Gornja Bistra, 30 kilometers from Zagabria, is a small rural community where the most important Children’s Hospital, specializing in chronic illnesses in Croatia, is to be found.

The building, which goes back to the 18th Century and which belonged to generations of the Count Orsic families, was nationalized in 1945, when the Communist Party began buying up private property on land which had been part of the ex-USSR. After the Second World War, that which had once been a castle for nobility became a sanatorium for children and, in 1963, was transformed into a hospital for long-term patients with genetic complaints. The patients are generally between 0 and 18 years old, however, there are cases where youngsters, now grown ups, have been inmates for more than 20 years: with no place to go, abandoned by their own families, orphans or in the hands of rarely seen social-workers, they are condemned to spend their entire life in a hospital bed. Since 2002 the association “Il Giardino delle Rose Blu” (Garden of Blue Roses), that became an International Charity Foundation in 2008, has guaranteed a permanent and continuative presence of volunteers at the Gornja Bistra Children’s Hospital. The hospital administrator, recognizing the value of the work carried out by the association for the psycho-physical well-being of the patients, authorized organized games/ fun-time in the recreation rooms or, weather permitting, outside in the hospital grounds. Over the years more than 4,000 volunteers have taken turns, week after week, working constantly with patients to reach their short or long term goals, according to each patient’s condition and ability. The volunteers spend part of their day with the children with the most difficulties, those who are confined to their rooms. Here, some of the young patients have bars on their beds that resemble cages; those who are self-destructive are actually tied to their beds, by the nursing staff, with leather straps or bandages to prevent them from causing injury to themselves or others…At first, all that nurtures the conviction of having descended into hell: a hell of paradoxes, in fact. There, where once parties alternated with the hilarity of the idle rich, now harsh guttural sounds and voices that seem to have little in common with humanity are harbored. Yet the apparent quiet, the screams and the open eyes that look but don’t see, everything at Gornja imposes a profound sense of respect for the very existence of these mortals. A respect that exalts the idea for the need of this documentation: that which emerges is simply a silent scream for life. The violence of some of the images is a reminder of the inadequacies and limits of a health system which, in many ways, is still obsolete, underlining the instability of the fragile life at Gornja Bistra; nonetheless, everything still manages to glow in front of the reverberation of a human presence. Going beyond the limits dictated by bars or a cage, where light and shadow design the space subtracted, at the time, in the image of an interior world yet to be deciphered, and which mark the distance between a bed of laments and a window that opens onto its surroundings.


MULTIMEDIA

A SILENT SCREAM FOR LIFE (2009)