Safija Avdic, 91, has fond memories of her life before the Bosnia war, which ended nearly 20 years ago.
Her husband had a well-paid job and she used to work in administration at the local post office in her hometown of Doboj, in north Bosnia and Herzogovina.
When the war started, they had to flee. Doboj was later the site of extensive killings from April to October 1992 during the war. The Research and Documentation Centre in Sarajevo has since registered more than 2,300 dead or missing from the area during the war.
Grandma Safija – as she is known locally – and her family found refuge in Germany, but returned as soon as the Dayton agreement was signed. Formally signed in December 1995 in Paris, it effectively ended the three-and-a-half year long war.
Returning to devastation
When she returned, she was horrified to see what had happened to her town. There had been widespread looting and homes and buildings had been destroyed. Grandma Safija’s house was one of the many that had been burned to the ground.
The family built their house again. Two-storeys high, Grandma Safija moved into the ground floor, and let her son turn the first floor into his home.
They started to rebuild their life, although, as a Muslim man living in Republica Serbska, her son had limited employment opportunities and struggled to find work in the area.
Then, in May 2014, the area was struck by devastating floods following three months of heavy rainfall. Up to two million people in the country were affected, there were at least 2,000 landslides, and a state of emergency was declared. Families lost access to electricity and drinking water and whole communities were completely cut off.
Grandma Safija’s home was again destroyed.
“The floor collapsed because of the water and the furniture that had become heavy from the water,” she said. “I lost all my belongings again.”
Islamic Relief began work to rebuild houses in some of the worst affected regions. The project supported more than 1,800 people, who were able to return to their land. Grandma Safija was one of the people who benefited from this scheme.
She said: “I am happy. This means so much to me, to know we are not left alone here. As you see, in this life, things come and go. It is more important that in the next world, everything will be fine, God willing.”
Islamic Relief began working in Bosnia in 1992 during the Bosnian war. We were one of the first international organisations to begin delivering humanitarian aid during the war.