Separated from their families, crushed into insufficient transports between borders, and caught in prolonged waiting periods—this documentary series looks back at the trials of the migrant exodus through the Balkans.


The Balkan Nights

“The Balkan Nights” is a story about fatigue, uncertainty, and the hope of refugees and migrants who are making their way toward their dream of a new country. It explores the route through the Balkans and the refugees’ interactions with locals—including the shared suspicion, discomfort, and fear, the latter thanks to a still-present awareness of the war that ravaged these same lands less than two decades ago.

The countries in this area were largely unprepared for an exodus on such scale. The waves of refugees and migrants paid the price: many struggled to fit on the buses that brought them across the border, losing their family members in the process. Crowds of thousands of people filled vast, once empty fields. They slept in groups in front of overcrowded registration centers. At times, this crises resembled the Biblical Exodus.

 The Balkan route began at the Macedonian border with Greece in the Gevgelija train station; it proceeded onward through registration centers in Serbia, then crossed the Croatian wilds to Slovenia, where the refugees and migrants were escorted by police into Austria. Here they hoped to secure their dreams of a peaceful tomorrow. Today, the policies of open borders have all but shut this route down. But these photos look back at the path taken by some three-quarters of a million people during a year in which tens of millions the world over were forcibly displaced from their homes.

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In October 2015, more than 100.000 refugees and asylum seekers have passed a tiny country of Slovenia, which makes it about 5 percent of its population.

Once part of Yugoslavia, now part of the Schengen area, Slovenia is a transition country, the last part of the so-called Balkan route for refugees and migrants, seeking better life in countries of the European Union.

The small patch of land between Slovenia and Austria was established as a buffer zone for more controlled and efficient passage of the refugees and asylum seekers crossing the border. Barred by a fence and surrounded by the police, there was no free access for humanitarian support, food and medical support for the refugees and asylum seekers who have been waiting in disbelief, sometimes even for two days. Lined up for so long, some refugees and asylum seekers reached the verge of sanity.

During the most critical time, at the end of October, crowds of refugees and asylum seekers trying to cross into Austria, reached hundreds of people. They were all waiting at the fence for the Austrian authorities to let them cross into an Austrian refugee camp. Some of the refugees and asylum seekers have been lining up in a crowd for a whole day, deprived of any food, water or chance to use the bathroom, only to guard their spot in the queue to cross once the police opened the passage.

Occasionally the crowd of people was dense to the point that the light from surrounding flood lights rarely reached ground level, yet it illuminated faces of those who stood up to stretch their body or to protest against the long wait. Faces of those, caught in a limbo, were painted with disbelief, anger and disappointment.