Almost a year has passed since the devastating earthquakes hit Sisak-Moslavina County and destroyed the homes and farms of thousands of people. Although many families have lost everything they have built for generations and spent the past 10 months in containers, the government is in no hurry to rebuild their homes. Only recently the amendments have been adopted and the Law on Reconstruction will enter the parliamentary procedure.
Despite, hopefully, the awaited relief of bureaucratic entanglements and illogicalities, the fact is that many people in Banija will spend the winter in difficult conditions and only a few square meters of what was supposed to be “temporary, crisis accommodation”.
The SOLIDARNA Foundation has been present in Banija since the first day the unprecedented accident since befell our fellow citizens. We try to provide as many families as possible with a dignified roof over their heads before temperatures drop below zero. Fortunately, we are not alone in our efforts. We are joined by Dr. Richard Teichmann, co-owner of Meridian 16 and a donor, thanks to whose initiative three generations of the Apolović family from Novi Farkašić will welcome winter in their new home – The House Future!
Although you are not a citizen of the Republic of Croatia, nor a Croat by nationality, after the devastating earthquake that hit Sisak-Moslavina County, you decided to help family you did not know until then. What motivated you to step up in this hard situation?
I have been connected to Croatia for the last 15 years, as a guest in a way. My company is developing a large project, the Meridian 16 Business Zone in Velika Gorica, a city not far from Zagreb. After 15 years of preparation, last year was very successful for us, but also difficult on a personal level. We experienced the first shock in March, when a strong earthquake hit Zagreb, and then again in December, when we heard news about the second earthquake in Petrinja. We decided we needed to do something and started looking for ways we could help the unfortunate people.
In that period of searching for options, you found The SOLIDARNA Foundation and started cooperating…
Exactly. We are very happy to have discovered SOLIDARNA Foundation. At first we had various ideas on how to help people, but as the legal and tax provisions are very complicated, we decided to, through our work with the Foundation, and as it was suggested by the SOLIDARNA team, to find a family that is relatively close to the zone in which we are stationed. I visited the earthquake-affected area twice, Petrinja, Glina and the surrounding places, so I knew what was happening and what the conditions were like in the field, and Ivan Blažević shared with us a very long list of families in need. Thus began our collaboration.
From that long list you were presented with, you have chosen the Apolović family from Novi Farkašić, to whom you will build a house, from foundation to the roof. Why them and what do you call the house you are building for them?
We call the house the House Future because we believe it should be the future, in this case, for the family. The Apolović’s are a multi-member family that spans through three generations and I was really touched when I first visited them with the SOLIDARNA team. In the first phase after the earthquake, the Foundation did a great job in terms of crisis management, but when we got in touch, there was no clear idea of how fast the process of reconstruction and construction will go. Ivan shared with me a list of 1,000 families whose homes need to be built from the ground up. When we visited Apolović’s, I saw that their house was so damaged that it had to be demolished and I started thinking about how we could enable fast, modern and quality construction at a reasonable price in a short time.
What do you mean by a short deadline? Is it the whole process from the moment you saw the wrecked house, through the demolition, to the construction of a new family home?
I don’t remember exactly, I think it was late spring when we first came to Novi Farkašić. Thanks to a quality team of local consultants, we were able to get the permits needed to demolish the old house and we did so in July. During August, we laid the foundations and ordered a prefabricated house from our sister company TAMAK, and on September 14, we started construction and erected the structure on the same day. A week after that, we have finished the roof and the interior works will be finished within a month. The goal we have set for ourselves is to provide the Apolović family with a home before winter and that is what we will do.
Do you have any plans after you finish this house?
My dream is to expand this model, to show others that it is possible to take care of people in a really short period of time. Of course, the whole context needs to be considered, but if there is a will, there is a way. I hope that with our example we will direct others to such a solution and motivate donors to allocate part of their funds for the people of Banija.