Banovina Reconstruction Tales – Three Years Spent in a Barn

Katarina Anđelković

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April 17, 2023 – It has been over 3 years since the earthquake. How is the Banovina reconstruction coming along? Stevo and Mira Vilić from Majsko Trtnik have lived in a barn since the earthquake.

Their house is in a catastrophic state, and the donated container is leaking onto their bed, writes 24Sata after a visit to the Vilić family.

“Three years, man. We’ve been sleeping in a barn for three years”, shouts Stevo Vilić, spreading his arms in front of his cracked house. 24Sata went to Majski Trtnik, to the address Stevo has called his home since birth.

“I’ve lived here all my life. Born here. Back then, you didn’t go to Glina to give birth, but a midwife from Vlahovići would come to you. So we were born in the house,” describes Stevo; behind him are the old walls. His wife Mira keeps trying to serve us, offering drinks.

“Come on, have some cola. Drink some. So that you don’t sit here empty-handed,” says the hunched-over woman.

The Vilići house was destroyed in the Banovina earthquake. The walls have separated, and you can see the holes. The series of tremors that followed only made the situation worse. You can’t live there anymore. It’s not wise to even go inside.

“I’d never experienced this. When it happened, I immediately went upstairs to cover the roof. It never crossed my mind that there could be more earthquakes. It was exposed; I covered it as much as possible to keep the house dry. Seventy years on my back,” says the old man. He takes the crew inside.

“It’s a disaster. Our sticker is not red. The first time they came, we got a yellow one. After that, no one came; this is the third year. They haven’t been here at all, just that one time. And for me, all the documentation, all the papers, everything is fine. The house has a usage permit; everything is there, and I am the sole owner. There, see how it cracked. The walls below, the foundations, everything cracked. Nothing can be done in the house. Come in, see. There, see the holes in the walls. Cracked there, cracked upstairs, everywhere. Look at the garage; that hurts the most. As if it was shelled. See how it cracked. Disaster, you can’t stay in the house. If it were possible, I wouldn’t be living in the barn”, says Stevo and returns to the house. He’s showing what used to be the kitchen.

He and his wife have lived in the next-door barn for three years. There was no other way. They say they received a container, but it also started to leak. Little by little, Stevo and Mira built a stable space, making it somewhat bearable for living. That’s not in good shape, either.

“I didn’t even register the barn. At least let this be resolved so that there is somewhere I can make food. If you can’t make yourself food, you have nothing. You can’t live. And this – cows used to live here. And now it’s me. The cows are gone; I used to keep them long ago in cooperation with Belje. Now, here, we live on a 1,200 kuna pension. And they bring us lunch. They didn’t want to admit her to Public Works, though she submitted all the papers,” says the man and leads the crew into the former barn.

There are planks nailed to the ceiling that is too high—lined with nylon. Two beds squeezed into one corner. They built a furnace into which they would throw big logs to keep warm for longer. Smoke. Moisture clinging to the walls. The floor is not level; it is on a downhill slope.

“I renovated everything after the earthquake. On my own, of course. I built this. Put up boards and nylon. The furnace has to be lit constantly, and it is difficult to heat this space. It was good for the cows but for us… Here’s this, we made this ourselves. Got it all out. I made this wall. They promised to come and help, but nothing came of it,” Stevo shakes his head.

Mira points her finger at the opposite wall of the ‘bedroom’.

“This is a hole. As it started to leak, we ran out in our underpants to make a hole so the water could escape somewhere. Because it is on a slope, we might be sleeping; it starts to rain, so we run, close, and open the hole. And mice live there. Running around. It stinks in here. Barn, what are you going to do – the women shrug.

She had surgeries on her gallbladder and uterus. Stevo has got issues with his prostate; he is on medication.

“You see, we have nothing to lie to you about. I can’t understand that. I’m not saying that you should cry; I’m not crying. I don’t like to complain. But what is normal… I’m not asking for much. We just need a small, ordinary, wooden house. Just to have a place to lie down and make something to eat. Let alone have someone visit. I’m ashamed to show them this,” says the old man. He points to the stove; he received it from a donation.

They lead the crew to the container.

“It’s leaking; you can’t stay there. It all falls on the bed. They mentioned something about putting some kind of roof on the container, but there is moisture there. We’ve been in the barn ever since the thing happened. If it weren’t for the barn, we wouldn’t have a place to stay. I can’t believe I had to experience that, to sleep in a barn,” – seventy-year-old Vilić shakes his head.

“Have some cola,” Mira tried one more time before the crew left.

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