Swedish activist Benjamin Ladraa is continuing his journey to Palestine, 200 days after he started walking from his home city of Gothenburg.
Ladraa has travelled through Slovakia, Austria, Slovenia and Croatia as well as journeying briefly back to Sweden to spend the holiday period with his family. Over six months into his trip, he is now walking through Serbia.
“I’ve made over 2,000 kilometres so far and I’m about halfway through Serbia,” Ladraa told MEMO.
“I had the privilege of meeting a very nice lady in Zagreb, the capital of Croatia, who accompanied me to Novi Sad in Serbia. Walking through the Slavonian part in Croatia was a really nice experience, people would always invite the two of us into their homes and treat us to food and make us feel welcome.”
Ladraa has met many fellow Palestinian supporters throughout his trip, as well as numerous Palestinian refugees who have been forcibly displaced by the occupation. He narrates a particular story of meeting a Palestinian who was on his way to the International Criminal Court (ICC) to file a case against Israel.
“In Croatia I was also accompanied by a Palestinian man from Gaza for a couple of days before he decided to go to the ICC and demand accountability for the crimes and mass killings committed by the Israeli forces in 2014. Nine members of his family were killed during those 51 days of horror inflicted on the people of Gaza, so I very much understand why he wants justice since not a single person has had any punishment for the crimes committed, as far as I’m aware,” he says.
Ladraa started his trip to raise awareness of the ongoing Israeli occupation, and as his journey has gained notoriety, he has often been called upon to give lectures and press interviews on the situation of the Palestinian people.
“Arriving in Belgrade I was welcomed by the Palestinian community there and the Palestinian embassy,” he recollects. “Two days ago I had a very warm welcome in Kragujevac with around 20 people coming to welcome me into the city and walking with me carrying flags. I held a lecture there at the faculty of law which also was very well received.”
Some members of the public have also taken it upon themselves to accompany Ladraa for part of his journey, with videos showing him surrounded by supporters.
“I met two very nice Palestinians that decided to walk with me through Serbia. Unfortunately one of them got injured after a couple of days so they had to return back to rest. We did break my previous record of kilometres walked in a day and set a new one, 51 kilometres. That was probably the reason he got injured haha [sic].”
Despite having been walking for much of the cold winter months, Ladraa is staying positive and has enjoyed most of his traveling experience so far.
“Overall I’m being treated very well in the countries I visited so far and still feel very motivated and energized. I’m [in] the village of Pojate in a nice little hostel. Tomorrow I will walk around 40 kilometres so I’ll sleep early tonight,” he concludes as he makes his way towards the Bulgarian border.
The 24-year-old chose to make the journey to mark the centenary of the Balfour Declaration which provided international legitimacy for the Zionist project which led to the subsequent creation of the State of Israel and the displacement of nearly one million Palestinians in 1948.