Not much progress has been made since the earthquake, and the numerous ruins are now just gaps covered by grass, so you start to wonder if there ever was a house there and if someone lived in it at all, said Daniel Pavlić at the opening of his exhibition of photos from Banija at the Journalist Centre (Novinarski dom) in Zagreb

BY: Nenad Jovanović / Novosti

PHOTO: Nenad Jovanović / Daniel Pavlić

The second unhappy anniversary of the Banija earthquake was marked on December 29, 2022, with the opening of the “Earthquake Chronicles”, an exhibition organised by Daniel Pavlić at the Journalists’ Centre in Zagreb. At the exhibition, which consists of 17 large-format photographs (“there should have been 20, but we did not have enough frames,” said Pavlić), a short film by Katarina Lukec was also shown.

This was an occasion to also present the second, updated edition of the book of the same name consisting of 188 pages of diary entries, observations, and stories about people whom Pavlić met during while “running all over the place” through the previously forgotten and deserted villages, as well as bringing humanitarian aid to those who still remained there. Pavlić’s book, which includes 96 photographs in total, and which is also available as a digital edition, was financed by the Serb National Council (SNV) and Solidarna – Foundation for Human Rights and Solidarity.

Daniel Pavlić at the opening of the Earthquake Chronicles exhibition at the Journalist Centre

In the full hall of the Journalist Centre in Zagreb, Pavlić told the gathered crowd how, when the earthquake happened, he was standing in its very epicentre, atop of cracks opening below him. He temporarily evacuated his family to Slavonija, and then started distributing aid to people in various remote villages, on his own initiative.


– Everyone gathered in numbers in Glina and Petrinja, as well as in Majske Poljane, where there were most victims, but Kostajnica, together with numerous other villages nearby, remained outside the main aid routes, known only to those volunteers who I took, alongside journalists, through those villages, while also providing assistance. For a full year, I kept a kind of a diary, which I turned into this book that I called the “Earthquake Chronicles” (“Potresne kronike”) a year ago, and I also took the photos that I am now exhibiting in Zagreb, and later in Maribor and other larger towns – said Pavlić.



– There has not been much progress made since the earthquake, and the numerous ruins are now just gaps covered by grass, so you start to wonder if there ever was a house there and if someone lived in it at all. Unfortunately, many of the protagonists of my stories did not get to see their homes, villages, and towns being rebuilt and restored. They passed away, so this book, the exhibition, as well as the short film are a tribute to all those people we had visited. The people in those containers live as if on “pause”. Someone pressed “stop” in the earthquake and now they are waiting for someone to press “play” again so that they could continue living their lives which were interrupted by the earthquake that changed cities and people in more ways than one, opening up some segments that they had not thought about before. The old buildings almost disappeared in one day, and an indelible mark was left on the local people in one way or another. Therefore, it will take a long time to improve their mental state – says the documentarist from Kostajnica.


Pavlić points out that he had met new people after the earthquake

– I knew where each village and hamlet were because I worked on the Census, but all those people were more or less invisible to me and I only got to know them in detail after the earthquake – pointed out Pavlić, who is very critical of politicians.

– People realised only later on that empty political platitudes are part of politics because there are in fact no real politicians. They promised a lot, but had no intention of fulfilling any of those promises, so people keep living in a state of false hope. In addition to that, there was no interest in the promotion of the book or the exhibition in the area affected by the earthquake, but there was interests elsewhere. If I had not recorded what I could, everything would have been forgotten – explains Pavlić.

We also asked him if the hopelessly slow reconstruction will be stronger than the people’s persistence to stay.

– After the earthquake, people moved out of the area, and they will continue to move to bigger cities, and therefore Banija, I am afraid, will remain as it is and be even more deserted than before. But I am not disappointed, I understood from earlier episodes that it could not have been any different than this – said Pavlić.

According to Marina Škrabalo from Solidarna – Foundation for Human Rights and Solidarity, the level of responsibility in this country is not such as to make a step towards change.

– But various non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and individuals tried their best to help the people of Banija feel that they have not been alone in these past two years. I am grateful that Prime Minister Plenković has uttered the magic phrase about the incredibly slow reconstruction and that we are finally moving towards the moment of facing the reality of the systemically inefficient model that many have continuously warned against. I hope that concrete political willingness will be shown in 2023 and that it will be understood that reconstruction is not a seven-headed eagle that no one can tame, but that, instead, management points will be established and that international tenders will be announced and a sufficient number of contractors will be ensured, that the administration will be accelerated and people opting to renovate their houses on their own will be adequately supported, instead of investing their time and money in uncertain conditions without knowing what they will and will not be compensated for in the end – explained Škrabalo.

– The earthquake exposed deep cracks in the system, from the management of state assets, the work of local services, and the functioning of the administrative apparatus in construction to the huge outflow of skilled construction workers after the last financial crisis, as well as procurement processes that are extremely slow and complex. Although we have a government that has a firm foothold in one party, in practice we have different institutions that behave as if they are in different orbits, rather than working within the same government. I call that the original sin of Croatia’s entry into the European Union: unreformed public administration that takes its toll every time something goes off the rails – she said.

On our request, Škrabalo also addressed the field analysis of the needs of people living in container settlements, which was conducted by the Coordination of Humanitarians.

– Reconstruction work is not only a matter of buildings, which are not being erected at a sufficient pace, but it is also a question of social services regarding help in the home, access to education, mobile services, free legal aid, funds for which are still shamefully low. The main message is that our institutions are required to talk to each other, which is extremely difficult for them, and it has been shown that the organisation of reconstruction in the private sphere is significantly better than in the public one. In theory, we are not doing anything differently with regards to reconstruction than the state is, but we are able to follow the case dynamically, while in state reconstruction, ten people in different offices deal with each individual case and never talk to each other. And that is why it is logical that the processes are slow – because the state is not able to ensure quality management. But no change of minister can save the matter. This can only be done by changing the management model in order to speed up all processes – concluded Marina Škrabalo.

You can find the digital edition of the book here.


Earthquake Chronicles – An Exhibition by Daniel Pavlić