€urope, the continent of the fleeing

About 8 months ago, Putin declared war to Ukraine. Although this war started already years ago when Russia occupied the Krim, it took international organizations and countries until this Spring to understand and admit that Ukraine was under attack.

Viktor Bernik, an artist who works and lives in Ljubljana, Slovenia made an interesting artwork in this context. On an official banknote of 20 euro, he printed small human figures fleeing from East to West over Europe. Some of them with luggage on their back, some with small children at their side. You will probably only recognize them as little humans when you take a close look or when you’re informed to look for them.

I was particularly interested in this work because Viktor Bernik decided that – instead of receiving a fair payment for his work (although I’m a big fan of fair payment for artists) – you could make a direct donation of 200 euro or more to support refugees and people in Ukraine. With his permission I purchased the work by donating 200 £ to the independent press agencies in Kiev, realizing how important correct information is, for the local people in Ukraine, as well for the international media.

In Belgium, support by both the government and particulars was gained fast for the victims in Ukraine. Apparently, public opinion was more willing to give refuge to Europeans, than for refugees from countries like Syria, Afghanistan or African countries.

What struck me, was how much the Belgian government depended on the support of their citizens. A whole campaign encouraged citizens to give your extra room for ‘some time’ to a family. That ‘some time’ became months and months. In the meantime, the government didn’t make any effort for structural shelters. Eight months after this war started, there still is a huge lack of housing and suitable personnel.

By the time I’m writing this article, we are October 2022. More than a year mostly single men are denied a safe shelter in Belgium. Disturbing messages reached out that also minors and families with (young) children don’t find a safe space to sleep anymore.

Vluchtelingenwerk Vlaanderen posted Monday October 17th that 39 minors had to sleep on the streets. Tuesday October 18th 10 minors and 139 single men were sent away again. October 19th they post about self-made cardboard tents from minor refugees who got destroyed by the Brussels police (with the permission of the mayor), declaring that no tents are allowed in public space. But what other choice do they have? The federal government promised help from our military forces, to create shelters and use their personell, but only by December. This is ofcourse not a structural long term solution.

Refugees will keep fleeing from war zones, regions with catastrophic climate changes or places where your own life is at risk due to religion, opinion, skin color, gender etc. This strong work of Viktor Bernik shows us a constant fleeing, in the hope to find a better life, or just a chance to actually LIVE in this relatively safe and wealthy part of Europe.

The title of the work €urope might indicate why dominating people in power positions don’t really care or make an effort to protect human rights. They are not willing to put money in refugees because it’s not a short term investment with a high return. Although history already learned us that a proper investment now might be a very good idea on a long term.

Please treat your refugees as if they are important guests, you might be surprised how valuable they are.

Viktor Bernik
€urope, 2022
inkjet print on 20€ banknote
limited edition, signed
price: 220 €
(Proceeds (200 €) will be donated to support refugees and people in Ukraine.)

#europe #euro #greed #powerlust #screwpowerhungryleaders #fuckoneprocent #crazyputin #westmaderefugeestoo #ukrainewar #syria #afganistan #etc

instagram.com/viktorxbernik
instagram.com/vluchtelingenwerkvl

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