Chased, the Freedom parked on the opposite bank, on the Serbian side, just outside the territory of Liberland. Its passengers disembarked on a makeshift ramp made of planks and a ladder. The others had already arrived. “You haven’t been arrested yet?” says Štern-Vukotić. “Well, the day is still young.”
Despite the police presence, the scene was joyful; it was easy to forget, momentarily, the strangeness of the situation. Davide’s twins had started a fire on the bank and were grilling food on sticks. On the middle bridge Freedom, the meats were barbecued and served with salads and bread. Liberland brand wine, made from local grapes, was distributed.
After people finished eating, Jedlička called for attention. It was time to award the new citizens their Liberland passports. The group cheered and screamed as passports were handed over and presidential handshakes accepted, and broke out in a chorus of “Lib, lib, lib, lib, lib, lib!”
For next month, Freedom remained parked across the river in Liberland, with someone stationed on board to provide support to settlers coming down the river from Hungary, and to relay Wi-Fi to anyone who managed to camp at inland.
The rest of the party returned to Apatin on the other boats, but not before another attempt to set foot on Liberland. A small craft attempted the crossing, but a police boat pulled it away from shore, sending water into the hull with sharp turns. On this occasion, potential settlers were easily repelled.
On the boat Coming home, wrapped in a blanket to shelter from the wind, Rubio, the ex-pastor, sat brooding. 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. Of the 70-80 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 “followers” to make the trip. According to Jedlička’s calculations, only around 300 people have ever set foot on Liberland soil.
Part of the problem is the focus on crypto, Rubio believes, which threatens to alienate those for whom Liberland is primarily a political enterprise. “I found the idea of Liberland appealing – the romantic idea of freedom and living in peace. But they center the message around technology,” Rubio said. “It’s part of the bones, the skeleton, but you need the heart.” If Jedlička aims to garner libertarian support, Rubio said, he should openly preach the new country’s values on social media. activism and cautious momentum.
But Liberland, like crypto projects before it, may not be able to rely on its founder to drive it forward indefinitely. 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 field of longevity.”
“I think Liberland would already survive without me. But of course it would lose momentum,” Jedlička continued. “I will do my best to get Liberland recognized internationally first.”
As the boats returned to Serbian waters, they passed the ruin of a larger boat, abandoned near the mouth of the Apatin marina. The fallen ship, also held by the Liberlandians, had caught fire, sunk and sold for scrap. The wreckage is listed sideways, with the lower deck almost completely submerged. Rubio waved at the wreckage, “I hope this isn’t a premonition for Liberland.”
This article appears in the September/October 2023 edition of WIRED UK.