Sisak after the earthquake: portrait of a new reality

Янв 29, 2021

Territorial & local development

The whole Sisak County was shaken that Tuesday morning, December 29th, 2020, few minutes past midday. While the epicentre was only 5 Km from Petrinja, the earthquake hit the whole area, namely the towns of Glina and Sisak.

In a different way, also ALDA itself was shaken that day: this shocking news left all of us astonished and helpless in front of the catastrophe which was taking place in one of the very cities where ALDA was born: in Sisak.

Sisak actually hosts the third ever-established Local Democracy Agency, opened in 1996, even before the creation of ALDA. The LDA Sisak was initially led by Antonella Valmorbida, now ALDA Secretary General, who then passed the lead to Paula Rauzan, the actual delegate.

The LDA Sisak, since its beginnings, has been a valuable resource for the local population thanks to its constant activities carried out in partnership with the Municipality of Sisak, member of ALDA since 2009 and other civil society organisations of the territory.

Today, the LDA is a renowned institution in the city and in the County, as well as a key stakeholder for the development of the region, whose premises host (or better say hosted) the Sisak Volunteer Centre.

Walking through the city, I realise that almost no building has “survived” the earthquake

Paula, despite all the news on the mass and local media, how is the situation in the city, how would you describe it?

Here in Sisak, things are slowly, but constantly, moving ahead. Nevertheless, there is a general feeling of confusionand chaos. What happened was totally unpredictable and caught us in the middle of the Christmas holidays, a period of the year when people who live and work abroad are coming back home and the city is very crowded.

What keeps me shocking every day when I walk through the city, is to realise that almost no building has “survived” the earthquake. At this very moment, Sisak is a city completely deprived of any institutions and services, physically speaking, the majority of constructions, from the Municipality to supermarkets, shops, houses and even schools underwent major structural damages and are not safe to be used.

Today, Sisak is a city where just a few public institutions still have their premises, and the daily life routine of ordinary people is extremely challenged considering basic services. We live in a place where nothing can be given for granted anymore. Yesterday, I found myself wondering if in Sisak there are any dry cleaner left.

Moreover, in some part of the town buildings seem to be in good conditions, at a first sight; instead, the more you get closer, the more structural damages are visible.

But the biggest loss of all is, surely, the loss of human lives. Until now, the earthquake caused the death of 7 people.

How is the crisis management working? How is the aid being managed?

I must say that the solidarity demonstrated by individuals, associations, companies is huge. Institutions are doing their part as well, but it is really astonishing the number of organisations and non-formal initiatives which took the field to help us.

Among all the problems, the biggest one is probably the large number of people left without a house, and a place to sleep. Adding up to that, this winter has been particularly cold, and the snow started falling just the day after the earthquake occurred. Most of the efforts now focus both on mapping people in distress, many of which are in remote places of the county, and on finding temporary solutions to help those people survive the season.

Which are the conditions of the LDA Sisak?

Unfortunately, the LDA Sisak does not have its premises anymore. The building is stills standing but has major damages in all its parts and it is not recommended for usage.

However, the situation is the same for large number of CSOs: I can recall just few associations which still has its premises. Despite this, all organisations keep working. People are actually having business meeting outside, in the snow.

Back to the LDA Sisak, in line with our mission which is the support of local democratic processes, we are reorienting our work and the volunteers’ to be as helpful as possible to the citizens.

Our staff is now active on two fronts: we are trying to finish all the ongoing activities and to finish all projects’ reports (a classic task during this time of the year). We are then mapping the needs of the community to bring specific help: the LDA Sisak has a strong volunteering component, thus we are channelling energies and forces according to the situation.

In turn, I must really thank the Croatian Volunteer Development Center which is giving us great support. In fact, all our networks are very supportive, ALDA and South East European Youth Network.

Paula, being the Delegate of the LDA Sisak, how your daily routine has changed?

My new daily routine…  actually, I am almost the whole day on the phone!

Making plans for the day is impossible and the situation and priorities are changing every hour. For this reason, I am always trying to be in contact with colleagues, volunteers and with other organisations. As CSOs, we are trying to cooperate and help each other as much as possible.

What is going to happen next?

The situation is highly unpredictable, firstly because the Earth hasn’t stopped shaking yet. Everyday there are new, minor, tremors which keep worsening the situation and the buildings’ conditions.

The only certain thing is that this area will need help for a long time, from an economic and social points of view. Indeed, considering the situation from a broader perspective, all this adds up to the already existing covid-19 pandemic and the growing risk and uncertainty is worsening people’s mental conditions.

To conclude, there is another threat to the city and its population: the exodus of people and commercial activities. Many are the people who left the area after the earthquake: regular citizens and businesspeople, considering that several hundred companies lost their premises.

This situation represents a threat for the whole region, which may find itself empty and drained of an important part of its social and economic component in the period to come.

See more pictures from Sisak