Bosnia: Floods and what comes next



Written by: Jelena Paunović

May floods, that flooded most of Balkans, can be split into four phases. First was the state of shock, when people were in disbelief, and we all followed the new with amazement.

The second phase, when the water retreated a little, saw many people go to to flooded areas to help the unfortunate people. Our field team spent about a month in the field. We met many wonderful people, heard their sad life stories, and did what we could for them

When it comes to saving animals, volunteers from Sarajevo, Zenica and Banja Luka joined the good people of Tuzla and Odzak and did an amazing job.

As I write this I am not sure if the whole thing happened, or if it was just a poorle directed horror movie. Everything seems so distant, and yet, it seems as if it happened yesterday.


Bosanski Šamac

Our poor animals

Bosnian food production company donated 800 kg to the “Life” association for the dogs. We gave it away to people who take care of animals from Zavidovici to Bosanski Samac. Later some good people from Slovenia contacted us. They too donated 800 kg of food. Thanks to a donation from our Dutch friends, we met wonderful young people gathered around the “Eden” association from Bijeljina.

Image“Eden”, Bijeljina

I was on the road for a month. I am not sure if I could write down in a chronological order where I spent which day. We all wanted to do as much as we could, and make the lives of unfortunate people and dogs as bareble as possible.

I don’t know if you ever say a dehydrated dog laying on a boat in the middle of mud and water. It is an awful sight! Those poor puppy eyes looking at you, and poor dog barely breathing in fatigue, its poor body barely dragging through the mud, but still waving its tail when you open a can for it.

On the other side, you see people burning down everything the acquired since the war. Memories and hard earned furniture disappearing in a cloud of smoke. Still, they say they are lucky to be alive.

A drained out kitten spooling beneath our feet. Twisting around our legs, it begs for some care and food. She too is happy to have survived.

Can you believe it, we actually have some institutions

Our supervisors contacted us later to say a few words. I will not repeat their political speeches. My colleague best described what the Government of Republika Srpsa will do to help the flooded areas:

1. Poor should help the poor (We are the poorest country in Europe and it is insane that aditional taxes will be taken from the smallest possible pensions.)

2. Put the poor in deeper debt.

In the bigger entity of FBiH the budget deficit has reached nearly 350 million Euros, while in the RS the deficit amounts to 80 million Euros. Further debt will not mean that the money will be put toward investment activities, that would create new value and new work places. That would in turn increase our development potential. Instead the money ended up as personal spending money for the population, or public spending money for all levels of government.

That the state of affairs is not as harmless as our politicians would have us believe, you can discover by reading the prestigious British publication “The Economist”, which put Bosnia and Herzegovina on the list of countries with high risk of social unrest in the year that we are well into. The past events have proved The Economist is not to be underestimated or their claims cast away. A big problem, however, will be the additional burden of the recent record loans on the entity budgets. According to the current data both entities have to return over 650 million Euros of new debt. We must also mention that the overall debt of the bigger Bosnian entity has crossed 2.5 billion Euros, while the other entity’s debt is over 2.4 billion Euros as I write this.


We went to Maglaj. We walked through the thick dust with masks on our faces. As we walk we meet students dressed in protective suits. 800 kg of dog food sits in our car. We ask if they have dogs. We meet people from all over Bosnia and Herzegovina! As we offer our hands to each others we say we are from Sarajevo, and weird sense of dread fills our bodies. Yes, yes! We are all here! Some of us are giving away food for animals and people, others are cleaning the mud from the flooded houses, others still unloading the truck. I look at my Facebook and see that activists from Sarajevo are on their way to Maglaj. I like the post. I am thrilled.

“I am from Zenica. Join me, I’ll show ya where there are more dogs.” – a girl says with a pleasant voice.

As we unhand the bag of food, a house owner on Bosna river who has a dog thanks us greatly.

Tears forming in our eyes, but I feel pride to be Bosnian, to be a part of this wonderful Bosnia that I love so much.

I must remember my colleague’s sentence. He has a web site where you can always read something against the state (like: politicians did this or that, or they didn’t). I meet him last summer and ask him openly: “Why do you keep writing against the state?” He answers: “Jelena, I do this mostly for the state, but we don’t have a state”. That left me thinking.

This is exactly what I felt as I watched these people, remembering everything I have ever written. Oh yes! There is no state!

What next?

Volunteers came and left. The football World Cup started, and Vedad Ibisevic scored the historic goal for BiH against Argentina.

A friend of mine writes: “A warm feeling in my heart, as Sarajevo resounds with songs.”

And so starts phase four. New news replaces the old, and the deserted fields, unfortunate people and poor animals are left to wait. No one knows for what. Still relentlessly on the road, day after day, Elvir Karalic from the “Pomozi” association spends his days. He keeps organizing and sending help to those most in need daily.

On the other hand, an acquaintance from Maglaj tells me that it is time for people to stop counting on humanitarian help and start creating for themselves again. He also says they don’t know what to do for construction materials, since the town budget is empty.

During the floods we also visited Travnik. An activist from Travnik tells us that the dogs would not have eaten had we not come to give them the food people from Slovenia sent. She says everything is going to those who were flooded, and Travnik was not “fortunate” enough to be flooded. It rained in Travnik for days creating many landslides.

ImageAnela Elkazević, Travnik

Our friends from Bijeljina were also feeling forgotten when we visited them. I got a message from Cazin saying they are desperate. They have no food, and no floods….

Perhaps the fourth phase of lull came for both the flooded and those who were not. Somewhere in Europe, in a land of Bosnia.

We are no longer the breaking news, and we must keep pushing forward. What shall we do, along with our animals, seems unknown even to the forces above us….

And what with Sarajevo?

I believe you have read how our municipal authorities in collaboration with the local swindlers are beating the dogs. You must also be familiar with the fact that the illegal Hygiene service in Novi Grad municipality in Sarajevo has been savagely killing off dogs for over a year. Reports were written, texts appeared describing their monstrous treatment of the dogs on a few portals that are not wearing political colors, and are interested in getting the truth through.

In most of Bosnia and Herzegovina, for no justifiable reason, the Animal welfare and protection act is not being carried out. The land is sodden with blood and mines spread across it, thanks to the butchers. Clearly as long as the inspections keep sleeping, blood is inevitable.

On the other hand, no matter what you read in the local media or on FB, there are few who report the breaking of this Act. They mostly don’t want to make their cousins, neighbors or brothers who are in one of the leading political parties mad.

In the meantime, rivers of innocent dog blood are flowing. It does not matter that our authorities are incompetent. It seems we have the hardest time with ourselves.

And what next? Well, the governments will decide. Perhaps we can get some more aid from abroad…. We were always good at finding excuses. “I can’t have them calling me out” is our life motto.

And everyone wants Sarajevo to serve as an example for others. Perhaps it will. Some day when we are all better people. Less selfish… and if we wake the inspections from their slumber. …

P.S. There are still parts in Bosnia where no one who loves dogs has set foot, or written a single word on. If you wish to help our work, donate! What is not published, as you know, may as well have never happened.

If you would like to help Journalists for Animals in their work in documenting what is happening for animals in Bosnia Herzegovina, or to assist in any particular rescue effort or case, please go to PAYPAL and make a donation to:

Please mark in the donation if your donation is for a particular animal or cause.

And also, once you have made your donation, please ensure that you ‘view transaction details’ (or click on the link ‘details’ beside your donation, or click on the ‘Confirm Receipt’ button if it is there), and click ‘confirm receipt’ otherwise the funds are not able to be used for several weeks. Thank you!





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