The Great Journey

Jana Plavec

2015 - Ongoing

Central Greece, Greece

"The Great Journey" is a story about a movement which is happening in Europe in last months and which became the biggest refugee event after World War II, captured through an optic of a humanitarian volunteer in different periods and on different places in Europe.

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  • Berkasovo (serbian-croatian border) , October 2015. The refugees are standing in a queue for getting some food and supplies
    from the humanitarian organizations and from groups of volunteers. After 24 hours a day arrival of
    busses to the serbian-croatian borders, they were very often exhausted, hungry and confused. So
    one of the main aims of the helping volunteers, aside of providing the food and clothing supply, was
    giving the basic informations. In this period the borders to EU were still open and the flow of the
    people was mostly, except some escalated situations, quite fluent.

  • Idomeni camp (Greece), March 2016.

  • Idomeni camp (Greece), March 2016. Idomeni is an eponymous train station on greek-macedonian borders, which gave a name to the camp, fitting closely to its surroundings. Since 2014, refugees from Syria, but also from Afghanistan, Pakistan and other countries of the Middle East began to flock to Idomeni in order to pass the Greek borders and enter the Republic of Macedonia. After the decision of governments of closing the borders for migrants in March, almost 15,000 people got stucked at this place. They were forced, with carrying their hope of reopening of the borders, to find a way of outlasting the time in the camp, so they have occupied the Idomeni train station base and its houses, including the sleepeing wagon train unit and have built an improvised tent station. Aside this a couple of large 240–square meter of high beds amount capacity tents and 45–square meter tents have been built by the humanitarian organizations (MSF) to provide a shelter for thousands of people in need. Despite of these possibilities, the living conditions in the camp are alarming.

  • Berkasovo (serbian-croatian border) , October 2015. This image has been captured when the inflow of the refugees was reaching its peak. Night and day buses arrived bringing new refugees to the borders. On the busiest of nights the number of people could reach 7000. Recently the situation has worsened due to the closure of the borders; the mud was horrendous and refugees were forced to sleep in improvised tents on the border.
    * *That night was cold. I had been walking around the buses with my camera. After the bus stopped I looked through the misted window and I witnessed an extraordinary scene - It was as if I was standing in front of an old master painting, silhouettes appeared under the soft light with their faces expressing inquisitiveness,enthusiasm, excitement and hope for the next stop of their journey.

  • Idomeni camp, (Greece), March 2016. At the time the photograph has been taken, they were about 15.000 people trapped in this provisional, mostly from tents built camp on the macedonian-greek borders. The weather conditions were remorseless, people struggle with rain, cold and wind, which puts under a test their lightly built shelters. Repairing them became the every day, full time job, next to the hunt for food and other basic supply. Chaos, uncertainty, desperation and frustration - that is the atmosphere in Idomeni, the similar as the accompanying feeling about achieving the desired final destination and about the upcoming future itself.

  • Berkasovo (serbian-croatian borders), October 2015. An anonymous refugee boy.

  • Idomeni camp (Greece), March 2016.

  • Idomeni camp (Greece), March 2016.

  • Polýkastro (Greece), March 2016. A refugee boy with his toy.

  • The island of Lesvos (Greece), December 2015. The island could have been called an island of
    lifejackets after the year of 2015 when a mass of people passed through and left this piece of
    indispensable equipment, in happiness of reaching finally the dry land, behind them on the beaches.
    For the last year there is an evidence of almost 860.000 of refugees (source UNHCR), using this route to reach EU and to escape the unfavourable conditions in their countries. From these people about 3,500 people have drowned or were reported missing in the Mediterranean Sea. Most of the people using the sea route through Greece are women and children (22% and 38%), men constitute the rest part. Almost half of them fled the war in Syria, to find peace in another country and to have a better future for their families.

  • The island of Lesvos (Greece), December 2015.

  • EKO camp (Greece), March 2016. The Kurds celebrate the new year holiday of "Nowruz" in their improvised temporal base.

  • Idomeni camp (Greece), March 2016.

  • Polýkastro (Greece), March 2016. I domeni is one of the many camps or detentions centers in Greece.According to UNHCR, about 50.000 of refugees linger in Greece without possibility to enter the Schengen area and continue their journey to west. Many of them are being already sent back to the turkish territory on base of the EU-Turkey deal. People which have already reached Greece still live in hope of a changing situation and the refugee politics. Some of them are now accepting that they may have to wait months or even years before their asylum requests are processed or they are
    relocated under an EU plan. Others cannot admit the refusing present-day stance of the lands of EU
    and they manifest their disagreement with the occured situation almost every day and night. Despite of taking the offer of greek government of placing the refugees to the official camps providing higher standards, they stay in Idomeni, because their presence attracts the world's cameras - and they are still keeping hope it will pressure EU leaders to revise their decisions.

  • Idomeni camp (Greece), March 2016. Mother with her child in their temporal "home".

  • Idomeni camp (Greece), March 2016. One of the regular night protest appealing for opening the borders to Macedonia.

  • Berkasovo (serbian-croatian border), October 2015. Arriving busses to the border.

  • The island of Lesvos (Greece), December 2015. A volunteer is awaiting the arrival of the refugee boat from the turkish side of the coast.

  • The island of Lesvos (Greece), December 2015. Medics and volunteers helping a man which has just arrived on one of the boats.

  • Berkasovo (serbian-croatian border) , October 2015.

  • Idomeni (Greece), March 2016. Camp fires are of of the symbols of Idomeni. When the night covers
    the landscape, hundreds of fires are lit up in front of the tents. The camp then gets almost a magical
    impression. But due to the lack of firewood, plastics are used very often to provide the energy
    needed for warming up of the inhabitants or to prepare warm meals for families. The air becomes
    very heavy with its poisoning affect to the people´s health conditions. Especially for children, among them is growing number of suffering from respiratory infections, is this situation threathening.

  • Idomeni (Greece), March 2016. A volunteer passing by an empty vagon of Idomeni.