The beginning of the 90s and the maelstrom of the war inflicted many misfortunes upon Serbian villages in the Podrinje region, the strip of land adjacent to the Drina river on the Bosnian side. Out of control gangs devastated and ravaged Serbian villages, extinguishing all signs of life in them, thus expressing their intolerance toward those who only the day before were their neighbors. Although the madness of the war is long over, its traces—evident in the current condition of Serbian villages—have not been removed to any significant extent. Serbian villages continue to be frozen in time, in much the same state in which they were left by Moslem neighbors in the early 90s after a series of savage and unprovoked attacks. While walking through those villages, you unmistakably feel the horror and mayhem that its inhabitants must have gone through. The houses, or more correctly exposed hearths and ruins [in some villages barely a house is left standing] still exhibit seemingly fresh traces of violence, as if all that had happened yesterday and not 15 years ago.
In spite of everything, the walls of some houses still stand erect, defying both nature and time, as if there were nothing left that could surprise or destroy them. They bear witness to horrific crimes, but they are also a monument that reminds us that on their foundations we must now build a better future for the coming generations. One of the residents of the village of Božići tries to convey to us the wartime nightmare which his village had lived through. He says that the house in which he used to live was built before World War I and that it had managed to survive two world wars, but not the relentless assault staged by Bosnian Moslem neighbors. It was torched and destroyed to its foundations on August 5, 1992. Other houses in his village hardly fared better. Today, only a handful of Serbs still inhabit that village. But as the locals point out, that is a good outcome because in other villages even fewer people are left and there are still others where not a soul remains. Those villages are virtually inaccessible because thick vegetation and obstructed roads have cut them off. The inhabitants of the majority of Serbian villages are mainly elderly people, the schools, just like their homes, were torched and to this day for the most part remain unrenovated…Indeed, why would anyone bother to renovate schools when children’s cries are not to be heard and there are in fact almost none that are left.
To make this picture a bit less somber and to see to it that it would not leave the impression of complete devastation and hopelessness, a British philanthropic organization decided four years ago to build a splendid compound of about a dozen comfortable homes in Jezero, right in the midst of ravaged Serbian villages. The homes are fully equipped, inside and out. These homes were constructed for Bosnian Moslems because the humanitarian organization had no empathy for Serbian suffering. One simply refuses to believe that the reputable philanthropists from Great Britain did not want to extend a helping hand to Serbs only because they were Serbs. Most likely no one had informed them that Serbs had suffered also during the war, or the ten year period since the war’s end was too brief for that information to reach them. As the case may be, we know the proverbial fairness which defines the British character, a concept which the British have always promoted wherever their influenced was felt in this world. It is therefore more likely that the one-sidedness of their assistance is explained by their lack of familiarity with local affairs rather than by any ulterior motive.
Right next to the newly built housing compound, there are a couple of ruins which belong to local Serbs. It so happened that one of the Serbian families was able to obtain some donor support to construct a modest dwelling which bears no comparison to the comfortable houses built for the Muslims, as the pictures clearly demonstrate. The dwelling is considerably smaller than the owner’s previous home which is located nearby and which the Bosnian Muslims had rather thoroughly demolished. But even so this, the only reconstructed Serbian home standing in that neighborhood, was desecrated. Soon after it was built, a window pane on it was smashed, which is also obvious in the photo. No conclusions are drawn as to who, 14 years after the war’s end, might have been responsible for hurling stones at Serbian homes. It is left entirely to the reader to draw his own conclusions.
Even though the number of devastated Serbian villages and homes is by far greater, to this day barely 500 homes, out of over 3300 which have been rebuilt on the territory of Srebrenica municipality, are Serbian. The number of Serbian families from the region of Srebrenica who have sought their safety on the Serbian shore of the Drina river exceeds five thousand.
Life for those who have remained on their homesteads in the Republic of Srpska is indeed difficult. They say with a single voice that, in contrast to their Moslem neighbors who receive assistance from a variety of sources, they are basically left to fend for themselves. The Republic of Srpska does not have sufficient resources to offer substantial help, Serbia dares not get involved lest it be accused of interference in the internal affairs of Bosnia and Hercegovina, while the world is shutting its eyes to the cries of Serbian children.
The basic question is: how many more Winters will Serbian children have to spend in crumbling homes before their voices are heard? Is there anyone willing and able to see the suffering and persecution of Serbs, which have not ended to the present day? Is anyone prepared to help the martyred Serbian people who have been targeted by an organized media campaign and subjected to a variety of other pressures over the last 15 years?
Is it possible that Serbs are unwelcome even here, on their own hearths, on the land which they have inhabited for centuries, upon which they have shed their blood innumerable times, the land which is an inalienable part of their lives?
Or will they perhaps be obliged to leave their hearths to others, to become someone else’s inheritance?
Housing compound built for Bosnian Moslems
Housing compound built for Bosnian Moslems
Newly built house for Bosnian Moslems in Jezero
Demolished Serbian house 50 meters from the new housing compound built for
Broken window on the renovated Serbian house
Serbian house with broken window
Readers are kindly invited to click on to our column "Serbian villages 15 years later" in order to view pictures of what remains of devastated Serbian villages around Srebrenica.