Driven out, the Freedom parked on the opposite bank, on the Serbian side, just outside Liberland territory. Its passengers disembarked on a makeshift ramp made of planks and a ladder. The others had already arrived. “You haven’t been arrested yet?” » said Štern-Vukotić. “Well, the day is still young.”
Despite the police presence, the scene was joyful; it was easy to forget, temporarily, the strangeness of the situation. Davide’s twins had started a fire on the bank and were grilling food on sticks. On the middle deck Freedom, the meats were grilled and served with salads and bread. Liberland brand wine, made from local grapes, was distributed.
After people finished eating, Jedlička attracted attention. It was time to hand the new citizens their Liberland passports. The group clapped and shouted as passports were handed out and presidential handshakes were accepted, and began chanting “Lib, lib, lib, lib, lib, lib!” » – a song that resounded whenever there was reason to rejoice.
For next month, Freedom remained parked across the river from Liberland, with someone on board to provide support to settlers coming down the river from Hungary and to relay Wi-Fi to anyone who managed to set up camp inside the ground.
The rest of the group returned to Apatin on the other boats, but not before another attempt to set foot on Liberland. A small boat attempted the crossing, but a police boat steered it away from shore, whipping water into the hull with sharp turns. On this occasion, the future settlers were easily repulsed.
On the boat As he returned home, wrapped in a blanket to shelter himself from the wind, Rubio, the former pastor, ruminated. Despite all the celebrations, the weekend had left him worried about Liberland’s future. “Where are all the followers?” He asked.
It was a fair observation. Among the 70 to 80 people present at the anniversary, few were not directly affiliated with the Liberland government. Once the president and his cabinet, delegates and speakers were counted, Rubio was one of the few “disciples” who made the trip. According to Jedlička, only around 300 people have already set foot on Liberland soil.
Part of the problem, Rubio says, is the focus on crypto, which threatens to alienate those for whom Liberland is primarily a political enterprise. “I found the idea of Liberland attractive – the romantic idea of freedom and living in peace. But they center the message on technology,” Rubio said. “It’s part of the bones, the skeleton, but it takes heart.” If Jedlička wants to attract support from libertarians, Rubio said, he should openly preach the new country’s values on social media. After all, nation building requires activism and careful leadership.
But Liberland, like crypto projects before it, may not be able to count on its founder to keep it moving forward forever. Although Jedlička has promised to devote all his energy to Liberland at least until “things are really on the right track,” he has bigger ambitions. “I’m very excited about space exploration,” he said, “and the longevity field.”
“I think Liberland would already survive without me. But of course it would lose momentum,” Jedlička continued. “I will do my best to ensure that Liberland is recognized first internationally.”
As the boats returned to Serbian waters, they passed the ruins of a larger boat, abandoned near the mouth of Apatin Marina. The fallen ship, also owned by the Liberlandians, had caught fire, sank and been sold for scrap. The wreck tilted sideways, the lower deck almost entirely submerged. Rubio pointed to the wreckage: “I hope this isn’t a premonition for Liberland.”
This article appears in the September/October 2023 edition of WIRED UK.