A chain of Hope

Lt. Philippe Mouret
First published in
SFOR Informer#133, February 28, 2002

The soldiers of the Hellenic Force in Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) distributed humanitarian aid in Sarajevo and Gorazde Feb. 20. They went to Austria to transport goods collected by Graz and other municipalities.

Sarajevo - A detachment from the Hellenic battalion, (HELBA; see SFOR Informer No. 131, Jan. 31, 2002) commanded by Lieutenant Athanasios Vazikas found its way through the narrow, old-town section of Sarajevo's streets known as Stari Grad. The two lorries transported humanitarian aid coming from Austria.
More than 600 kg of black honey for people suffering from pulmonary tuberculosis was unloaded. Mr. Pavo Urban-Ibruljevic personally funded this 10,000 KM (€5,112) purchase. He was a diplomat during the last war and was Alija Izetbegovic's special representative in Austria. Food for nearly one hundred families was also included, as well as toys for Urbanjusa Kindergarten, collected with the help of Mrs. Petritsch, the wife of the High Representative.
Stari Grad
Mr. Fehim Skaljic, chief executive of the municipality of Stari Grad, described his town. It has 50,000 inhabitants. Elderly people represent 32 percent of the population and the unemployment rate is as high as 35 percent. The municipality provides food for 2,500 people. Two centres distribute cooked meals; 200 families who are unable to go get the food due to illness or age, receive meals at home. The richness of the Stari Grad architectural heritage once allowed the town to count on tourism to provide employment. However, nowadays those sites must be de-mined, which is what Civil Security is doing.
At the end of the morning, the two HELBA lorries finished their distribution at the CARITAS Non-Governmental Organ-isation (NGO) medical centre situated in the suburb of Stup. There they left medical equipment and childrens' clothes.

Across the IEBL
Gorazde - In the early afternoon, five other Greek lorries, still led by Vazikas, were welcomed by Mr. Fehim Skaljic who is in charge of the Red Cross Committee centre of Bosansko-Podrinjski Canton situated in Gorazde.
The vehicles delivered 15,000 KM (€7,669) of clothes and the same value of building tools. Returnees in the area are the beneficiaries (see SFOR Informer No. 128, Dec. 12, 2001): Bosniacs in Republika (Srpska (RS) in Foca, Rogatica, Rudo and Visegrad) or Bosnian-Serbs in the Federation (in Gorazde, Ustikolina and Praca). According to Causevic, the number of displaced persons in Gorazde is 13,000, of whom 80 percent are Bosniacs. Three hundred families, about 1,000 individuals, have already come back. The returns only really began in 2000 thanks to the completion of the first rebuilding of homes, due to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and to NGOs such as the International Rescue Committee (IRC). More returns, 4,000, are expected this year. However, the majority of people returning are elderly, the young are reluctant to return because of the lack of work.
One end to the other
Col. Thomas Rapatz, Austrian Defence Attaché, is the motivator behind these distributions. His best partners are the NGO Farmers Help Farmers and the Austrian Governmental Aid Organisation ("Hilfswerk Austria"). A former battalion commander in Graz (South of Austria), he made the mayors and the population of the region aware of the needs. The Greek logistic unit has already undertaken five return trips and will return in March to Graz and Salzburg to receive products, this time for Srebrenica.
"We are happy to give the best to transport humanitarian aid which is a part of our mission," concluded Vazikas.

Related links:
Nations of SFOR: Greece
Humanitarian Aid

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Photos: PO Steve Wood

Col. Rapatz (left) and Mr. Urban-Ibruljevic in front of the Stari Grad town hall.


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HELBA's soldiers unload the parcels for returnees of the Gorazde area.


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Lt. Vazikas leads the HELBA's lorries when they arrive at the Gorazde Red Cross centre.


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Greek soldiers and Stari Grad municipal employees unload black honey for pulmonary tuberculosis patients.