March 21, 2021 – Every person living in Zagreb can tell you their story about Putra for 2020. Here is my story, told through the lens of a building, on the corner of Đorći andeva and Petrinjska Street.
Most people never want to live in the middle of a major earthquake. But the thing you don’t want to live more is the earthquake that woke you up at 6:24, in your bed in a city of just under a million people, during the first days of lockdown imposed by the pandemic. A pandemic, from a completely new disease, caused by a virus that we know almost nothing about.
And this is precisely where we found ourselves on the morning of March 22, 2020. Now, this is not the first earthquake that I have felt in my life, and which mostly spent in Zagreb. I remember one, as a kid, back in time before the 1991 Fatherland War, when we all ran to the streets too. It wasn’t nearly as bad as this, but it was something I felt and remembered. Our region has seen much worse, with tectonic plates ravaging and restless cities. But, really big events, tell ourselves, it happened in California or Japan!
The person who woke us up on the morning of March 22, 2020 objectively was not great. I mean, it only took us 9 months to feel bigger. But the March event was scary because we were really scared. Afraid of the virus, afraid of the epidemic, afraid of reactions to the epidemic, afraid of the unclear future. (As if the future is really clear)
Then, quickly, one after the other, many things happened: Another earthquake half an hour later, we heard the news of one hit, and we saw that the top of the Zagreb Cathedral tower had disappeared, the movement of people inside Croatia was restricted and it was a symbol of the devastation inflicted on Zagreb. I do not know the order in which these events occurred. Honestly those days I feel like it’s foggy now.
The symbol-turned-building is not what you would expect, it is not the cathedral. It is just a normal building in the city center, located on the corner of Petrinjska and Đorđićeva streets. The only thing worth noting about this building is the street art next to it. And on March 22, what did it look like:
The only victim in the earthquake was a child who died on Görcheva Street. The Croatian media has repeatedly informed us that the tragic accident did not take place in this building. The building, its art street, and the open sides were a completely different story.
We’ve been through a lot since then, the people and the city. There was a lot of cleanups in the immediate aftermath, and I’m still worried about the pandemic spreading madly with people spending a lot of time in close proximity (it didn’t happen); Going down the top of the second tower in Zagreb Cathedral, and we were satisfied with how we dealt with the epidemic during the spring, the parliamentary elections, the tourist season, and we felt very bad about the way we dealt with the epidemic in late summer and autumn, then the catastrophic earthquakes in the Petringa region in recent days From last year. (Not fun fact: If you are wondering if Zagreb’s Petrinjska Street is named after Petrinja itself destroyed by earthquakes: Yes, it is)
In early 2021, as we were approaching the one-year anniversary of the Zagreb earthquake, I needed to go downtown, and by chance, passing this building on Petrijska Street was the way I took. It’s not like I’ve never been there before, since the earthquake, I thought something had happened. Then I saw him and literally inhaled. I wasn’t composed enough to take a photo of it, but this one is what the building looks like and the angle it is in today:
Fenced off, traffic is not allowed through Đorđieva at all, pedestrians are not allowed anywhere nearby, with bricks and roof tiles scattered around the building – as if the earthquake was two days ago, not a year ago!
Surprisingly, although 2020 has been among the longest years of our lives, sometimes it feels as if an earthquake has just happened. Much of the city remains damaged, and the epidemic makes it difficult even to know what has been destroyed, lost, needs repaired or replaced – because we are not going to the city center like we used to. 2020 seemed to last forever, but it hasn’t helped heal my hometown. Perhaps 2021 will bring a new breath of optimism to the streets (and lives) that still need a lot of help.
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