“The Balkan Nights” is a story about fatigue, uncertainty, and the hope of refugees and migrants who are making their way toward their dream of a new country. It explores the route through the Balkans and the refugees’ interactions with locals—including the shared suspicion, discomfort, and fear, the latter thanks to a still-present awareness of the war that ravaged these same lands less than two decades ago.
The countries in this area were largely unprepared for an exodus on such scale. The waves of refugees and migrants paid the price: many struggled to fit on the buses that brought them across the border, losing their family members in the process. Crowds of thousands of people filled vast, once empty fields. They slept in groups in front of overcrowded registration centers. At times, this crises resembled the Biblical Exodus.
The Balkan route began at the Macedonian border with Greece in the Gevgelija train station; it proceeded onward through registration centers in Serbia, then crossed the Croatian wilds to Slovenia, where the refugees and migrants were escorted by police into Austria. Here they hoped to secure their dreams of a peaceful tomorrow. Today, the policies of open borders have all but shut this route down. But these photos look back at the path taken by some three-quarters of a million people during a year in which tens of millions the world over were forcibly displaced from their homes.
Editors’ note: Matic Zorman is a member of the LensCulture Network, a recent initiative we launched with the idea of offering talented, accomplished photographers a place to showcase their work on a global stage while also giving them a place to share, learn and engage with one another. The LensCulture Network began with a small number of hand-picked members, and we are very excited to watch it grow and evolve.
If you enjoyed this article, you may also like these previously published features: Albania, A Homecoming, an intimate look at quotidian life in the small country; a review of Fabio Bucciarelli’s The Dream, a masterful photobook on the refugee crisis that mixes photojournalism with pinhole photography; and Youth Without Age, Life Without Death, Laura Pannack’s interpretation of Balkan folktales.