In the middle of an earthquake

Our ESC volunteer Loïc survived the big earthquake in Petrinja in December 2020. How that changed his life and why he decided to come back to our community after experiencing something like this – find out in his article.

*** Scroll down for Croatian version ***

On the 15th of December, I left my hometown, Eischen, in Luxembourg for an ESC long-term project in Petrinja, Croatia. My mobility was supposed to end on the 31st of May but because Petrinja got hit by earthquakes I had to put my mobility on halt for safety reasons and come back to Luxembourg for a month and a half, until my hosting association, Udruga IKS was ready and capable to host volunteers again, since their office building was damaged during the earthquakes.

Words will never be enough to explain something so scary and terrifying. In the beginning, the general reaction was shock and surprise. As the days went on, the earthquakes hit harder and more frequently and the situation got worse and worse. Shock turned into despair very quickly.

The first earthquake hit, approximately at 7 am on the 28th of December. I will never forget the events and emotions I felt the next 4 days.

The first thing I remembered is how loud it suddenly got. I was still in bed and the whole house started to shake and in my half-asleep state, I thought there was an explosion outside of my Volunteer house. Only after everything stopped trembling I understood that what I just felt was an earthquake of Magnitude 6. In less than 2 hours a second and third earthquake shook the whole house, resulting in the boiler in the bathroom detaching from the wall and flooding the bathroom and the basement below. The first day was chaotic since the earthquakes weren’t as bad as the following days and weeks, and there was only material damage and no casualties. But through the day there were still some aftershocks. Strong enough to wake me up anytime I fell asleep. On the second day, the 29th of December, the weather was nice and the sun was out, and I thought it was going to be a good day. The earthquakes stopped and the initial shock was over. I was wrong.

The earthquakes hit harder, more frequently, and destroyed half of the buildings in Petrinja. When it hit at circa. 11h30, Nadja, her grandpa, Tamara, and I, were inside the IKS building. The whole building started to shake, it got really loud, and I saw the cracks forming in the wall. Nadja grabbed me by my arm and pulled me under the doorway. Small pieces of the wall fell from the roof, furniture fell, everything was shaking. After 10-30 seconds, everyone in the IKS building ran outside to the street without grabbing anything.

Once we were outside, I saw the dust in the air, tiles, and bricks on the streets, buildings with collapsed roofs, people crying, people screaming in fear, cars driving away in a hurry, people running away. I heard the most painful scream imaginable to me. A mother crying and yelling for her child. Her scream sounded like death. The child was buried under several bricks, that had fallen from a collapsed building onto the streets. During that whole time, my mind was blank. There were no thoughts on my mind. All I could do was look and feel powerless and do my best to not freak out. Look at the chaos, people fearing for their loved ones, listen to people screaming in agony, and watch as some of them risk their own lives as they try to pull people out under the wreckage. I had nothing on me. All my personal belongings were still inside the IKS building. We waited outside next to the main square for 2 hours and saw the ambulance, firefighters, the army, and police rushing in one by one. By the time, we left for Sisak, we were able to retrieve only the essentials and some personal belongings out of the IKS building.

On our way to Sisak, I could see chaos settling in. Traffic got busier because so many people were driving towards Petrinja. So many damaged buildings and people walking the street. In Sisak, I slowly realized what just happened. It settled in and I felt even more helpless. I don’t understand Croatian so I couldn’t understand the conversations around me and the only thing I was capable of doing at that time was to keep my calm. During the day, the only time felt real fear and got scared was when I was inside the house, and every time right before I would fall asleep, it started to shake. Because we couldn’t stay inside we decided to spend the night in the parking lot ciglarska graba (supernova Sisak) and sleep in the work van of Udruga Iks. We were 9 people, Nadja, her friend Iva, Iva’s brother, and her mom, another friend of Nadja’s, Mateo, his girlfriend Iskra, her brother Noah, their mom, the dog Pacho and me. One van and one car. We weren’t the only ones staying overnight in the parking place. During the night I woke up twice because of an earthquake.

