I wasn’t able to go visit the construction site this week (Amir goes there every week and he and Fuad keep in regular contact with the construction company and the supervision company; so don’t worry the project is still taken care of even if I can’t go see it myself) so I thought i could to a quick flashback to why we are doing this project and who we are doing it for.
The destruction in the whole valley was and still is so visible; it really is impressive. Just look at this truck that was just completely bent and utterly destroyed by the force of a landslide. It is not the same landslide that destroyed the water reservoir; which is even more terrifying, to realize in how many places the ground started to slide in Zeljezno Polje and how many people were directly affected by the disaster.
It is impressive how much has already been reconstructed and how the community has seemingly recovered from this scary event; but if you talk to people you realize that yes outward recovery has progressed (houses rebuilt, agriculture back on track, etc.) but inwards, mentally the people are even now still very much affected.
A little while ago when Berry Kralj, our Senior Program Officer at Hedquarters in Luzern, Switzerland visited Zeljezno Polje with us he was able to talk to some of the local population and feel their pulse a little bit. I became clear that they are very resilient people and able to get up again after being put down. They however also talked about how horrifying their experience was when the ground started moving and how it deeply affected them mentally. Many are affected by an individual and a communal trauma.
Every time it rains people are afraid that the ground would start moving again. When they hear thunder they are terrified. When they hear a loud bang from a car or something else many still cringe. Because it wasn’t just what they saw with their eyes that shocked them but when the ground started to shift it was terrifyingly loud. Any loud sound will bring this back into their memory and remind them of that night in May last year.
The destroyed houses, cracked ground, cracks and crevices from the landslides are all still a reminder of what happened – of the night spent outside in the forest cut off from the rest of the world and how scared they were; but especially how their home just does not feel the same anymore. Not everyone has experienced the same degree of trauma of course but everyone we talk to has some sort of traumatic experience where you can tell that it will not be easy to completely shake that deep seated fear.
So this is an important reason for the project, to bring back a little bit of confidence for the community and the people that live in it and to take away a little bit of the fear they experienced.