The song of the barbed fence

An encounter with the wall Hungary built at the border with Serbia.

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Voivodina is flat. Approaching the border, in the village of Rastina, I can see it from far away. A silver scar on the fields: The Hungarian fence. Today is a nice day, sunny but windy. As I approach the village and the Curtain, I heae a strange sound from the border: a whistling sometimes accompanied by a metal jangling. The wind across the fence produces a song, that I can hear from the village.

Hungarian fence on the border with Serbia — Rastina — Photo: J.Cid

Rastina isn’t famous: a few dozens of persons living there, a cemetery, a church and a school. There’s no road north of there, as the border is 50m away from the last houses of the village, and no official border crossing ever existed.

Photo: J.Cid

The villagers express a feeling of incomprehension: no refugees were reported crossing the border here, even at the time when thousands of them were entering Hungary daily from Serbia, back in September of last year.

Serbian watchtower in the village of Rastina — Photo: J.Cid
Abandoned guardroom in Rastina, at the border with Hungary — Photo: J.Cid

But yet, the fence is now here, brand new, in contrast with the rusting watchtower and the crumbling guardroom slowly rotting since more than 30 years. In fact, the border with Hungary was a zone of tension back in the time of the Cold War. But since then, nobody had seen any interest in this piece of nowhere, not even smugglers nor refugees.

Former informal border crossing between Ratina (Serbia) and Bácsszentgyörgy (Hungary) — Photo: J.Cid

Every year, as a tradition, the inhabitants of Rastina used to cross the border to bring flowers to the nearby village of Bácsszentgyörgy, 500m further north, on the Hungarian side. This year, they won’t be able to make it, as it would take 20km to reach the first official border crossing, and 30km more to reach Rastina’s neighbouring village.

View of Bácsszentgyörgy (Hungary) from Rastina (Serbia) — Photo: J.Cid
View of Bácsszentgyörgy (Hungary) from Rastina (Serbia) — Photo: J.Cid

Bácsszentgyörgy, its church, its bells are so close, but the fence blocks everybody on a gross way. No one can cross, villagers that once used to meet their neighbours are now prohibited from doing so, and animals are hurting themselves, trying to round their territory that has been arbitrarily restricted by the iron.

View of Bácsszentgyörgy (Hungary) from Rastina’s cemetery (Serbia) — Photo: J.Cid

What for? Why all of this? The day before I visited Rastina, Hungary reported that more than 1400 people had been arrested in the last two weeks crossing the fence, a few dozens kilometres away. All of this metal, the millions spent to build it, the damages to societies. All of this is useless. Refugees continue to cross the border, despite the risks and the efforts.

Photo: J.Cid

As I left Rastina, I could still hear the song of the barbed fence. This song is an insult. an insult for people trying to escape from war and chaos, an insult for the local populations, victims of the absurdity of a populist government, an insult to Europe, that deserves better this image it gives of itself.

This song is an insult to all of us.