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Volume 6, No. 3WINTER 2003

IOCC aiding in the journey to
self-sufficiency in former Yugoslavia

Bosnian refugees ‘were determined to return’

Mico (far left) and his wife, Stefanija (far right), move back into their home near Glamoc, Bosnia-Herzegovina, after eights years of displacement in Serbia. They are among more than 4,000 refugees that IOCC has helped repatriate to post-war Bosnia since 1999. Photo: IOCC-Belgrade

Since 1999, IOCC and its local partners have facilitated the return of more than 2,100 refugee families in Serbia and Montenegro to Bosnia-Herzegovina. Families receive return support kits that contain tools, appliances, food parcels and other items. Since 1997, IOCC and its partners have rebuilt 686 homes damaged in the Bosnian war, providing returning families with the means to permanently resettle and restart their lives. Here are two of their stories.

Glamoc, Bosnia-Herzegovina (IOCC) — “The well that my hometown was named after is near my so-called property,” said Mico of Petrovo Vrelo (“Peter’s Well”), a tiny village in western Bosnia-Herzegovina.

“The reason I say ‘so-called’ is that it doesn’t look at all like it did before that tragic year of 1995, when I left my home to seek refuge in Serbia. My wife, Stefanija, and I were both born in 1939 and have known each other since childhood. We have two sons, Pero and Vlado, and several grandchildren.

“Upon arrival to Serbia, we were settled in the ‘Jezero’ refugee shelter in the northern Serbian town of Kikinda, and stayed there until our return to Bosnia on June 19, 2003.

It took some time, since our family house was totally devastated. Thanks to IOCC-Banja Luka, the reconstruction was completed at the end of April this year.

IOCC-Belgrade helped me to transport my belongings to the reconstructed house.

“Moreover, we received a return support kit in December last year, so my wife and I had something to start with. It is hard, God knows, to start again at this age, but we were determined to return. Our children are also seriously contemplating the return, since the cost of living in Serbia is so high.

“We don’t have very much, but we are doing some livestock breeding and some farming — enough to get by. I am hopeful that I will be able to arrange for a pension here. The children are still young and may work at the farm with us, when they decide to return. With God’s help, everything will be easier now, when we are at home.”

Bosanski Petrovac, Bosnia-Herzegovina — “During the disastrous year of 1995, when the Bosnian war was raging like never before in these parts, I left home with my family to go… someplace,” said Marinko of Bosanski Petrovac in northwestern Bosnia-Herzegovina. “It was really a journey into the unknown.

“My wife and I have three daughters. The youngest, Jelena, was born just before our exile, in 1994. I don’t deem appropriate to describe our feelings during these strenuous moments. Our greatest desire is to put all these things behind us as soon as possible.

“When a friend told me about the IOCC-Belgrade return program, I applied right away (in May 2003).

“With God’s help and the kind understanding of IOCC personnel, we received a return support kit, and transportation of our personal belongings was arranged by mid-June.

“Once we decided to return, each day of waiting felt like a little eternity. Therefore, I am deeply grateful to our dear Lord and IOCC that everything happened so fast.

“The majority of what we took back was donated by the kind people of Backa Palanka (the place of my refuge in Serbia), since I could not afford any of these things. “I wish to thank IOCC for the return support kit, which contains all the essential items necessary to start a household.”

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