Hundred-year Balkan floods: a report from the ground

Brcko, Bosnia

On 18th May, flooding emergency was declared in Brcko, Bosnia and Herzegovina, where I currently am. I went here for my grandmother’s funeral. She died the weekend before the floods. Heavy military choppers are flying over the flooded areas, saving those trapped in their homes.

From the balcony of the apartment on the fifth floor where my dear late grandmother lived, I see the empty streets of a frightened town that is now divided in two by the Brka river. The floods have completely isolated it from the rest of the world. The nearby villages of Vucilovac, Krepsic and Zabari have already been evacuated.

A few people in the street celebrate the arrival of three lorries with clay for barrages. People have nice conversations and are happy for a few hours of hard labour as a kind of therapy with the team of firefighters, all with moustaches, who have come to the rescue from Istanbul, Turkey.

From the other side of the balcony, I see the flooded Sava river that now threatens the lives of millions of people in Bosnia, Croatia and Serbia. On the other side of the river, I can see the water glistening in the flooded village of Gunja, Croatia.

In Brcko, we still have water and electricity. The stores are quite empty but we can meet our basic needs.

 

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United by pain and suffering, love and understanding

The images on the Internet and television are terrible. Lost lives, ruined homes, whole towns under water, landslides even took entire settlements, hundreds of thousands people displaced, children crying, no electricity, no drinking water for millions of people.

The body count is on the rise. Daily. A friend of my late father had a stroke and died within 30 minutes after he had been brought to the sports hall, the rescue centre in Belgrade. I know some of the 750 people reported missing personally.

A large-scale disaster unites three countries of former Yugoslavia in pain and suffering, love and understanding. People across the region are united by empathy towards each other showing their best traits. There are true heroes, real friends.

Photographer: Marija Trbojevic

Photographer: Marija Trbojevic

Disaster strips away everything that’s fake, all the make-up of daily politics, the rat race we are all a part of. A feeling that we are all human beings and an understanding for each other prevails. Rescue teams from Macedonia, Slovenia and Croatia came to help in Serbia and Bosnia. But the nation states don’t matter. This is about everyday people.

The other day, I was walking around Brcko to see if I could help with the rescue efforts and get a better picture of the situation. You learn not to trust officials or the news here quickly. All of a sudden, the weather changed and rain started pouring out of a clear sky. I was in the middle of a road without shelter.

A muslim Bosnian stopped to pick me up and went out of his way to drive me home. When he learned that I was from Obrenovac, he instantly offered me a place to stay.

Photographer: Vukasin Ljustina

Photographer: Vukasin Ljustina

 

Now I am an official refugee in Bosnia, as my grandmother was in Serbia during the civil war. As Croatian writer Vedrana Rudan ironically concluded in her blog: “If the water does not withdraw soon this amount of brotherhood and unity will kill us!”

 

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