Partnership helps returnees in MND-N

Staff Sgt. Lisa M. Simpson
First published in
SFOR Informer#136, April 11, 2002

It took a partnership: an international organisation co-ordinating with SFOR; the Russians working with the Finnish; a Republika Srpska municipality partnering with a Federation town, all coming together to assist people resettling into their pre-war homes.

Zeljova - After nearly 10 years they were home at last. Thirty four war displaced families in Multinational Division North (MND-N) moved from Divic, Zvornik Opstina to Zeljova, Banovici - from the most eastern area of Republika Srpska to the most western sector of Canton 3 in the Federation. The United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) partnered with SFOR; Russia and Finland co-operated with each other; and they all co-ordinated with local municipality officials and the families involved.
Going home
The returnees were unable to transport their household goods on their own. They filed a request with UNHCR for transportation assistance. UNHCR contacted SFOR, and SFOR's MND-N co-ordinated with Finnish and Russian assets for trucks to transport the furniture. "MND-N commander requested support from the Peacekeeping Russian Separate Airborne Brigade (PRSAB). We talked about the problem and my commander decided to support the project. We are planning to make three convoys between Divic and Zeljova," said Russian Lt. Col. Nikolay Berzeytis.
On D-day, April 2, you could hear the rumble of the convoy before you saw it in the quite village by the lake. In total, the Finnish supplied two trucks, the local municipality provided eight, and the PRSAB, 12. The fleet of vehicles moved twenty families on that day; additional moves took place April 4 and 6.
It was through routine patrols that the Finnish Civil Military Co-operation (CIMIC) in Tuzla came in contact with the families of Divic. According to Finnish Capt. Jussi Lankinen, the families were eager to return and worked with CIMIC to repair their village. "The families were very active in participating in the cleaning of the houses, the village, and road construction," said Lankinen. "Most importantly, they are moving on their own accord. They were not asked to give up the homes they are occupying, they are moving voluntarily."
Chronologically, the people of Zeljova were driven from their homes June 21, 1992. The homes they left were burned, destroyed or otherwise vandalised. They settled in abandoned homes in Divic. In March 2001, the families returned to Zeljova and the first house was cleaned. With the assistance of the Finnish Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the displaced families removed trees and bushes to clear a road to the village in May 2001. In November 2001, the first houses were ready for resettlement.
Emotional time
"It's too soon to tell (how the people feel), everyone is too busy moving to say if they are happy to be back. Maybe in a few days we will know," said Adem Mostarlic, the DPRE's representative with the Banovici municipality. According to Finnish Navy Capt. Heikki Mahlamaki, G-5 for MND-N, moving back will be a little difficult. "Some of the people are leaving jobs and will need to find new ones. Some of the children had settled into schools and made friends (in Divic), some of the children have never lived here."
Planning ahead, the families cultivated nine fenced in fields. "Most of the people in this area are farmers," said Mostarlic. "They were eager to move before planting season begins."
SFOR's involvement in resettlements such as this is uncommon. Generally, SFOR supports by co-ordinating, participating in patrols and assessing the security of the area. "This was an extraordinary operation undertaken to support the return of a large number of DPREs. These kinds of operations are not possible to be undertaken in any near future," said Lankinen.

Related link:
Nations of SFOR: Russia, Finland

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Photos: PO Susan Rose

Truck operator Russian Sgt. Andrey Tyagunov and a Zeljova returnee take a break from moving the furniture.

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The Finnish CIMIC officers give instructions to the Russian drivers at the meeting point in Divic.

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Maj. Yuriy Saranchev (center) and Lt. Col. Nikolay Berzeytis speak with a Zvornik resident.

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The town church in Divic, Zvornik Municipality (MND-N).