“What is most important is that we are all alive and well!”

Story of a family from the area hit by the earthquake

Marina Knežević Barišić
Višnja, Mateo i Mato u svojoj sobi u vojarni
07 January 2021

We met Višnja, Mate and Mateo (3) in the accommodation provided in the Petrinja barracks after the earthquake. That morning, water had arrived, and they were happy because they could finally have a shower. After the earthquake, they found refuge in a poly-tunnel, where they had placed a stove and made a fire to warm themselves, but soon the army arrived and helped them move to the barracks. The second, stronger earthquake happened around lunchtime. Višnja told us that she was just washing up when everything around them started shaking and falling.  

“My father-in-law jumped up and protected Mateo with his body, I also jumped, and my mother-in-law… Everything was crashing around us. We somehow managed to get out. Mateo was practically naked and barefoot; I was as well. It had been warm in the building and we were all lightly dressed, and this is how we ran out. The shaking lasted for a long time. As soon as my husband managed to get back to us, I immediately felt better, although we were in a poly-tunnel”, Višnja recalls.

“I wasn’t home when the earthquake struck. I couldn’t get Višnja on the phone. The worst thing is when you don’t know if your family is all right. Then I somehow managed to get the neighbour on the phone, but I couldn’t get out of the town to join them. It was a terrible feeling”, added Mato, Višnja’s husband.

Razgovor s Višnjom
Mateo sa svojom igračkom slonićem
Mateu slonić pomaže da bolje spava.

Naturally, everything they experienced affects the children. They are scared of earthquakes; they can sense the fear in their loved ones. Children and adults will all need psychosocial support in the weeks and months to come.

“Mateo thought it was weird why we all jumped on him, why we were all holding him, my mother-in-law felt sick, and when he saw this, he started crying. When my husband came back, he calmed down. Mateo doesn’t leave his side; he feels safer that way. Now that we have arrived here at the barracks, if he feels the earth shaking, he sometimes starts crying, he wants us all to go home. It is normal, he is in unfamiliar surroundings. Last night he slept. When an earthquake woke him, he looked around, saw that we were there, and went on sleeping”, says Višnja.

“When the earthquake came, everything was shaking really hard. Now we are here. I like drawing, colouring, listening to stories and playing. This is my toy elephant that I sleep with”, said Mateo (3) who is frightened, but feels safe when he is with his family, and simply wants to return home as soon as possible, where his toys and his room are waiting for him.

Višnja worries about her parents and her brother’s family whose house was completely destroyed. Her brother has a one-month-old baby. “I feel really distressed for them”, she shared with us.

They feel safe in the barracks, but the ground also shakes there. As they say, they are monitoring the water in the bottles that they keep on the windowsill, which starts to shake with any new tremor. They are waiting, unsure of how things will be with their home; they are waiting for the structural engineers to inspect it:

 “I have to give birth any time now, and I don’t know whether we will be able to get into the house, whether this shaking will end or not, where we will be with two young children. I just wish the shaking would stop, so that we can go home, and so that I can have a place to take care of the two of them. Home is home, after all. My husband and I renovated the entire upper floor. We decorated Mateo’s room. I prepared everything for the baby, I washed all the baby clothes, I ironed them, everything was sorted out and ready, we only had to pick up the cot from the family. Now, everything is destroyed, I can’t get my things. Today, my husband went to see our house just at the time when the shaking started again while he was inside. Anyway, what is most important is that we are all alive and well, that the two of them are OK, my father-in-law and mother-in-law, my parents, my brother and his family. We are all alive and well. If we could only go back home. We have everything we need here, but it feels like being in hospital”, says Višnja.

Višnja's husband, Mato, was in their house. Lots of things are broken. The wall has split in the basement, but they managed to repair the roof to stop the rain coming in. The walls in the rooms upstairs are made of plasterboard and they have been badly damaged, the chimney has fallen in, and this will have to be repaired. They say everything will be resolved. All that matters is that they are alive and well.

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