31 May 2014

ESN Solidarity

It has been two weeks since disaster struck the Balkans region. And, with flood waters having almost completely withdrawn, it has become clear just how destructive it was. The death toll from floods and landslides has reached 51 in Serbia (25), Bosnia and Herzegovina (24) and Croatia (2), not including those who reportedly died of natural causes and the dozens still missing. 

Sports arenas and school facilities continue to accommodate thousands of evacuees still awaiting their fate. Some are still not able to return home due to safety reasons; others have nothing to return to. 

They must start from scratch...

The ESN family understood the scope and graveness of the situation. ESN Serbia, ESN Bosnia-Herzegovina and ESN Croatia joined forces and initiated a “SocialErasmus Solidarity for Balkans” project – a series of charity events and awareness-raising activities. They invited other ESNers across Europe to join the action. The response was overwhelming!

Local ESN sections in Bulgaria, Italy, Portugal, Spain, Austria, Greece and other countries have organized a variety of fundraising events. The outpouring of support and compassion proved once again just how united the Erasmus Student Network is.

A couple of days ago, ESN BelUPgrade members made another small, but meaningful contribution. We collected water for one of the shelters in Belgrade. Each water bottle carried a message of support, love and encouragement for the evacuees.

We hereby wish to express our utmost and deepest gratitude to everyone who helped. THANK YOU.

(Written by Maja Dragičević)

23 May 2014

Generosity and Unity Emerge from Floodwaters

On this warm and sunny day, with crowded cafés and patios, and streets and quays teeming with pedestrians, it’s hard to imagine that the country is in a state of emergency.

In fact, it is.

During the past few days, Serbia has been struggling with the biggest floods in recorded history. People who live in the central and western parts of the country have suffered the most. Due to enormous and unusual amounts of rainfall for this time of the year, rivers Sava and Kolubara have gone out of their beds and flooded most of the towns they flow through. As a result, hundreds of thousands of people have been evacuated from their homes, while dozens perished. Neighboring Bosnia and Herzegovina and Croatia are suffering the same disaster, with the north-eastern and eastern areas, respectively, being the most critical.

An estimated 2 million people in the Balkans have been affected by the floods, but the damage caused by overflowing water has yet to be determined.

The moment the situation had become alarming, the people of Serbia rushed to help those in need. They organized labor actions (radne akcije), which included building dams along rivers and assisting evacuations; established funds to collect money for the endangered people; and donated food, water, clothes, medical equipment, medication...

Of crucial importance was, perhaps, the response of the Serbian youth. Thousands of young people have been mobilized by the Serbian government and the Red Cross to help in the relief efforts. Volunteers were allocated across various evacuation centers established in sport centers, arenas, faculty halls and hotels in Belgrade and other cities, sometimes even outnumbering the evacuees.  

Companies, supermarket chains and shops, associations, famous and wealthy people joined the action by supplying these centers with food, water and other necessities or making money donations for subsequent recovery and repairs. The help from abroad is also noteworthy. The European Union, the United Nations and individual countries and organizations have joined the relief and recovery efforts. Most overwhelming and heartfelt were the help and support from former Yugoslav republics, who were among the first to provide man-power and truckloads of food and water.

(Skopje, Macedonia)

Last but not least, radio-amateurs and social network users had a pivotal role in rescue missions, reportedly having saved over a thousand lives. They worked through day and night, linking boat rescue teams to stranded people and distributing information and updates on flooded areas and missing people.

ESN BelUPgrade is currently organizing a fundraising event which is to take place by the end of the month. In the meantime, our members have been volunteering at evacuation and donation centers.

Thus, we end this week’s post with a genuine testimony from a fellow “BelUPgradian” who has been actively volunteering over the last week.

Being a volunteer who helps people in need can’t really be described as nice or wonderful, but I can say that I’m glad I am able to help with what I can. Of course just like the rest of the people, I wish my help or any other help wasn’t needed, and that none of this has ever happened. However, we can’t live on wishes and hopes. We need to be united, because that’s the only way our help can be provided, and I’m glad that’s the case. For the past few days I have been volunteering at one of the collection centers, where we were sorting out goods, packing them and organizing delivery. After a long day, when I get home, I feel tired, but I choose not to think about that. I choose to think about how happy some kid will be when he/she sees the new toy we packed for him/her. Volunteering are people of different age and profession, but most of them are students, just like me. We choose not to think about the upcoming exam period, constantly repeating to ourselves that there are worse things that happened to some people. I must mention my greatest moment, which made me burst into tears. One elderly woman came and asked what we need most, to which we replied we needed hygienic goods. Fifteen minutes later she returned carrying two plastic bags of old perfumed and very expensive soap bars. She said that those soaps were a memory of her husband, but that there were people who needed it more than her. It is because of those people I am always ready to help. I would also like to use the opportunity to ask everyone who can help, in any way, to do so. One box of cookies, wet wipes, or anything else is not little. It means the world to them.“

(Co-written by Jovana Ružić and Uroš Jovanović)

16 May 2014

Serbia Floods

Serbia has been hit by the worst floods in 120 years. Due to the catastrophic situation, the Long Night of Museums, which we talked about in our previous post, has been delayed until further notice. 

If you wish to help those affected by the floods, you can see how below.

15 May 2014

„Great time in museums!“

Unfortunately, no one has yet invented a time machine, so we can explore past events or meet people we admire. Luckily, museums somewhat enable us to go back in time and enjoy the path of history. And Belgradians will be doing just that this Saturday, during the Long Night of Museums!

