Lidija Pavić-Rogošić: When an earthquake strikes in the middle of a pandemic

Three months have passed since the lockdown was brought in. Cities are now starting to reopen, and it is a good time to reflect on what has happened, as the rapidly spreading virus has touched upon all aspects of our personal and community life.

Three months ago, everything was normal. I worked in my office and travelled regularly to Brussels. After the outbreak of the pandemic, flights were suddenly cancelled and new policies on COVID-19 were updated every day. That brought changes in both my professional and private life.

My organisation had to cancel or postpone several events that had already been prepared, and in mid-March we started to work from home. Although this change of plan was distressing for all of us, we decided to use this time to develop some new ideas for projects and build some new partnerships by using online tools. We organised some online events and prepared some teaching tools on sustainable development for remote schooling.

But our biggest fear remains how civil society organisations will survive, as there is less money for our work. The Croatian government has introduced certain measures to support job preservation, but civil society organisations have been excluded.

In my private life, I was unlucky to have to spend the quarantine without my husband, who was unable to return home from abroad and had no choice but to stay far away, separated from our family for more than 90 days, sharing the fate of many Europeans.

Just when we thought that things could not get any worse, on Sunday, 22 March at 6:24 a.m., a terrible earthquake woke us up in Zagreb. First there was panic, then shock and after that, fear and uncertainty. Zagreb's historic centre was hit hard, reconstruction and repairs of buildings and infrastructure will be a complex and lengthy process.

We survived that, too. It is important to mention that we have demonstrated and proven that we cannot do without one another, without solidarity and volunteers, nor without strong public health systems that we have to preserve and make even stronger.

So, is there something positive? There are some specific changes that I would like to keep. I have started to practice the Feldenkrais Method via Zoom and I have also started to cook regularly.

It is a privilege to be able to work from home, no longer having to commute to work, have more sleep and less stress. But millions who have been pushed out of the workforce wish they could be working more, not less.

I would say that my hometown is now a COVID-19-free zone.  I hope the events of 2020 will teach us to value our freedom more, and to appreciate the happiness of having a normal life, with its routines and everyday things. Of course, I also hope that 2020 will mark a turning point when unjust, destructive and inhumane systems begin to be transformed.