Bicpop is a bicycle repair workshop in Zagreb, the capital of Croatia. In the shop, old bicycles are collected and repaired together by refugees and locals. Repaired bikes are then donated to refugees and other people who might need them. Still, the shop is much more: it is a place of solidarity where refugees and the citizens of Zagreb connect and make new friends.
Marina is a volunteer in BicPop and contributes to this simple, yet important story. She says: ‘We’re doing something useful in and for the community. That is something that everyone needs, even more than the bikes themselves.‘
BicPop started donating bicycles to refugees out of recognised need: the reception centre for refugees is located on the edge of Zagreb, the capital of Croatia, and refugees did not yet have the right to free public transportation. Bicycles helped them to access other parts of the city and join social activities, as well as going to work or looking for a job. Some of the BicPop bicycles have changed people’s lives, provided them work, transportation and given them a sense of freedom.
But BicPop has become much more than that: it is a communal space where people meet and socialize. A place of solidarity, where many cultures meet and prejudices are broken. Marina: ‘Refugees and locals meet and socialize in our yard. They have the opportunity to feel part of the local community, and locals often meet a refugee for the first time here.‘
Eugen – who works in Zelena akcija (Friends of the Earth Croatia) that started this collective – feels that refugees in Croatia are faced with a constant feeling of insecurity, at risk of whether the state will ‘expel’ them or return them to the countries they had to leave to save their lives. Through his work, he learned a lot about various countries through the stories of refugees, he says. ‘We learn from each person. About their experiences, the places they come from and the reasons why they had to leave.’
The most beautiful part of his work, he says, is when a refugee family arrives, and a child is extremely happy with a new bicycle. ‘It’s also touching when women sit on a bicycle for the first time, because they come from countries where they could never ride one.‘
Refugees and locals meet and socialize in our yard.
They have the opportunity to feel part of the local community, and locals often meet a refugee for the first time here.Marina
Because their shop is open to everyone, Eugen and Marina feel that their work is generally perceived very positively. Marina: ‘Apart from that, donors of old bikes are generally very happy when they find out that they managed to help someone, for example, from Nigeria or Syria.‘
In this way, BicPop expands a feeling of solidarity and support for refugees, and that makes the lives of refugees a lot easier in our community.
Join the solidarity movement!
Refugees in Europe face hostility. They are brutally refused at borders, experience severe violence, or live under inhumane conditions in shelters throughout Europe. It’s time to change!
Like Marina and Eugen, there are many citizens who show solidarity with refugees in their daily lives. Now it’s up to our politicians to protect refugees and change the failing system.