On behalf of the Lithuanian National Commission for UNESCO we are pleased to invite you to the opening of the photos΄ exhibition “Refugees, the Balkans Journey“ by Ivan Sanczewski (Spain). The opening of the exhibition will take place on the 18th December (Monday) at 17.30 in the gallery of the Lithuanian National Commission for UNESCO ( Sv. Jono str. 11, Vilnius). The exhibition will be open by the 18th January, 2018. You are most welcome!
Ivan Sanczewski is a photo journalist and photography teacher in Barcelona, Spain. During the
last years the photographer is actively engaged in social projects.
In 2015 he documented the migration of thousands of refugees from Syria, Afghanistan and South Sahara countries to Europe through the Balkans (5 days’ journey from Athens to Belgrade) as well as the integration
of Christian and Muslim communities into cultural projects of social cohesion in Bosnia- Herzegovina (Mostar Rock School, Street Photography lessons in Sarajevo and Mostar).
The photo exhibition “Refugees, the Balkans Journey“ is a story of long walks and cold nights, of children with sad eyes and their brave parents. It is a story about their journey through the Balkans from the port of Piraeus, where they first set their feet in Europe, about their hardships in refugee camps, trains, buses and illegal border crossings.
“In the early months of 2015, the war in Syria provoked a turning point in the migratory waves to Europe. The astern Mediterranean Route had already became the largest gate to Europe used by Syrians and Afghans mainly, but not only. Most of them crossed Turkey and risked their lives in the Mediterranean. As many as 3400 have been reported to perish in their trial to get to Europe coasts, the numbers are likely to be higher. Lesbos Island’s coasts became the first place where migrants set foot in the EU. Usually, they had to spend there a few days until they were sent to Piraeus Port, in Athens, Europe mainland.
Those images are just a small representation of that hard journey they had to endure through the Balkans - Greece, Macedonia and Serbia - before they had the chance to cross to Hungary. I travelled with them for five days, shared the meals they offered me, slept in cold train stations with them, and crossed to Serbia illegally just to see with my own eyes one of the most important chapters of Modern European History.
What you can see aims no epic story telling. There are no names, just anonymous women, men, children and elderly people who had the opportunity, the courage and in most cases no other choice if they wanted to live, than to leave their houses, their homeland in search of an asylum. The black and white portraits are of the children whom I happened to meet along the journey they were way too young to start, to understand. From Piraeus port to the doors of Presevo Refugee Camp, they all faced the camera straight forward, humble, sad and with a scary awareness in such young eyes. It was the dignity of their sight that captured me the most.
The colour photographs narrate the daily life of those who had just started their journey. Exhausted boys, mutilated men, entire families on the run… I’ve intentionally left out the photographs of those who have put their effort helping refugees - from Serbian doctors to anonimous volunteers from Macedonia who gathered food, water, clothes and toys to make their run a bit easier. In the same way, I’ve spared the pictures of soldiers, policemen an civilians who showed no mercy to refugees and treated them beyond the lowest human standards. What may have happened inside Presevo Refugee Camp, in Southern Serbia was not to be shown to the press - any journalist nor photographer was allowed in even having a signed letter from the Serbian Ministry of Internal Affairs. Nonetheless, they were not the main characters of this story.” Ivan Sanczewski