Friday, 1 November 2013

Off at a tangent - to Sarajevo

Yes, Sarajevo, the city in what was once Serbia and, later, Yugoslavia and now, Bosnia Herzegovina.  I mentioned it in passing a couple of days ago as the city that hosted the 1984 winter Olympics.  I went there once.  In fact, I went there twice, although it might be rather more accurate not to say that I went there but that I drove through there.  Sarajevo was on the route to Visegrad and my destination was a refugee centre near the latter town.

It was shortly after the break-up of Yugoslavia and the dreadful war that had broken out between what is now Croatia and its neighbour, Bosnia.  The Lions Club of south-east England collected hundreds of shoe boxes filled with little gifts such as toothpaste, soap, pencils and paper and all manner of things to be donated to refugees made homeless by the war.  We borrowed a couple of lorries and a party of seven of us, with the two lorries and a camper van, drove to Bosnia to deliver the goods.

I think that just about everything that could have gone wrong on that journey, did so.  The fresh water tank on the camper van was accidentally filled with petrol; three different drivers (one in each vehicle) were involved in accidents - none of them serious and nobody was hurt but one driver ended up in court in Slovenia.  Plus a seemingly endless list of lesser irritants.  We did reach the refugee centre and were made very welcome.  Being unable to unload all the goods that first day, we were directed to what was described as the best hotel in the area, one which had been built especially for those winter Olympics, but it turned out to be more of a psychiatric hospital than a hotel!

This was more or less our first view of the refugees' living arrangements:

 And we did wonder if this still, producing slimovich, would be the destination of the bottles of water that had been donated by (I think) Gatwick Airport.

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