Why is it important to help the Balkans

Why is it important to help the Balkans?

You may have heard that Serbia and the other Balkan countries are experiencing devastating flooding right now.

It is the worst flood the area has seen in over 120 years. Streets, buildings and homes were massively destroyed and more than 30,000 people have been evacuated from destructed homes. There is a desperate need for basic items such as food, water, medicine, clothes, blankets and other necessities.

Nevertheless, it is also possible that you hadn’t even heard about the floods or  at least you may not have known how truly terrible they were. International media didn’t report about it, it only mentioned it in the very beginning and if we weren’t in touch with the local people we probably wouldn’t have known about it either.

However, we were in touch with locals and Jewish volunteers who have been collecting donations and have been helping the victims from the very start. They have been trying to raise awareness and gather support to buy long lasting food, drinking water, clothing, baby food and diapers, towels, bed sheets, cooking utensils, plates, cups, furniture, things for basic hygiene, school supplies and toys. They didn’t waste a second from the moment the flooding begun; they started collecting aid and worked hard to alleviate the pain in their countries. There are around 3000 Jews living in Serbia and another few thousand in other countries in the Balkans.

Serbia is not a rich country. It has been hit hard by the economic crisis and has been slowly recovering ever since. The country doesn’t have a strong support system, and when disasters happen they simply do not have the resources to help all their nationals.

The Balkan region has never especially been a “fashionable” destination either, in other countries they often refer-to it as: “somewhere over there” down in the south. Most people know so little about the exciting scenes, not usually a fancy-vacation destination or even spoken about in Western Europe other than people immigrating to richer countries in the European Union. However, the region has so much to offer from legendary Music festivals in Novi Sad to beautiful sights in Bosnia and Croatia. For me the Balkans have always been among my favourite places. I will never forget the first time I visited Belgrade as a teenager; we visited the Jewish community of Serbia and when we were walking in the center of the city we couldn’t not notice the traces of the NATO bombings from 1999. Nevertheless, the city had such a charm, so much to offer, the people were so friendly, the Jewish community was so welcoming that I instantly fell in love with the place. I have returned countless times ever since and always discovered something new and fascinating; the diversity of the people or the beauty of the nature. I’ve gotten so much from this place during the years that this time it’s my turn to give back.

This is why it is essential that we, students, young professionals, academics, activists, people who simply care show solidarity and help with whatever we can. If we don’t then who will? I was really happy to learn that the JDC is sending 15 tons of humanitarian aid to the region and I am even more proud that Jewish students are collecting donations all over the world to help.

It is also very important to recognize that Serbia, the nation hit hardest among the nations; has been a longstanding friend of Israel since WWII and during WWII, Serbian partisans not only fought the Nazi occupation but also demonstrated strong support for the Jewish people, saving many lives.

The situation in the Balkans is devastating and every donation makes a difference, every dollar matters. If you can, please donate and help make the situation more bearable. Please donate on this Jewcer page and share this campaign with your friends and family. Your help can make a real difference in the life of hundreds of families who lost their hope in the floods.



About the Author
Andi Gergely, originally from Budapest, Hungary, currently serves as the Chairperson of the World Union of Jewish Students (WUJS).