And so it is.
Most of you won’t know that in May of 2014 the Serbian Republic of Bosnia was declared a State of Emergency by their government due to excessive and uncontrolled flooding. Vanja’s father, having just lost his wife of 53 years in February, underwent great personal suffering three months later as his home was one of the worst hit in the city of Bijeljina. Vanja and I were on holiday in the Atlantic Provinces when we heard the news. It didn’t hit Western news media for more than an evening and only then because Novak Djokovic, a world famous tennis player chastised the media for a lack of crises coverage in his homeland, donating half a million dollars to the cause, himself. It really makes me wonder what is happening in the world that we never hear about.
Vanja was beside himself with worry. We both were. Petar had to stay with his neighbours and close friends, Nilola and Snezana, for about three weeks until the water levels subsided and he could return to his home. (Can you see the yellow water mark on the house, above?)
And then, there was the clean up. Weeks and weeks of clean up. A dear neighbor, Ivka, organized several other women to gather at the home for clean up; they cleaned mud off of the floor for days. (Above, the Smoke House, and in the summer, the outdoor kitchen.)
Then, Petar went to stay with Igor, Vanja’s brother, until the house dried out enough to start repairs and renovation. There is very little infrastructure in this town, or any place in the area for these kinds of emergencies. People take care of one another, themselves. There was no money at the time for any kind of assistance or support during such grave need. (Above, the pig house, and the chicken house in early spring. Peee-ewww! Can you see the three little piggies? They are there.)
After a week, Petar returned with Igor and his friend who generously offered his services. They worked for 12 hours a day for almost 2 weeks sorting through belongings in the house, smokehouse, shed and garage, throwing our spoiled food, furniture, clothing – so much garbage, repairing what they could, and organizing workers to install cement floors, lay flooring, and clean and paint the walls. They purchased absolute essentials. Meanwhile, Petar stayed in the house when he returned, even as it was: damp and in complete disarray. Some of you may recall that Vanja’s mother and Petar’s wife of 53 years passed away in February. (Our welcome home meal, being set up by Ivka on the outdoor table, above.)
Vanja and Mario, Igor’s sons came for a week, painted, cleaned and organized what they could. (The Traditional Chicken Soup served before every meal in every house throughout the countryside.)
When we arrived, bless her heart, his neighbor, Ivka, had “helped” Petar prepare sarma and burek for our welcome meal. Snezana, the dear soul, had the house as clean as she could get it, our bed made and all of the laundry done. And, yes – it did smell pretty musty, but not as bad as I had expected. (Much more bearable than the wafting fumes from the pig house in the back!) My idea of repair was to level the bloody house and rebuild. But, no one had the money for that. Thus, it is. Thank goodness homes in this area are built of stone, not wood. (Above, the Sarma Ivka and Petar made.)
Our job is to buy the furniture, necessities, reorganize and do the final cleaning.
But, first, we had to honor the 6th month anniversary of Pava’s death. This is an Orthodox tradition. Most people do not attend church, but they honor the traditions. We arrived in time for that weekend and had to scoot back a day early, as the “Assessment Officers” had stopped by the house when we were away and told the neighbor they would be back at 7:30 the following morning. They came at 9.
In any case, there were two men who spent a total of 10 minutes in the house. From the water marks on the outside, it was apparent it had been completely flooded. One man assessed the property damage and the other, the possessions. The most anyone would be given would be 5000 marks, or about 4000 Canadian dollars. This would come from a government office that was organized to address the emergency. They came August 5th. Exactly 3 months after the flood. The assessment money will be available for pick up about 2 to three weeks after their visit. (Above, the ajvar I live on when I visit. Delicious with Mladi Sir. This is one of the last jars that Pava made.My best post on it and then, you may recall my post 5 years ago about the 100 meter diet in this home in Bijeljina Bosna. Pava was so proud of her garden and preserves. We shared many passions!)
The kitchen had stuff piled in it and was pretty much inaccessible when we arrived. The living room was in a similar state. Though, everything in those piles was cleaned and kept for putting away once furniture was purchased – so, although it looked like a disaster had just struck, weeks of work had already been completed. (The revered burek, above… oh, the many lessons I have had making it!)
The master bedroom and bathroom were completely organized and “finished”, except for the flooring in the master bedroom. We have purchased the living room furniture, ordered the kitchen cabinets and sinks, cupboard doors and some closets, or wardrobes. We still have several larger items on our list, and every day, we accomplish more. We are taking one room at a time. (Above, Happy Birthday to Vanja: a walnut butter cake that must have weighted 20 pounds and was past description, it was so delicious! Petar’s surprise for Vanja.)
This is such an emotional journey for both Petar and Vanja. Pava died so suddenly and unexpectedly at 74, and now their home has nothing reminiscent of her touch in it. Of course, it will house some of her cherished possessions, as momentos, but that is not the same.
And so it is. Igor, Vanja and Petar are working to get this house in order after the flood. It will be finished when we return home August 18th, and all of us cannot help but think of Pava with every decision made. Wouldn’t she just love this? How sad it is that we weren’t able to afford these luxuries for her when she was alive. It is not easy now, but it is a pleasure.
We both feel very blessed that we are each able to help Vanja’s dad in our own way to make his life a little happier and more comfortable at this phase of his life.
And, so it is. After the flood in Bijeljina Bosna.
And so it was…. photos here from Igor Lugonja!
To the dump!
And still, the sun shone.