Families waiting to return to their homes following floods in Bosnia and Herzegovina

Topics: Worldwide, Emergencies and Disasters Worldwide
June 05, 2014

From the air, the northeast part of Bosnia and Herzegovina resembles a brown lake with houses, roads and rail lines submerged. Although waters are receding, many villagers - who now live with family, friends, and in collective centres run by the Red Cross – sail over on boats to their flooded homes to see what was left of them.

“It is like during the war,” says Anatelka Jerremovic. She is looking at her home in the village of Vucilovac from afar as her husband sails to their house a couple of hundred meters away.

Anatelka and her family were at first evacuated to the nearby town of Brcko on May 17.

“I will never forget that day," she says. When the Tinja and then the Sava rivers came in to the family home, they were preparing for a big family birthday. Another reason for the family to celebrate was that they had recently paid the last instalment of the mortgage on their newly built house.

Anatelka and her husband moved back to the village in a house with no water or electricity, which belongs to a family member. Their children are staying with friends in Brcko.

Snakes are visibly moving around in the water at Anatelka's feet, but she takes no notice of them as she gazes in the direction of her home. Stevo, the husband, returns upset from his short boat ride as there was no chance of getting into the house.

“I can't even imagine what is inside,” he says. Stevo is the sole bread-winner of the family of four and says he has no savings to rebuild their house.

“What to do next?” he asks shrugging his shoulders. “I can do nothing more than clean and disinfect after the waters recede."

At the Red Cross centre in a sports hall in Brcko, 79-year-old Anda Pilic tells a volunteer that she has the urge to get in a boat and see her flooded home in neighbouring Krepsic.

“I want to see my house even if it is dangerous now and the water would take me," she says. Anda lost her previous home in the 1990`s Balkan war. She suffers from diabetes but the local hospital supplies her with insulin packs on regular basis, while the Red Cross provides her and more than the 150 other people who live temporarily in the centre with the necessary clothes and meals. 

“We have food here," she says. "At least we are not hungry."

Almost 10,000 Red Cross volunteers from the Red Cross National Societies of Serbia, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Croatia have been mobilized to support individuals affected by the flooding.  Assistance includes helping with evacuations, providing shelter and psychosocial support, distributing food and clothing, and reuniting family members who have been separated.

Canadians wishing to help those affected by the flooding in the Balkans are encouraged to make a financial donation online, at their local Red Cross office or by calling 1-800-418-1111. Please earmark donations “Balkan Floods 2014”.  Funds will be used to support flood-affected communities.