Published: Monday, 21.03.2011

Welcome home, storks!

Every child knows that storks bring babies, but did you know that their second job is to announce the coming of spring? The children from SOS Children's Village Lekenik made a tradition of welcoming these feathery long-legged beauties on the first day of spring.

"In the Turopolje region [where the SOS Children's Village Lekenik is located], storks are an endangered and protected specie," says Mario Covic, the village director. "Celebrating the first day of spring to mark their return grew from a small local event into a traditional environmental happening and cultural attraction."

Artsy welcome

The event normally begins with a gathering outside an old traditional Croatian planes' house in the centre of the village of Lekenik. The children sing greeting songs and leave food for the birds to recover after the long travel home. From there, the guests move to the children's village for a musical performance and an exhibition of children's art and literary works about storks.

A local children's choir and a folklore club join the welcome by adding songs and dance to the festivity. This year the children had the opportunity to see the premiere of the short documentary Hutovo Blato, Environmental Gold by their drama and literary teacher, Mr Rusmir Agachevic, about this precious nature and bird reserve in neighbouring Bosnia & Herzegovina.

Look out for Mr Stork

The event is an opportunity to learn more facts about storks and bust popular myths surrounding the birds. "Over the years, people noticed the strong connection of storks to their chicks and their nest. And because they come in the spring, they've been connected to new beginnings thus babies," explains eleven-year-old Leona and adds in a whisper: "Storks don't really bring the babies. Storks are symbol of good parenthood."

Leona's four younger SOS siblings have yet to find out that storks don't drop baby bundles in chimneys. Until that time comes, the innocence of childhood peacefully rules the sixteen families, one of which is a stork family who, for years now, come back to their loving home here, in SOS Children's Village Lekenik.

"Why are storks always coming back,
To our lovely Turopolje?
Because they are smart,
And have our home in their heart."
...writes Leona.


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