Celebrating 30th birthday

16 April 2024

On November 14, we commemorate the International Day of Jesuit Refugee Service, established by the Jesuit Father Pedro Arrupe. In 1980, deeply moved by the plight of thousands of “boat people” fleeing war-torn Vietnam, Father Pedro Arrupe, then the Superior General of the Society of Jesus, decided to accompany, serve, and advocate for these people on their journey. His response became evident in the form of JRS, one of the Social Apostolates of the Society of Jesus. Thirty years ago, Father Stjepan Kušan joined him on this path when Croatia faced a large number of refugees who had to leave their homes amid wartime events. Since then and up to the present day, we continuously strived to fulfill our mission of serving all those in need. This year, marking the thirtieth anniversary of our longstanding work and dedication to the most vulnerable, we have decided to celebrate this occasion appropriately.

On Tuesday, November 14, we held a solemn academy at Hotel Academia in the center of Zagreb, attended by our numerous partners, collaborators, supporters, and friends. The academy began at 10 a.m. with a brief historical overview and anecdotes about the beginnings of the work of JRS. On this occasion, we reminisced about Father Stjepan Kušan and his twenty years of service to refugees in Southeastern Europe. The Provincial of the Croatian Province of the Society of Jesus, Father Sebastijan Šujević, reflected on his own volunteering and service experience in JRS, informing all present about the work and contribution of JRS in this area on a global level. Former director of JRS, Father Tvrtko Barun, recalled the period during the migrant crisis and the many volunteers, collaborators, and staff who tirelessly served and provided direct support to every person, being a helping hand in extremely difficult moments. Kastriot Dodaj, the employee with the longest tenure, shared his twenty-two years of experience working at JRS with those gathered. Deputy Ombudsman, Saša Rajić, emphasized the importance of collaboration in the joint fight to preserve human rights in his speech. The director of Croatian Caritas, Father Tomislav Glavnik, conveyed his congratulations and support to JRS, highlighting the good mutual cooperation through a series of joint projects. Our director for Southeast Europe, Father Stanko Perica, gave the closing speech, thanking everyone who contributed in any way to the work of JRS and informing all present about our current projects and future plans. The event was enriched by musical performances by the talented Mudryk family from Lviv, our beneficiary, Vasyl Ros, who played a traditional Ukrainian musical instrument, and the songs performed by our children’s choir. A reception followed the conclusion of the academy.

In the afternoon, at the premises of the association Art of Smiles, we inaugurated an exhibition featuring our photographs. Through symbolic thirty thematic panels displaying appropriate photos and text, we presented our longstanding journey with refugees in Croatia. The exhibition will be open for the next two weeks for all friends, beneficiaries, volunteers, and anyone interested in passing by. After the conclusion of this festive program, at the “SOL” Integration Center, we gathered our teams from Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia, Kosovo, and Macedonia to celebrate once again on this special day for all JRS.

For beneficiaries, volunteers, and all interested fellow citizens, on Wednesday, November 15, we organized a joint birthday celebration at our Integration Center “SOL,” featuring various specialties and customs from different parts of the world. As a token of gratitude to JRS, our beneficiaries participated in preparing traditional dishes from their regions, thus invoking the aromas and flavors from their homelands into our common home. There was no shortage of delicious desserts, with the highlight being the JRS birthday cake made and decorated by our beneficiary, Oksana Sych from Ukraine. After the ceremonial cake cutting and blowing out candles, the celebration continued until the late afternoon with music and relaxed socializing.