Monday, 25 January 2016

Road trip to Bosnia, part 3

I was telling how I travelled to Bosnia with an aid convoy organised by Lions Clubs in south-east England not long after the end of the war in the 1990s.  On my return I wrote an article which was published in a national newspaper.  This finishes the piece which I started two days ago.


Vitez, Bosnia – Monday

Here for another night in the guarded compound, and now on the homeward journey. We are all tired, but exhilarated.

This morning, the lorry guards started work at six o’clock, moving supplies from the larger to the smaller lorry. The idea was to speed up delivery when we returned to the camp. The smaller, 16-ton lorry can be driven into the camp but the articulated truck is too big, and had to be left almost blocking the road. By nine o’clock we were all at the camp, with the smaller lorry being unloaded. The remainder was later trans-shipped in three or four loads.

Unloading . . .

Most of the work was done by the women and young people. It seems that in this culture the men just stand and watch. Most of the children should have been at school. We all spent time talking with the refugees as best we could. Fortunately, there are four children who speak some English. Otherwise sign language suffices.

. . . while the men stand around and watch

As well as more coffee, we were given walnuts and corn on the cob roasted in the ashes under a still. Some of the older men asked us to take their photographs. By dint of crossing themselves and then holding their index fingers in the form of a cross, they indicated that the photographs were wanted for the headstones on their graves.

Distilling slivovitz - plum brandy, or firewater!

One man was so overcome with emotion that he spent five minutes shaking hands, completely speechless, while tears ran down his cheeks.  

Dover – Friday

Back in England almost 12 days to the minute since we left the country. More than 3,000 miles have been covered, with only 120 to go.

On the ferry, we took the opportunity to assess our reaction to the trip. The poverty and destruction had been far worse than we had expected. On the other hand, the people, including the refugees, had seemed reasonably well-nourished. Perhaps there is a magic ingredient in the coffee.

Oliver had told us that our supplies would see Visegrad through the winter, which was a comforting thought. We remembered, too, the gratitude of the refugees, not just for the food and clothes but also for the fact that somebody, somewhere had cared enough to do something.

We reminded ourselves how we had to show the children how to unwrap sweets and to teach then to use skipping ropes, and how the sheets of hardboard used in the packing were prized almost as greatly as the aid itself.

Learning to skip
Even hardboard is valuable

There was no doubt in our minds that this had been a very worthwhile exercise.

With smiles at the memory of one little girl fiercely clutching her new teddy bear, we started on the last lap for home.

1 comment:

messymimi said...

Just read all 3 of these posts. So many of us have no clue how bad it can get in war-torn regions. It's been years, but i remember working in the barrios of the Dominican Republic. Not war-torn, but very poor, it changes your life to see how so many people live when we have comforts they can barely dream about.