The Long Night of Museums (or Night of Museums) is a 17 year-old cultural event in which various cultural institutions are open late into the night to visitors with a common entry pass. The concept had a humble beginning in 1997, in Berlin (in German Lange Nacht der Museen), but quickly grew in popularity and expanded to 120 cities in Europe, Argentina and the Philippines.

On the evening of May 17th, museums across Serbia will open their doors to art and history fans for the eleventh time! In Belgrade, visitors will have access to no less than 80 locations, organized into 7 different zones. With so many interesting things to see, planning your route may be difficult. Thus, we decided to help you by presenting you with our Top 4 “places to be“.

„A small collection of a big scientist!“ - Museum of Nikola Tesla

While most people know Tesla as a great scientist, few know he was a passionate art collector. As weird as it may sound, Tesla had a remarkable sense for art. His personal collection of artwork includes Dutch landscapes, fine Japanese art, caricatures and aquarelle paintings with animal motives.

The museum curators give you a unique opportunity to see Tesla as curator, however, you will also be reminded of his greatest achievements and work in interesting 3D animations.

„Hello, dear newlyweds!“ - Konak kneginje Ljubice

Have you ever wished to see what weddings looked like 100 years ago? If that’s the case then you definitely need to visit Konak kneginje Ljubice. Within its premises, you will time travel from the 19th century onwards and see how customs and dresses have changed through the years. You’ll be able to experience a true Serbian wedding back in the day and learn about different roles people had at weddings.

„Freemasons in Serbia“ - Museum of Ethnography

What is it about Freemasons that make them so intriguing? What is the meaning of this organization and when was it established? 

Freemasonry occupies an important place in Serbian history, with names such as Vuk Karadzić, knez Mihailo Obrenović, Ivo Andrić, Djordje Vajfert, Aleksa Nenadović and Stevan Mokranjac associated with it.

On display will be private collections, a specially prepared Nazi Anti-masonry exhibit and, for the first time, a Freemasons temple!

„Museum of magic“ - The House of King Peter

Flying tables, Chinese circles, cards, top hats and magic wands! Anything you can think of when you think of a magic show you can see here. This „institute of wonders“ was founded by famous Serbian illusionist Miroslav Vuković Rossy. 

You will be able to see an exhibition of historical elements of magic shows dating back to ancient Egypt and some of the most famous magic tricks, including Houdini’s “Milk Can Escape”.

For more information, you can go to www.nocmuzeja.rs.

(Written by Nevena Nikolić)

8 May 2014

Hello, May!

The beginning of May was very interesting for the members of ESN BelUPgrade.

It started off with the celebration of Labor Day on May 1st. We celebrated the traditional way with early rising (prvomajski uranak) at Košutnjak, followed by barbecuing, drinking, dancing…  The fun went on ‘till late afternoon.

But, we didn’t stop there! From 2-4th May there was the Nature Adventure. The trip begun with the visit to Drvengard (a.k.a. Kustendorf) - an ethno village created by famous Serbian film director Emir Kusturica. Next stop was the camp ,,Hum’’, located near the town of Foča. Since it gets cold alongside the Tara River, the campfire kept us warm and made for a romantic ambience for playing games, dancing, drinking medovača and getting to know one another. The pinnacle of the trip was, of course, water rafting! It’s adventurous, it’s fun and it keeps the adrenalin levels high. The skippers were very nice and introduced us to the history and background of the location. Of course, there were breaks for capturing memories near a waterfall and a little brook. On the way home, we visited the famous  bridge near Visegrad, and a little town dedicated to Ivo Andrić, who described all the historical events of this area in his Nobel Prize winning novel ,,The Bridge Over the Drina’’.

It may seem that all we do is party and eat, but no! This week is dedicated to others, when we gather to help those in need.

This week is SocialErasmus Week, when ESNers across Europe turn their focus and energy to contributing to their environment and helping those in need.  While volunteering at the Belgrade Zoo is well underway, members of ESN BelUPgrade and foreign students will also have the opportunity to help cancer-stricken children at NURDOR (National Association of Parents with Children who Suffer from Cancer), and homeless kids at Belgrade’s children shelter “Svratište”.

Volunteers at the Zoo have, so far, been involved in cleaning cages, petting animals and assisting zookeepers in other tasks.

Hopefully, our volunteers at NURDOR and Svratište will put a smile on these childrens' faces and draw inspiration from their strength and energy. 

 (written by Tijana Šipka)

1 May 2014

International Workers' day (a.k.a. May 1st)

International Workers' day is an event that occurs on the 1st of May every year, representing a celebration of labor and the working classes. This date was chosen by the Socialists and Communists of the "Second international", to commemorate the Haymarket affair in Chicago that occurred on May 4, 1886. This is a national public holiday in number of countries and, in most of them, is marked by street marches and demonstrations. However, this is not the case in Serbia and other former Yugoslav republics.

This is the only socialist holiday that has remained after the breakup of Yugoslavia and is respected and celebrated by everyone. It's a day off work and school, so people go out for picnics and barbecue with their friends. 

Top destinations for such gatherings in Belgrade are Avala and Košutnjak. It is common to gather the night before (April 30th) or during dawn on May 1st. Regardless of the weather, people are always ready to celebrate this event and have a good time. 

ESN BelUPgrade is organizing a Labor Day barbecue at Košutnjak, where foreign students will have the opportunity to see how this holiday is marked here. 

If you have no plans for today, get some friends together, take some food and drinks, a pair of speakers and celebrate this amazing day, Serbian style! 

(Written by Nevena Nikolić)