To kick off the beginnings of EuroNPUD's own blog, I thought it might be a cool idea to have a little look into just who works and volunteers for a Non Profit Organisation like EuroNPUD. Just what sort of person is a 'drug user activist' -what sort of life have they come from? What made them into an activist and who were they before they became one?
Well, meet Janko Belin.
Janko Belin has been a member of EuroNPUD almost since it began, certainly since around 2015 when it was starting to form as a regional network. Born in Slovenia, where he still lives today, Janko is active as EuroNPUD's campaigns coordinator. As well as being closely involved with EuroNPUD's Twinning Project, which links various pairs of drug user organisations together, in order to provide a mentorship and support function –effectively twinning the more experienced drug user organisation, with a newly developing group. EuroNPUD aims to 'twin' half a dozen organisations this way throughout 2018, something we will report back on, through our blogs here.
To meet Janko is to meet a true blue community activist. He has devoted decades to tackling social injustice, often through grassroot means such as setting up the first shelter of its type in the Balkans' called Shelter Ernest as well as a functioning though experimental, injecting room for people who inject drugs, housed in a community squat. Janko even took on corrupt Slovenian police, and witnessed them being hauled before the courts and even jailed - a small moment of satisfaction, no doubt. Satisfaction that would be short lived due to the impact such corruption has on the lives of all those around it.
However, this blog is about lifting the lid on the people who do this kind of work throughout their lives - shining a light on just who indeed becomes a ‘drug user activist’. Does one ever 'choose' a life of activism anyway? Many will say the 'cause' chooses you!
Janko was kind enough to tell me –and you - a bit about his own background, all little details I certainly didn’t know either, all which contribute towards providing a much richer portrait of my EuroNPUD colleague -I mean -I certainly didn't know he was a pilot who plays the trumpet! And as an organizer of 300 movie extras?! What a life, Janko!
Over to you, Janko to tell us a bit more.
"I was born into a family of 'pilots'. My mother was twice world champion (Cvetka Klančnik Belin) and my father was an army pilot. At age 14. I was already flying without assistance (three weeks before my mother died I received my flying license) and I already have more than 100 jumps as a parachutist clocked up.
I attended music school from a very young age where I learnt Alt-flute and piano and by the age of 11, I began to study Bb Trumpet. At the same time I graduated from my musical high school I would also graduate from a "gymnasium- high school" in 1979.
My mother died unexpectedly at Lesce Airport in 1977, and my father soon re-married but after just two years I had had enough of this new family 'harmony', so after a fight with my father I decided to pack my belongings and head out to live on my own.
Playing Bb trumpet became quite handy as I was able to earn money very easily when I began living on my own. I've played at many funerals and this was actually my major source of income for two years, between 1979 till 1981. Off course playing trumpet was and is still my hobby-I have played in a few bands and orchestras.
I was also training to box since as far back as I can remember (my father was also very much into this sport) so somewhere around the beginning of 1980, I entered the rather lucrative business of being a Disco/Club bouncer.
Whilst I was attending the faculty of Social Sciences I came in contact with the movie industry through a company names VIBA films. Even before I absolved my studies I was involved in a few movies, so I did not graduate until 1997 as I was working in movies till 1991 and then later, for a few years on Slovenian TV.
My career then developed soon after my first move into film, which was through becoming a 'props guy'. Very quickly I become the person looking out for talented people, finding movie extras. In a few partisan movies I had more than 300 extras to lead! Not an easy job as man needs to act as an army officer in order to discipline a mass of people. Soon after this, I started working across a variety of fields, in some movies as on site organizer (set-manager) then as an assistant director.
Then the first war came to the Balkans and I found myself in a few months as a part of TV crews fixing locations and finding ways to do what our foreign friends wanted done. I was employed for a few years as an executive producer on Slovenia’s Kanal A station and also as a part time organizer on national RTVSLO.
In 1997 the Lisbon contract came onto the table in Slovenia and if I ever wanted my studies to become formally 'recognized' I needed to do some additional exams and officially graduate. I would successfully graduate with the title of my diploma being: ‘Demystification of drug use’.
I decided to become involved in community oriented social work as my life become much harder. Like many others, once it became known to others that I now ‘knew’ illegal drugs from personal experience, many in the professional community soon began to boycott me and some even spread around nasty story's about me just to undermine my credibility.”
Well, Janko went on to even better things, becoming a committed and effective activist that tackled issues affecting the community of people who use drugs, the homeless and those in and out of prison. Find out a bit more about Janko journey in EuroNPUD’s gallery page where we introduce members of EuroNPUD’s Steering Committee.
Thanks Janko –if you are a member of a group in the Balkans and would like to link up with EuroNPUD, send Janko an email at