Standort: / Meldung: "On the road with refugees"

Joanna Bostock

Reading between the headlines.

19. 10. 2015 - 14:28

On the road with refugees

A cross-border, story-telling journey of human dimensions through Macedonia, Serbia and Croatia.

Man on Train

Armin Walcher

Stephan Skrobar

Stephan Skrobar has travelled the world as a skier and writes for free-ski and alpine magazines. Armin Walcher is a documentary photographer. Together, they spent 4 days in Macedonia, Serbia and Croatia following and recording the experiences of some of the many refugees who've been travelling across the so-called "Western Balkan route". Their aim, says Armin, was to "to see and feel what's going on and to show people the sorts of images they don’t see in the typical news".

Armin had already witnessed events several weeks ago in Röszke in Hungary, where thousands of people were camping out in a cornfield after coming across the border from Serbia. Emotionally, Röszke was "way, way harder" than his experiences on this trip. Looking through the camera lens gives him some distance, but there are also moments when "you see people who don't want to be in the photo, where you just put your camera away". Stephan and Armin talked to "quite a lot of refugees", but only engaged in conversations that occurred naturally.

The Refugees

Most of the people they saw were families with children. They also saw elderly people and people in wheelchairs making the journey. The carefree mood of the children took Stephan by surprise – "you didn't expect that in the middle of the night, you just play with kids, they’re six years old and they're just laughing and having a good time" – and was in stark contrast to what some of the parents were going through. "You look at the mother, in a state of complete inner shutdown. She was sitting there with closed eyes, just trying to be elsewhere. You could see that".


Armin Walcher

One of the people they struck up a conversation with was Noor, from Syria. "The kind of guy you'd easily go out with and end up talking to until four o'clock in the morning". Noor is trying to get to the Netherlands to join his brother, who apparently arrived in Sweden about a year ago, after swimming (!!) from Turkey to Greece. Noor hopes to complete his law studies, and is apparently an ice-skating instructor, too.

The Locals

The interesting thing was seeing interactions between the refugees and the border policemen, local residents, and volunteers, and how this varied from one border to the next. The policemen in Croatia were efficient and firm, but friendly too. Less so their Serbian counterparts, who Armin describes as "super silent, and not really able to speak English." In conversation, a Croatian policeman opened up about his own history – remembering being a refugee himself at the age of six, during the conflict that ensued after the break-up of Yugoslavia, and talking about how those experiences influence how he deals with the situation today.


Armin Walcher

In Serbia Armin and Stephan saw volunteers helping, and noted that they seemed to be mainly Swedes, Croatians, Germans and Britons. They also noticed people offering "taxi" services (for payment) in their private vehicles or selling shoes and socks. At the same time they talked to young Serbs who talked of their own desires to escape and migrate to a better life in a country such as Germany.

The Interview

On the Road with Refugees