An experience to live
Just arrived, I met with Ivan who took me to the refuge, and I started to try to learn some basics in Croatian. The way to Kuterevo wonderfully took place during the sunset. Beautiful view on the mountains where I will spend more than a month and half.
I didn’t expect living that much things when I arrived in the sanctuary. Firstly, thinking that I will work with bears and make some building work, I experienced much more than that. Being a volunteer in Kuterevo is, before anything else, developing a spirit of sharing, exchange with visitors and inhabitants of Kuterevo. They called that the Kuterevo Spirit. I learned a lot about the world around me, people, life, myself. It’s an atmosphere opposite of what you can find in our daily routine, it’s something that you must discover and live.
When I arrived, I accepted to live in simple living conditions in Postaja. The only way to heat the house is the wood-burner, it’s also the only way to heat water during the winter and to cook. The bathroom is outside, with compost toilet (I stopped to drink tea in the evening so I would not have to go to the toilets during the night, in the cold aha), and showers with… cold water! I mean, cold water until it became too cold outside, so we empty the tank and there is no water anymore. Those cold showers were funny in the begging, but when the temperatures went around 0°C, I decided to find another way to avoid showering outside (and then survive haha).
When you experience this kind of living you realise that you don’t need a lot, just enough to eat, sleep, don’t stink and stay warm. It’s easy to adapt, you don’t need a lot of comfort to be happy.
The Kuterevo Spirit
Few days after I arrived, we had a meeting with Ivan and the other volunteers. The goal of this meeting was to make us understand the Kuterevo Spirit and consider it. By making us think about the relation that we have with inhabitants, the relationship of trust, the mutual aid, the sense of sharing, we discovered what is important here.
The spirit of Kuterevo consist in giving a lot of yourself, helping, without expecting something back from people. It’s also being happy with what you have and what you need, without looking for more. Living in a minimalism way, and be as self-sufficient as you can, using local and available food, furniture, etc…
A Free Jazz Combo Orchestra
That’s how our little group of volunteers was called, each of us his role, personality, nature, but all complementary.
There is no typical day as volunteer, sometimes some missions are priority, or you continue your projects already started, or you start another project. You must be independent in your work, if you are not, you will become independent. That’s an important part of your personal development in Kuterevo I think. As soon as I arrived, they trust in me, even more than myself.
During my stay in Kuterevo, I had the opportunity to build a Shetland shelter, collect fruits and mushrooms, work with wood, renovate chairs, feed the bears and prepare their hibernation, feed the ponies and other animals in the sanctuary, help Kuterevo residents, assist at the local folklore performance, represent Kuterevo in an Erasmus+ project about transportable photovoltaic plant, etc…
That’s crazy to see what can be accomplished in few weeks by a volunteer group: a shelter for our ponies for the winter, to protect them against snow and rain.
Kuterevo is not only a place where you are working with other volunteers from other countries, we live together, we share, we discover from each volunteers and locals. Integrated in a new culture, new traditions, new way of living.
My last days in Kuterevo were mainly visiting residents, I already knew some of them, I met for the first time some others. But they all have a similarity: they gave me a wonderful welcome, even if they didn’t know me. That was the first time that I saw in a house chairs already placed as they will welcome someone. As if they are always prepared and enjoyed to warmly reception people.
When I’m speaking about encounters, it’s also meeting with travellers. I had the opportunity to meet and share with a lot of people coming to visit Kuterevo by camper van, van, bus, foot, bike. They sometimes stay one night, few days, a week or even more. You can feel so happy and proud to be there when you see that some travellers make a break of few days in their trip to stay more than a visit and help us in Kuterevo.
The Mountain Spirit
What could be better than celebrate your 21yo in the middle of the mountains?
Kuterevo is not only a brown bears sanctuary, it’s also an approach of nature, of our environment, a return to our origins. A share with the entirety around us. This place is so peaceful, full of positive energy.
I used to have, sometimes, a walk in the morning during the sunrise. The valley, sometimes cloudy, sometimes lost in the fog, sometimes with a clear sky, always shows us a wonderful spectacle.
Delphine, France, 25th of October 2018 to 11th of December 2018