Just a few days before the end of 2020, internet was full of memes with Godzilla rising and words such as “Get ready for 2020 finale”.
In Croatia, the finale happened in the worst possible form. On 29 December, a big earthquake of 6.2 magnitude happened near the towns of Glina, Petrinja and Sisak. The earthquake was so strong, it was felt all over the country and reports about the earthquake came from 10 other countries. This was the strongest earthquake in Croatia since it has been possible to monitor earthquakes with instruments.
To some parts of the world that are more used to tremors, an earthquake of this magnitude might not seem that destructive. However, our quakes are quite shallow and some of our buildings are not built to endure them.
Many of us in Croatia literally felt physical pain in our hearts when it happened. I was at home in Zagreb, some 40 kilometers away from the epicenter. Zagreb had also gone through a significant earthquake this spring so we are all still traumatised, and there was another rather strong earthquake in Petrinja the day before. It shook long and strong, stronger than the Zagreb earthquake in March. The tragedy is even worse when you know that the region hasn’t fully recovered since the homeland war in the ’90s.
In the days that followed the earthquake, the response of the people from all over Croatia, from all of our neighbour countries and from all over the world was incredible. People donating money, bringing food and supplies, searching for every single distant village and person who might be in need, helping with quick repairs, even bringing container homes for those whose houses are destroyed or unsafe… the first few days after the terrifying earthquake were saved by common people and their drive to help.
While many people were joking all over the internet about the end of 2020, they weren’t even aware how privileged they were. The last days of 2020 meant the end of life as they knew it for some. In Croatia, it meant the loss of loved ones, of homes, and the beginning of terror that comes with each and every aftershock for thousands of people in the area close to the epicenter.
Croatia was profoundly shaken. In such a state, we still managed to rediscover the full meaning of humanity.