Since there was no way of me continuing my mobility as planned, Nadja and I agreed that I fly back to Luxembourg on the 1st of January.

So on the next day, the 30th of December, 3 volunteers from Zagreb, Tin, Filip, and Matia, came to pick me up in Sisak. On our way to Zagreb, I told them about the past 3 days and they told me they were helping out people in need with water and food all around Petrinja and Sisak. I spent the next 2 nights until the 1st January in a hostel in Zagreb and on new’s year eve I had dinner with the owner of the hostel, a woman from Germany, and two women from Switzerland. This is how my 2020 ended. It was a year filled with a lot of very random life-changing events. When I got back to Luxembourg, after explaining everything in detail to my family and friends, I was on stand-by for 1.5 months. Finally, on the 26th of February, I was allowed to go back to Croatia. So from Findel airport to Amsterdam to Zagreb and finally Sisak where I met Nadja and Iva.

After a warm welcome some Tea and coffee, Nemanja another employee for Udruga IKS, picked up us and we drove to Karlovac too, where I met my host for the weekend, Shima. He lives in Slunjski Moravci, a tiny village. With his dog, Bona, 2 cats, and three donkeys. Behind his house is a river with some beavers. You can tell because of the canals and ways on the river bed and the traces of teeth on nibbled trees.

After the weekend, I was back in Karlovac where I met my adoptive NGO, Carpe Diem, for a week and 3 other long-term volunteers. Also in Karlovac, I had the opportunity to see two shows in the local theatre and get some great inspiration and advice from the actors at the local theatre. I spent my nights at my host’s place Branimira and on the 5th of March, I was finally able to go back to Petrinja where I met my new roommate Ena and her dog Keljo. We are staying in a house that used to be an art gallery but now it serves as a volunteer house/office for Udruga IKS.

I heard people call me brave because even tho I was in the middle of an earthquake I still decided to come back to Petrinja and finish my mobility. I’m not brave. I’m just blessed. Blessed to be surrounded by people who care immensely. Good people, ready to help me out at any moment even tho they didn’t know me, who sheltered me and made sure I was ok, while their hometown and country were hit by a dozen earthquakes. Even now I can still feel small earthquakes, once a day or more.

The picture above is paradoxical in the sense that it reminds me of a saying, The most beautiful flowers grow in the mud. This picture was taken in a time of crisis, panic, and anxiety but it will forever remind me of something fundamental. The only things necessary for this life are fire, shelter, the warmth of some good company, your and your loved one’s safety. Anything else can be replaced. I wanna thank everybody I mentioned before and I hope that during my long-term European Voluntary Service, I can be as helpful and of use as you were to me. Hvala vam puno!

Naš ESC volonter Loic preživio je veliki potres u Petrinji u prosincu 2020. Kako mu je to promijenilo život i zašto se odlučio vratiti u našu zajednicu nakon što je doživio nešto takvo – saznajte u njegovom članku.

15.-og prosinca napustio sam svoj grad Eischen u Luksemburgu povodom dugoročnog projekta Europskih snaga solidarnosti u Petrinji, Hrvatskoj. Moja mobilnost trebala je završiti 31.-og svibnja, no budući da je Petrinja pogođena potresima, zaustavljena je iz sigurnosnih razloga pa sam se vratio nazad u Luksemburg na mjesec i pol’ dok moja organizacija domaćin Udruga Iks bude ponovno spremna i u mogućnosti ponovo smjestiti volontere jer je i njihova glavna zgrada sa uredima srušena u potresu. Riječi nikad neće biti dovoljne za opisati tako nešto jezivo i zastrašujuće. U početku, opća reakcija bila je šok i iznenađenje. Kako su dani prolazili potresi su udarali sve češće, a situacija je bivala sve gora. Šok se ubrzo pretvorio u očajanje.

