A Small Nation in the Making: The Story of Liberland
A Warm Welcome in the Serbian Countryside
In the agricultural town of Apatin, Serbia, a small Liberland outpost is the site of a welcome dinner hosted by Liberland’s President, Vit Jedlička. Apatin is a bumpy drive from Belgrade Airport, through fields and fruit stalls. The locals in Apatin are generally unaware of what Liberland is, and those who do know are more interested in the spectacle it presents. A manager at a nearby petrol station, Aleksandra Vrančić, describes it as “something new.” The sensitive history between Croatians and Serbs, stemming from the Croatian War of Independence, makes borders a touchy subject. One local, Savo Vojinovic, had been roughed up by Croatians and chased away from the Croatian half of the river by police, yet he wishes success for a nation founded on freedom and open borders.
A Diverse, International Crowd
The dinner gathering consisted mainly of white, middle-aged men, an aspect that Liberland delegate Štern-Vukotić admitted was typical for such events. A significant number of attendees were of Scandinavian descent, along with supporters from Italy, Spain, Germany, Libya, and Tunisia.
Living on the Edge: A Cat and Mouse Game
Jedlička circulated through the crowd, engaging in conversations with Liberland delegates, his cabinet members, and other celebrants. They shared stories of their attempts to access Liberland, including sneaking across the border in small boats. Frode Borge, the Liberland delegate for Norway, described it as a “cat and mouse game with the Croatian border force.” An Italian attendee recounted capsizing a kayak during a failed attempt to cross the river at night.
The Make-Or-Break Moment for Liberland
Liberland faces a crucial moment, as neighboring Croatia’s inclusion in the Schengen Area has altered the legal landscape. There is now no border control between Croatia and Hungary, which creates uncertain legal ground for the arrest of settlers traveling by this route. According to Jedlička, this has allowed settlers to occupy Liberland territory for over a month for the first time, even building a small house. He sees this as a “great success” after eight years of impasse and believes that the time is ripe for permanent settlement, expressing confidence in the nation’s future.
As the convoy of Liberland boats made its way along the river, it was accompanied by police boats, which Jedlička humorously referred to as their “security escort.” In reality, these boats were there to prevent anyone from landing on Liberland, regardless of the Schengen loophole.
In conclusion, Liberland’s journey to establish a new nation is filled with challenges and uncertainties, but President Vit Jedlička and his supporters remain determined to chart their path toward a permanent settlement.