Zoltan Nyúl, Serbia
The following is an example of an entire town pulling together through hard times with the sole intention to help the needy. The best headline for this example could be “Morovica Joins Together!” because it all started with a Facebook group that was created with this name at the start of the pandemic.
I am talking about my hometown that we locals call Morovica in Hungarian. It is also known as Bacskossuthfalva in Hungarian, or Stara Moravica in Serbian. The town is located halfway between Belgrade, the capital of Serbia, and Budapest, the capital of Hungary. It is situated in the north central geographical region of Backa, a region of the province of Vojvodina in Serbia. The town has a Hungarian ethnic majority with two major religious denominations present; Catholic and Protestant. Morovica is surrounded by varied and fertile plains. Its people celebrate their rich cultural heritage and honor their past.
This is not the first time that the community comes together united by a common goal. They joined forces in the 1990s when they collectively agreed to refuse the orders of the military commanders and obstructed participation in the Balkan wars. The town’s nearly five thousand inhabitants choose to live in peace and harmony, respecting each other’s traditions and that of their neighbours.
As we were facing a significant problem of the pandemic, it was expected that the community would cooperate again. After the creation of the Facebook page, the first thoughts that were shared by many were concerns like: “What is going to happen with the elderly; those who are sixty-five and older and not allowed to leave their homes?” “Who is going to help them with their groceries and medical needs?” Several of us were looking for answers and, on the same day as these questions surfaced. We agreed to create a small group dedicated to taking the first steps toward finding a solution and accomplishing the objective of aiding the most vulnerable in our community.
Due the current situation, some of the local people could not return home from abroad and their vulnerable and frail elderly family members were left alone. The work of this group became crucial in finding out who these elderly individuals were, what were their needs and designing a plan to help them. There were cases when the shopping bags had to be lifted into the houses through the window because the person was not able to open the door. Since these people have already experienced crisis situations, such as bombings, war and economic crisis, they did not need prompting to think of creative ways and come up with common-sense solutions.
In a short period of time, several individuals volunteered to join the community action. Donation boxes started to appear in the local shops for food and essential items. We also received some financial donations, so the phones were ringing, and the inbox messages were full. Everyone wanted to do something. Everyone wanted to be a part of doing something useful.
As the news of the approaching pandemic and panic kept pouring in through the media outlets, the government and the people were scared. This community already experienced a lot of difficult times in the past and, in this situation, they did not hesitate even for a minute to take action. However, Serbia is one of the poorest countries in Europe. The average person doesn’t have any savings; they do not have enough income what to save from. The miracle is that, despite this disadvantaged economic situation, the donations kept coming, and soon, we managed to start sharing them with the people in need.
We regularly update our progress on social media, and this makes the community feel a bit better and more secure knowing that they are not alone. One of the recent posts said: “Yes! I am proud of Morovica and that we can collaborate!” Another one added: “We grumble and complain but when there is a need, we stand united!”
The Facebook group is strictly banned from any political advertisements and influences. This decision was not really welcomed by some organisations who intended to use it as part of their campaign. Yet, this is Morovica, where we are connected to each other in thousands of ways and we don’t leave anyone behind and if we share whatever we have.
The local council also started to take useful actions. Around twenty to thirty seamstresses began to sew facemasks and soon everyone in town received one. These facemasks are washable and reusable. This is a very smart and economically sound choice, because it’s still hard to buy any facemasks anywhere in the country.
Calls kept coming in with uplifting messages. The relatives of the former Korona (Crown) Hotel’s owner contacted us to help with a significant financial donation. Their family roots are from this town, and they pledged their support. Their kind gesture was especially moving since the property of this family was confiscated by the government agencies in the past and to this date, they still did not manage to regain their rightful ownership. The local Art Union donated some paintings for auction and offered us the profit. Other people offered their skills and their time.
In the meanwhile, more and more people have lost their jobs. Public transport stopped completely. Healthcare is operating only in emergency cases at the present. The government announced a sixteen to forty hours curfew, which means during specific times and days no one is allowed to leave their homes.
People keep asking: “What is going to happen now?” -- We don’t know. But we keep up and do our best. “What will happen next?” We are still looking for solutions, collecting and sharing donations. We are very grateful for every help. It’s not an easy decision to decide how to share all the donations as it is really difficult to be fair and equal in every way, but we are trying our best.
The lesson for all of us from this example is that when people come together, miracles can happen. Finally, when we will be out of this situation, we will be able to look back and say that we did all that we could and move forward with a peaceful mind.
Zoltan Nyúl, MEd, MA, is Baptist Pastor. For the past seven years he has been Lecturer at the Baptist Theological College of Novi Sad, Serbia. For the past thirty-two years he has been High School Professor of History and involved in Baptist ministry and humanitarian aid nationally and internationally. Currently, he is member and representative of Hungarian Baptist Aid in Serbia.
The author is thankful for the translation of this text from Hungarian into English by Julianna Kalman.
Photos: Zoltan Nyúl