The Balkans respond with solidarity in trying times

Balkan floodsThere are moments in history when our reactions and behaviour can leave an impact that goes on to define us as a people or nation.

Such determining behaviour can embed so deeply in our collective mind that it corrals opinion about us and shapes our lasting impressions.

In that way, caricatures, stereotypes and misconceptions can be created – or they can be put straight for evermore.

The overwhelming floods in the Balkans will impact on the lives of so many people in so many ways. Thousands are already homeless, having lost everything to the dirty stinking waters, while the growing death toll ticks up to who knows where.

The scale of this natural disaster is unseen in Europe in recent decades, with the flooding in Serbia the worst in more than a century.

Trying times can forge respect and opinion

These are such times that people can show their true strength and values, behaving in ways that will forge respect. Misconceptions can be shattered, to be replaced by stronger more valid impressions based on humanity evidenced by behaviour.

The solidarity and single-minded focus that has been shown by people reaching out to each other across the Balkans is testament to an attitude that can prevail in the region, given chance and occasion.

The unquestioning solidarity towards neighbours in need will leave a durable impression of Serbs and the Balkan people that will have the power to form more refined worldwide opinions.

The unquestionable speed with which the authorities in Slovenia and Croatia came to the rescue, quite literally, with helicopters and troops to airlift victims and help hold back the swelling waters was admirable. But it is not just the authorities that have shown themselves willing to come to the aid of their neighbours with helicopters and troops.

Overloaded convoys packed with supplies

The convoys of overloaded cars crossing the borders from Macedonia and Montenegro, packed with supplies and manpower to help their close neighbours in Bosnia and Serbia has been heart warming, and the young people from Croatia who rallied to provide succour to those in greater peril in Serbia was a sign of the true feeling among Balkan people.

Serbian floods

From further afield, the diaspora has rallied itself, too. Truck loads of babies’ nappies, tinned food and bottled water have been heading out from cities throughout the UK on a daily basis since the crisis hit.

Hygiene products, clothing and foodstuffs have piled high at the Serbian Embassy and the Serbian Orthodox Church in London, from within the diaspora and from those who simply feel the will to help in any way they can.

Significant financial donations have also come into the official Serbian Government PayPal account ( The European Union has also promised substantial aid to help those most in need now as well as help to prevent similar events in the future.

These relief packages have been welcomed by the thousands of evacuees sleeping on camp beds in sports halls and schools commandeered as makeshift shelters.

The full horror of the floods is still to come

Essential supplies such as these can only carry on life in the interim, while the full horror of the floods will not be seen for weeks or months to come. When the water levels start to fall, the massive clean up can begin.

Once the silt and mud is cleared, the final toll will be cruelly exposed. The terrible loss of life, extensive devastation of crops and livestock, and destruction of so many homes and belongings will be almost unbearable, especially in a region where it is commonplace to live from day to day without a thought for insurance or contingency.

In the months to come, the strength of character of the Balkan people will be called upon, as neighbours are required to stand shoulder to shoulder as they rebuild their lives.

Balkan people standing shoulder to shoulder

What will be required beyond the immediate need for clean clothes and drinking water is the inherent resilience, fortitude and strength for which Balkan people should be better known.

The trying times ahead will also call for camaraderie. It will need for the people of Serbia, Bosnia and across the entire region to be charitable, neighbourly and supportive of each other. They will need to work together if they are to thrive as people of sovereign Balkan states in their own right. They will need each other and be stronger together.

There is not any need to be anxious about this, however. Such behaviour as has already be seen in every affected village or town. It is one heartening constant in the wake of these floods.

Hopefully, this testament to humanity should leave a supremely positive and elevating impression about the Balkans and the big-hearted, broad-shouldered and proud people who make their homes in these beautiful lands.

•  Anyone interested in learning more about Balkan literature and national identity can join some of the regions great writers, commentators and academics for Balkan Day at the British Library, on Friday, 13 June. Click here for more details and free admission#BalkanDay

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  1. Jasmina

    5 / 21 / 2014 1:15 am

    Thank you Markus for the true report of what’s happening in Balkans. This is an impact not only in this moment that we’re all witnessing reuniting in helping each other again, than also, the fact that in this difficult times, humanity wins a battle again. It is definitely a moment of change not only for us, than also on bigger, world’s level, that reminds people all arround to almost misscared true values for caring and sharing for human lives. Even if it is for a bit, in this capitalism society of 21st century, and even it is because of hard catastrophe, it will hopefully and finally be humanity’s victory.


    • 5 / 21 / 2014 8:36 am

      Thanks, Jasmina. Times like these can bring out the best in people, as we realise our true values and work together to achieve the simple things that make life worth living. Sadly, that solidarity can be too easily forgotten after the event, but I trust that the impact of this event will remind people of what is most important to all of us, wherever we live. Myself, I will do what I can to establish better links, generate greater awareness and support my many good friends in the Balkans.





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