Prvi potres dogodio se oko 7 sati ujutro 28.12.2020. Nikad neću zaboraviti što sam osjećao i događaje koji su uslijedili u naredna četiri dana. Prva stvar koje se sjećam je koliko je bio glasan. Još sam bio u krevetu i cijela volonterska kuća u kojoj sam smješten se počela tresti i u polusnu sam mislio da je eksplozija. Tek nakon što se sve počelo tresti shvatio sam da se upravo dogodio potres i to magnitude 5 Richtera. U manje od 2 sata kratki potres treći po redu to jutro je potresao čitavu kuću i bojler je pao sa zida kupaone rezultirajući poplavu u kupaoni i podrumu. Prvi dan nije bio toliko kaotičan kao ovi koji su uslijedili danima i tjednima poslije; bilo je materijalne štete, ali nije bilo nastradalih ljudi. Kroz dan sam osjetio posljedice šoka, dovoljno jake da bih se probudio svaki put kad bih osjetio trešnju. Drugog dana, 29.prosinca, vrijeme je bilo lijepo i sunčano, te sam mislio da će biti dobar dan. Potresi su stali, prošao je prvotni šok…No, bio sam u krivu. Najveći u nizu uništio je pola Petrinje u 12:19 sati, magnitude 6.2. Nadja Matešić, njen djed, Tamara Jovičić i ja bili smo u IKS-u, u Turkulinovoj 9. Cijela zgrada se počela tresti, bilo je stvarno glasno i vidio sam kako se počinju stvarati pukotine u zidu. Nadja me zgrabila za ruku i stali smo pod štok. Komadi zida padali su sa stropa, pao je namještaj, sve se drmalo. Poslije 10-30 sekundi svi smo  istrčali iz IKS-a bez potrebe da išta ponesemo sa sobom.
Kad smo izašli van vidio sam prašinu u zraku, crijepove i cigle na ulicama, zgradove sa uništenim krovovima, ljude koji plaču i vrište u strahu. Auti su vozili u žurbi, a ljudi su bježali. Čuo sam najbolniji krik koji sam mogao zamisliti- majka koja plače i zove ime svoga djeteta. Njen vrisak zvučao je kao smrt. Dijete je ostalo ispod ruševina zgrade koja je pala na ulicu. Čitavo vrijeme um mi je bio prazan, nisam mislio ni na što. Mogao sam samo gledati i osjećati se bespomoćno, te učiniti najbolje da ne izgubim um. Gledao sam kaos- ljude koji se boje za svoje bližnje, kako vrište u agoniji i one koji su riskirali svoje živote da bi izvukli one koji su se zatekli ispod ruševina. Nisam bio dobro obučen, sve što mi pripada je ostalo u zgradi IKS-a. Čekali smo vani u blizini glavnog trga i vidjeli smo hitnu pomoć, vatrogasce, vojsku i policiju žureći jedan po jedan. Za neko vrijeme otišli smo u Sisak, bili smo u mogućnosti uzeti nužno i neke osobne stvari iz IKS-ove zgrade. Na našem putu za Sisak bilo je kaotično zbog velike prometne gužve jer je velik broj ljudi vozio prema Petrinji. Bilo je puno srušenih zgrada i ljudi u pokretu. U Sisku sam polagano shvatio što se dogodilo. Zastao sam i osjećao sam se još više bespomoćno. Ne razumijem hrvatski i nisam razumio razgovore koji su se odvijali oko mene i jedino što sam mogao u tom trenutku je ostati smiren. Tokom dana jedino sam osjećao strah kada bih bio unutar kuće i svaki put kada bih krenuo spavati, treslo bi se. Nismo mogli ostati unutra, pa smo odlučili spavati na Ciglarskoj grabi( parkiralištu Supernove) u službenom kombiju Udruge IKS. Bilo nas je devetero u kombiju i jednom autu: Nadja, njena prijateljica Iva, Ivina mama Lidija, još jedan Nadjin prijatelj Mateo, njegova djevojka Iskra, njen brat Noa, njihova mama, pas Paćo. Jedan kombi i jedan auto. Nismo bili jedini na parkiralištu, puno ljudi je odabralo spavati vani. Tijekom noći probudio sam se dvaput