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BRI project enriches life of Croatian truck driver_Focus News

This photo taken on Aug. 29, 2023 shows the Peljesac Bridge in Komarna, Croatia.  (Xinhua/Li Xuejun)

Ivan
Bjelis, a Croatian truck driver, found meaningful employment and built
close friendships while working on the Peljesac Bridge project under the
Belt and Road Initiative, which has not only improved Croatia’s
infrastructure but also enriched his life.


KOMARNA,
Croatia, Sept. 4 (Xinhua) — For Ivan Bjelis, a local truck driver in
southern Croatia, the Peljesac Bridge — a project of China’s Belt and
Road Initiative (BRI) — means the world. It offers him a job, a
handsome salary, and the precious experience of being involved in a
giant international project.

After
the Peljesac Bridge project started in 2018, Bjelis was told by a local
friend that the company was hiring experienced drivers. He qualified
for the job as he had been working as a driver at the construction site
of a hotel complex near Dubrovnik in southern Croatia.

“It
was all new for me, and full of challenges. I immediately felt that it
was a serious project in which everyone had to give his best,” Bjelis
told Xinhua.

The
first challenge was the language barrier as his English was limited,
just as the Chinese workers barely spoke Croatian. Thanks to the help
from his Chinese colleagues, he gradually was able to communicate with
them.

Vehicles run on the Peljesac Bridge in Komarna, Croatia, July 27, 2022. (Xinhua/Li Xuejun)

The
Peljesac Bridge, constructed by a Chinese consortium led by the China
Road and Bridge Corporation (CRBC), was inaugurated on July 26 last
year. The 2.4-km bridge, stretching across the Mali Ston Bay, connects
Komarna on Croatia’s mainland with Brijesta on the Peljesac Peninsula.

The
bridge, the largest infrastructure project in Croatia, has been hailed
as a key project of the BRI, which envisions trade and infrastructure
networks connecting Asia with Europe and Africa along the ancient Silk
Road routes.

According
to Bjelis, the bridge means a lot to the whole of Croatia as it greatly
shortens the travel time between Dubrovnik and the rest of the country.
“This is one of the most important projects for me,” he said.

Bjelis
said he appreciated his “hardworking and responsible” Chinese
colleagues, with whom he forged a close and deep friendship. “I would
tell the Chinese workers that they are always welcome in Croatia,” he
said.

Bjelis
recalled that once, after midnight, he was alerted that one of his
Chinese colleagues had been injured and needed to be taken to the
hospital. As there was no hospital on the Peljesac Peninsula, the worker
had to be transported through the Mali Son Bay to Komarna first before
being transferred to a hospital.

However,
as the worker was badly injured, Bjelis, who is sturdy and 1.9-meter
tall, just carried him on his back to a boat and rushed him to a
hospital in Komarna across the stormy Mali Son Bay.

People
watch a fireworks show during the inauguration ceremony of the Peljesac
Bridge in Komarna, Croatia, July 26, 2022. (Xinhua/Li Xuejun)

“I
also brought crabs and fish to my Chinese colleagues. We cooked the
crabs and fish the way it is done in the south of Croatia. Subsequently,
many of my colleagues asked me for the recipe and said that they would
cook fish and seafood that way after they return to China,” Bjelis
recalled.

He
was also surprised to learn that his Chinese colleagues were so
enthusiastic about Croatia’s soccer stars, especially Luka Modric. “When
we had free time, we watched matches together, and we enthusiastically
cheered and shouted when a goal was scored,” he said.

Bjelis
said he had learned a lot from his colleagues about China and the
country’s culture. He could also taste Chinese food and learn how to use
chopsticks.

“The
chance to work at the Peljesac Bridge means a lot to me. I have learned
a lot about the different cultures and socialized with people who live
far away. I am happy to have been a part of that great project,” he
said, adding that “the money was also good, I was making more than I had
ever made.”

“With what I earned, I was able to finance my family’s life quite solidly,” he said.

Bjelis
ended his work at the Peljesac Bridge last year and now he is a truck
driver for a local logistics company, but he still keeps a jacket with
CRBC signs on the front and back as a souvenir.

“If
the Chinese company gets another project in Croatia, I would like to
join them again because it is an important life experience for me,” he
said. 

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