I Let Myself Get Arrested in Liberland

I Let Myself Get Arrested in Liberland

You may have read about this lately. Liberland is a new, self-proclaimed country in old mother Europe. A daring start-up project of multiple people from around the world, it all began with Czech national Vít Jedlička, in April this year. The freedom state, in the cradle of its existence, is having to deal with the Croatian police where entering this land will lead you directly to jail which is exactly what happened to me.

Recently arrested Danish national Ulrik Haagensen and a Dutch member of the Liberland Red Cross going to the staging area.
Recently arrested Danish national Ulrik Haagensen and a Dutch member of the Liberland Red Cross going to the staging area.

I came to Liberland to celebrate Independence Day, as a sympathiser of its idea or maybe the punk style of creating a new country on a plain field, well, in a swamp actually. There were about 30 people along with the president and besides his activists and founders of the Swiss company, the Liberland Settlement Association, there were mostly journalists and movie directors. This is probably the crown jewel of good stories.

Liberland Settlement Association members inflating the boats ready for landing.
Liberland Settlement Association members inflating the boats ready for landing.
A camera being prepared to document the entire action.
A camera being prepared to document the entire action.

We partied through two evenings, during which everyone lost their gloss and trumpery and even the highest ranked investors didn’t hesitate to sleep on a couch when all the beds were taken. The president had to make do with a mattress, covered by a jacket borrowed from a friend of mine.

Boosting the mood before landing.
Boosting the mood before landing.

As is usual, the best ideas come between the third and fifth shot, and so I ended up as a volunteer for Sunday’s landing on Liberty island, which belongs to the country is along the shore of the Danube. The plan was simple: two Liberland nationals will land on the island, and try to mark their soil with a flag, followed by three members of the newly created Liberland Red Cross – myself included – to monitor the situation and oversee that both parties follow the human rights conventions. We were given some simple instructions, but we were advised that we’ll all be arrested and dragged away, the same as over 30 people before us. Good to know.

One of the Liberland boats with our crew.
One of the Liberland boats with our crew.

On the afternoon of the second day, we set sail on the Danube. In three ships, in addition to us, there were an army of journalists and cameramen, fighting for the best positions to take their footage. A camera equipped drone went airbourne. We anchored on the Serbian side opposing Liberland and inflated two boats, hitched them behind a third boat and went into action. Police officers in their boats immediately started sailing towards us, trying to block our way to Liberland. We separated and went in different directions. With our paddles and muscles against engines, we entered the beach with feet wet and erected both the Liberland and Red Cross Flags. Croatian border police landed behind us.

A Brazilian activist asking the police officer for a map to clarify where exactly the borders were.
A Brazilian activist asking the police officer for a map to clarify where exactly the borders were.

An hour-long opinion exchange then proceeded. Liberland ships were driving around, recording everything that was happening on the island and, using their megaphone, asked the police to leave the country as they have no jurisdiction there. One of the Red Cross members was fast enough to swim away. The Brazilian Liberlandian was running around the beach for a while and waved the flag in front of police officer’s face like a matador, before multiple men tagged him down and dragged him handcuffed into a boat that had come to bring reinforcements. The rest of us were chilling in the sand, getting cooled down by our bottled water. We offered some to the police officers, but they are probably not suffering from the heat in their outfits. As a medic of an international organization you have to care about everyone’s well being. Be as it may, all four of us left and were driven in a police van to the police station in Osijek, smiling ear to ear.

Author of the article was pacified by a police officer.
Author of the article was pacified by a police officer.

They closed us in a cell and threw each of us into a separate corner. Two of us refused to give statements until they can get a translator, which will certainly not happen on a Sunday night. Me and my friend were satisfied with English. Then we went to a hospital to check for any injuries. After we waited for few hours for all other police officers to give their statements, and watched a spider eating a mosquito for dinner, we were thrown separately into stinking cells. Aside from our personal belongings, which were already taken from us, they also took our shoe ties and belts in case we had nothing better to do than to hang ourselves. Luckily, I had a coin in my cell which I could use to draw on walls. Waiting for the entire morning behind bars for the trial was as about as fast as the evolution of the Earth.

A Red Cross member after returning back to the Serbian side of the Danube, along with Liberland citizens.
A Red Cross member after returning back to the Serbian side of the Danube, along with Liberland citizens.

Our trial took place in a small office, a court room actually, where we were given the lowest possible penalty thanks to a lawyer and a judge who were both friendly to the Liberland cause. Six days in prison and a twelve hundred Kuna fine. Two of the others refused to give statements and requested translators for their languages, Dutch and Portuguese – which of course were not provided. They were released with an order to rot in Croatia for another 14 days unitl translators can be provided. It’s nice to rot on a beach next to sea.

A Red Cross member being dragged by the Croatian police.
A Red Cross member being dragged by the Croatian police.

A whole trial is hard to judge when there is no clear evidence that the territory belongs to Croatia. Maps show it as belonging to Serbia. Serbia, however, doesn’t show any interest for this swamp lying on the other side of Danube. There is an opinion that the Croatian police didn’t arrest us, but abducted us even. The whole situation is pretty bizarre. Some take it with ease and laugh about it, but most of the police force seem rather pissed.

Author of the article dragged to the police boat.
Author of the article dragged to the police boat.

After that, me and my friend, who were left of the four arrested, were taken back to prison to serve our time. The entire wall in the room where we were examined was painted with drawn figures like in a kindergarten. From there we were thrown into a cell with another 14 occupants. Classic criminal filth with tattooed cons in underpants (if you don’t know what somebody’s name is, you look on their shoulder), where you smoke one cigarette after another, watch unwatchable Croatian and Turkish TV, play a few games of chess and talk about life. There’s even the obligatory punching bag which is taking a few hits every now and then, but other than that it’s totally boring. For dinner we got pasta with potatoes and onion. Hard to tell what the other side was. In the morning, the Liberland Settlement Association came to pay our bail and we were set free. Fresh air had never tasted so good. I’ll put the charge papers and release papers on the wall.

Landing participants after release from Croatian prison.
Landing participants after release from Croatian prison.

Video: www.operationliberland.com

This article was translated and posted with permission from the author Vojtěch Konečný. This Vice.com article can be seen in its original language here.

Photo credits: Vojtěch Konečný, George Hooker, Valine Veerman