Belgrade: A day of uncertainty

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A refugee sleeping on an makeshift bed (All pics: Strahinja Ristic)

By Strahinja Ristic

Most of the posts so far on World on Film have been from people’s travels or documenting the place they live in.

This post is a little different. Strahinja Ristic has sent in these powerful images of the refugees who temporarily call the Serbian capital Belgrade home, some of them from as far away as Afghanistan.

All images were shot on a Canon EOS 50 with a 24-70/4 lens and taken on Kodak Tri-X film.

An abandoned service station, or as the refugees of Belgrade would call it – their temporary home. Stuck between their goals and the reality, they wander around the old ruins, sleeping on improvised beds made of cardboard, or just about anything to separate them from the ground.

The service station is full of litter, left over from the refugees. A task too daunting for the small number of volunteers present to take care of.

Leftover food and clothing suggests they do not care greatly for what Serbia can provide to them.

Portrait of an Afghani refugee

A myriad of refugees are there each day. Looking to charge their phone or for a bite to eat. One thing binds most of them together – they are not there to stay. Trying to reach the more prosperous European countries, Belgrade, the capital of Serbia, is but a stopping station for most of these Afghanis.

They all have a reason why they left home. Whether it be family, persecution, fear, or just the incessant turmoil in the eastern regions. Uncertainty; if I wait long enough, will the war come to me once again?

They are being treated well. Many visit, people genuinely care. Their living conditions are not ideal, but they no longer fear for their life.
Speaking to a dozen refugees, a pattern emerges. They all hate the Hungarian police. Some of them show wounds from rubber bullets and guard dogs, unleashed by the Hungarian police. Their shoes are taken away, so that they cannot continue their journey on foot.

Preparing a lunch, bathed in sunlight

None of them are camera shy, though. They do not care if they are photographed, despite the danger that they could be identified at the border and turned back, once again, from their goal.

A great deal of those at this temporary shelter are friendly. They mean no harm to anyone, they offer tea, and whatever little supplies they have. One of them gifts me a ring. But they are shadowed by the scattered incidents of attempted rape or beatings in Belgrade.

Refugee poses for a portrait while on a phone call

Rarely anyone speaks English. We use a combination of sign language and broken English to correspond. What they do exhibit is genuine belief in a better tomorrow.

Their days are dull and monotonous, yet their spirit seems to be unbreakable. A few play football, cheered on by exalted spectators. Some listen to music, some gather and brew tea, while their body language exhibits a genuine carefree afternoon chatter.

Playing cricket to pass the time

Yet the populace has torn opinions about their stay in the capital. Serbia, without doubt, showed more compassion than most of the countries of the region, but in the end is just a stopping station to the Promised Land.
What the future holds for them is hard to say, but their days will no longer be filled with the deafening symphony of shelling, gunfire, air raids and the cries of their fellow countrymen.

Sadiki shows off where his friend sleeps; the doors are open to let the air in, but covered by a blanket to block the sunlight
Refugees chat around a fire
A refugee prays
Old service channel littered with garbage
A refugee walks among the ruins
Two Afghani refugees talking, while brewing tea
Refugees walk along a gravel road; in the background is the multi-billion dollar project “Belgrade Waterfront”

You can see more of Strahinja’s work via his Facebook page.

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