Returning Home in Eastern Bosnia

Ethnic cleansing during the Bosnia War (1992-95) destroyed many communities that had previously been multi-ethnic. One such example is Bratunac, a small city in Eastern Bosnia, not far from Srebrenica. Many of the Bosniak community that was forced to abandon their homes thought that they would never return, or if they did so that relations between Bosniaks and Serbs could never recover. But some brave individuals have had the strength to find the common humanity in their neighbours and seek reconciliation. Their work shows that a common future is possible with mutual respect between the Serb and Bosniak communities in Bratunac.

Bosniaks and Serbs building together

In a small village near Bratunac called Suha, Bosniak returnees and their Serbian neighbours have met and decided to create a community building for intercultural learning and communication. Their aim is to repair an existing building for this purpose in time for the upcoming elections.

Mirsad Karich, is one of the returnees to this village and he says:

In this municipality Bosniaks have returned just recently - we are the newest returnee community in this region. During and after the war we were all refugees and most of us found refuge in Tuzla and the surrounding region. We received money for ourselves that we have decided to invest in creating something which is useful to all the community. We decided to build a community centre as a shared building where the office of the village community will be and also where we all will have space for mutual events. For example, this is the first place where Bosniaks and Serbs are going to vote all together on the upcoming elections and it will have an internet café club along with the playground for the youth.

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The total population of Suha is just 300 people, of whom 160 are returnees. The project demands much volunteer work for building the centre, and the whole community has got involved. Says Karich:

The older members of the community were used to participating in voluntary actions during the socialistic regime, and we wished to show to our youth that sometimes you need to work on a voluntary basis in order to achieve common good. What we are building here will last even after we are gone. We do not care what the ethnic origin is of the people working here today, all we care is that this community centre will be of common good to all.

The entire project has been costed at around 35,000 BAM (around £16,000 or $26,000 at September 2009 exchange rate) and the municipality of Bratunac has donated 10,000 BAM in the construction material, whilst the MOZAIK Foundation has also donated 10,000 BAM. The remainder has been raised by the citizens of Suha municipality. Land for the project has been donated by a local resident, himself recently returned to his home after years living in refugee camps.

NGO activist Mrs. Gorica Dukanovich from the women's society PRIRODA from Bratunac, says

Everyone involved in this project works voluntarily. During the fundraising we also had a lot of support from many people in this region, since this truly is something useful to all residents of Bratunac municipality and Suha village. This community centre will be a place of coexistence where we will be able to work on repairing our inter-ethnic relationships.