usred potresa. Budući da nije bilo načina da nastavim svoju mobilnost po planu, Nadja i ja smo se složili da letom prvog siječnja odem za Luksemburg. Sljedećeg dana, 30.12.2020., tri volontera iz Zagreba- Tin, Filip i Matija su me pokupili u Sisku. Na putu za Zagreb pričao sam im o protekla tri dana i rekli su mi da su oni također među volonterima koji dijele hranu i pitku vodu ljudima u Petrinji, Sisku i okolici. Sljedeće dvije noći do 1.siječnja odsjeo sam u hostelu u Zagrebu i na novogodišnje večer večerao sam sa vlasnikom hostela, jednom ženom iz Njemačke i dvije iz Švicarske. Tako je završila moja 2020. godina. To je bila godina ispunjena nasumičnim događajima koji su mi promijenili život. Kad sam se vratio u Luksemburg sve sam ispričao u detalje svojoj obitelji i prijateljima, te sam bio na čekanju mjesec i pol kako bih nastavio svoj projekt u Hrvatskoj. Konačno, 26. veljače bio sam pozvan nazad u Hrvatsku. Sa Findel zračne luke u Luksemburgu do Zagreba, pa napokon Sisak gdje su me dočekale Nadja i Iva. Nakon toplog dočeka uz čaj i kavu, Nemanja Kantar (također zaposlenik Udruge Iks) nas je pokupio i odvezao za Karlovac gdje me čekao domaćin za taj vikend- Šime. On živi u Slunjskim Moravicama, malenom selu sa svojim psom Bonom, dvije mačke, tri magarca. Iza njegove kuće je rijeka sa dabrovima. Nisam vidio nijednog, ali se vidi njihov trag zubi na izrezbarenom drvu i po branama koje su gradili u riječnim kanalima. Poslije tog vikenda vratio sam se u Karlovac gdje sam upoznao svoju zamjensku, također neprofitnu organizaciju, Carpe diem. Tamo sam ostao tjedan dana i upoznao volontere koji su također na duži period. U Karlovcu sam imao mogućnost vidjeti dvije predstave u lokalnom kazalištu što me inspiriralo, a i glumci u kazalištu dali su mi korisne savjete. Prespavao sam svoje noći kod Branimire koja me je ugostila, te sam 5.ožujka napokon bio u mogućnosti vratiti se u Petrinju gdje sam upoznao svoju novu cimericu Enu Živković i njenog psa Kelju. Smješteni smo u “Galeriji Žilić” koja je trenutno volonterska kuća i ured Udruge Iks. Čuo sam da me ljudi smatraju hrabrim jer sam se odlučio vratiti u Petrinju i završiti svoju mobilnost, bez obzira što sam se našao usred potresa. Nisam hrabar, samo sam blagoslovljen i okružen ljudima koji neizmjerno brinu o drugima. To su dobri ljudi koji su mi pomogli iako me nisu poznavali, smjestili me i vodili brigu jesam li u redu, a sve to dok su njihov grad i država udarali mnoštvo potresa. Čak i sad se osjete manji po potresu, barem jedan po danu.
Slika gore je paradoksalna na način što podsjeća na onu poznatu:”Najljepše cvijeće raste u blatu”. Uslikana je u vrijeme krize, panike i tjeskobe, ali će me uvijek podsjećati na nešto temeljno- jedino bitno u životu su vatra, sklonište, toplina dobrog društva, tvoja i sigurnost tvojih voljenih. Sve drugo je zamjenjivo i prolazno. Želim se svima zahvaliti koje sam spomenuo u tekstu i nadam se da ću uslijed svog dugoročnog iskustva Europskog Volonterskog Centra biti od pomoći kao što ste vi bili meni. Hvala vam puno!


Projekti  ” Puppet theatre” financirani su sredstvima EU iz programa Europskih snaga solidarnosti.

The projects ”Change makers” and ” Puppet theatre”are funded by EU through the European solidarity corps programe.


European Solidarity Corps - Call for project applications | EPALE

Udruga IKS - YouTube

Service National de la Jeunesse |