Stories from the Field

Highlights from 25 years of global work

From the Archives

See how your support has transformed lives, from 1992 until now. Browse stories that show your faith in action.

The Blind Farmer: Croatia, 1997


blind-farmer.jpgBefore war began in the Balkans, Rade Vlaisavlijevic lived with his family on 18 acres of fertile fields and thick woodlands in the Krajina region of Croatia. Although blind, with the help of his wife, Soka, he was able to maintain his farm and his cows, pigs, and chickens. The couple’s daughters, Jelena and Milena, were two of the best students at the Knin School of Nursing.

In the summer of 1995, the family left their home—temporarily, they thought.

One night at 1:00 am, Rade and his wife were awakened by a neighbor, a young war veteran, who brought a frightening message. The Croatian army was coming, he warned them, and Serbs were advised to find shelter elsewhere. As Rade and Soka prepared to leave, they were determined to take their tractor, their prized possession and means of livelihood. But who would drive it? Rade couldn’t see, and Soka wasn’t trained to drive it. The young veteran, who had lost a leg in the war, offered to go with them to drive the tractor; he drove it all the way to Serbia. At the time, Jelena and Milena were away at school in Knin and knew nothing of their parents’ flight, nor did Rade and Soka know what had happened to their daughters. Eight anxious days later, the family was reunited in a chance meeting at the Pavlovic Bridge along the Serbian border.

Rade and Soka joined the crowds of families fleeing Krajina. In front of the couple was a truck carrying 170 refugees. The most horrible moment of the journey to Serbia came near Petrovac, where the Croatian army began shelling. Two shells flew past the couple without harm, but one shell hit the truck ahead. Seventeen people were killed. Among them were the owner of the truck and all his family members, who had been in the cab. Fifty others were wounded and had to be transported by helicopter and ambulance to Banja Luka. The remains of the truck were dragged to the side of the road so that the column of refugees could continue their flight.

Once in Serbia, the family found shelter with a distant relative, a woman of 60 who would weep about her guests’ destiny. Because the house was very small, the four members of Rade’s family shared just one room, while their hostess slept in the kitchen with a box of baby chicks. Through the help of some good people, the couple’s daughters were able to continue their education.

The family’s tractor was parked in the yard and carefully covered; it was one of the only belongings that stayed with them as refugees. Thanks to your support, IOCC provided this family with a food and hygiene kits containing such basic items as flour, oil, soap, detergent, and toothpaste. Rade, Soka, and their girls expressed deep gratitude to all who helped them start from nothing in their new home.

Back to the Beginning: Moscow, 1992

How did it all begin?

IOCC started with the idea that Orthodox Christians of all jurisdictions and all ethnicities could come together to answer Christ’s call to serve those in need. And a particularly great need inspired American Orthodox Christians to take action in the early 1990s.

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