For almost two decades
Croatia, Serbia and Bosnia & Herzegovina have been rebuilding their lives, picking up the pieces from Croatia’s War of Independence. In harmony and well away from the prying eyes of the western world and media, these countries have not demanded the attention of the international press, until now. I was asked to speak to the Hungarian Press and my message was quite clear, “As you’ve seen, this is a catastrophe, one the western media have not placed enough emphasis on. The donations and the dollar are great but most people are looking for a hand to help them clean out their homes. We need more volunteers.”
nema nista i nista ne fali
With my own eyes, the damage embedded in my heart forever as I watched an elderly man walk away from his home as my team one by one dumped his valuables and all he had ever known onto the street. He wiped a tear that escaped down his cheek and never looked back at the volunteers again.
While coverage of the Balkan floods was scarce to begin with, many fear with the World Cup around the corner, the entire disaster will be forgotten.
I left London to volunteer and witness first hand the damage the floods had caused, setting my sights on Doboj in Bosnia & Herzegovina and to lend a hand in the recovery process. Through the grapevine I heard a group from my mother’s village were volunteering in Gunja (approximately 80 km away) over five days. Together we braved the stench and rising temperatures. As volunteers our main task was to empty out generations of contents and memories tarnished by water. In most cases, not a single item was left and dumped in front of the home ready for garbage collection. Some homeowners were in good spirit and boasted an excitement surrounded by any Rakija (the national drink and disinfectant) that was uncovered, while others were still understandably in shock, barely saying a word.
Gunja is a fairly large village on the Croatian/Bosnian border with roughly 4,500 residents. The entire village was submerged in flood water from the Sava River which reached its capacity after four months worth of rain fell over the course of three days.
Some homes will never be salvaged- some people will never return to start all over in fear of a reoccurrence. This is just one village out of the thousands affected spanning over three countries. Many people rely on their agriculture and livestock for business and to feed their families but now are left with nothing. One man was overheard saying, “How can I live here again? There is no life. I’ve lost my crops, all my pigs, everything that I used to live off. How can I stay?”
In Bosnia, the disaster has dislodged thousands of mines, a legacy of hate during the Yugoslav war, adding a chilling layer to the recovery process and all those involved.
As the days went by, I was far from being desensitised. With each home, each family, each story- my heart broke all over again. I urge anyone with time to spare toresidents of affected areas in Croatia, Serbia and BiH need your help in this gruelling recovery. Be defined by your selflessness when humanity cries for help.
***This post was featured on Snixy Swiftz, Travel Blog by S. Sulianah