By Marko Djuirca
I had been thinking how cold it was for this time of year to need both my hoodie and my jacket. A cold, strong wind blew over the hills of no-man’s land separating Serbia from Macedonia. I stood quietly in total darkness for an hour or so until the border patrol officer, looking through his thermal camera, said: “Here they are, I think there must be 40 of them!”
Every year, the Serbian border police catches more than 10,000 migrants from Africa, the Middle East, Afghanistan, and Pakistan, who are trying to reach Serbia illegally. They come from Turkey, through Greece to Macedonia and Serbia before they reach Hungary and with it, the borderless Schengen travel zone.
Novi Sad, Serbia
By Marko Djurica
At the Exit Festival in Serbia’s second city Novi Sad, you won’t find any signs pointing the way to the closest place to egress, but only signs for “emergency escape.” It is intentional so that concertgoers don’t get confused that the party continues outside the fence, but I came to see it as a hidden message.
The festival is held on the grounds of Petrovaradin, a medieval fortress on the banks of the Danube River, and has been drawing crowds from the region and from Europe for over 14 years. The original festival grew out of a post-war student protest movement against the regime of former Serb strongman Slobodan Milosevic. The name was meant to be a clear call for the Milosevic regime to step down and for society to leave the consequences of a terrible dark decade behind. The festival climaxed in the mid 2000s when it was recognized as one of Europe’s top ten festivals. Since then, it has all been downhill.
By Marko Djurica
Everyone who has ever been to Istanbul knows their famed Turkish fast food restaurants, especially in Taksim Square. Doners, kebabs and other delicacies are on offer 24/7. The competition is vast and every vendor fights to lure customers. You can’t really go wrong: most of the places have friendly staff and tasty morsels of food. But in one restaurant I experienced a kind of service I could never have dreamed of.
Namely, on June 22 I was in Taksim Square covering the protests that had begun 20 days earlier when the government of Prime Minister Erdogan announced it would build a new shopping mall on Gezi Park, the last large green space in the city. A large number of protesters faced down a line of riot police armed with water cannons. No one needed to tell me what was going to happen; I have been in similar situations many times. The demonstrators shouted anti-government slogans, the police asked them to disperse because rallies are forbidden. Naturally, after a few hours, tensions rose and the police began to use water cannons and tear gas to evict the masses – now a common sight at Taksim.
By Marko Djurica
Although graves are for the dead and not for the living, a man in Serbia’s southern city of Nis has chosen a tomb to live in.
Bratislav Stojanovic, 43, a Nis-born construction worker never had a regular job. He first lived in abandoned houses, but about 15 years ago he settled in the old city cemetery. Stojanovic says homeless life is difficult and that everything he owns and needs he finds in garbage containers and on the streets. He does not have much, but highly values whatever little he has.