria or neighbouring countries affected by civil ongoing civil wars. They were waiting for the next train or bus to take them to Hungary, Austria or whichever European country would take them in.
I wish I talked to them, photograph them and share their stories. Maybe it could have helped. Reading the news about the wave of immigrants is one thing – one can barely grasp the tragedy they have been through. And now the EU countries build up fences to keep them out, as if closing the eyes would make the situation go away.