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Canadians' Warm Hearth comforts farmers

By Cpl. Diego Bunuel
First published in
SFOR Informer #99, October 25, 2000

Livno - The charred beams of the burnt out roof aim skyward offering no protection against rain, wind or snow. Plastic sheets cover window frames and the barren concrete brick walls seem to keep the mountain chill in, yet Jovan Kozomora, 68, and his wife Danka, 72, call their house and plot of land their paradise.
"Before the war this house was real nice," said Kozomora. "This is where my family is from, where I grew up. And after being a refugee for four years in Belgrade I am back."
For many returnees in this agricultural region west of Livno, coming back to wrecked homes isn't the worst part, surviving the harsh winter is.
For that reason the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) provided the Canadian Battle Group with $325,000 (CDN) to purchase housing materials sufficient to rehabilitate up to 85 homes in 10 communities in the Kupres and Livno areas. This will allow over 200 people to remain in their communities for the winter, said Lt. Alain Aubé, in charge of Operation Warm Hearth and responsible of the CIMIC unit at Normandy Camp in Tomislavgrad.
"Our goal is to restore 60 houses before December 1st and complete 85 in the spring," said Aubé. "When a house is completely destroyed we can't help them. We basically put roofs, doors and windows for the people to survive the winter."
Along with winterizing the homes, the Anti-Armour Platoon in charge of carrying out the plans for Warm Hearth, is also giving wood stoves provided by the UNHCR.
But even with such efforts, life remains difficult in many homes where a steel frame bed and a cracked wooden chair represent the owner's only belongings.
"I am very happy that SFOR is helping but it's hard to survive here," said Kozomora. "We have no lamps or candles so when the sun goes down we just sit and wait to go to sleep."
A steel barrel collects rain water from a drain, army blankets are used as doors and the only luxury of this home are its orange, red and yellow flowers blooming in the front garden.
"That the first thing I did when we returned," said Danka Kozomora. "I love flowers and it makes everything look better."
Capt. Ryan Jurkowski, of the anti-armour platoon, said his men only provide the material and then it's up to the population to restore their own houses.
"Communities are starting to get together to help each other rebuilt," Jurkowski said. "But the hard thing is saying no to a lot of people whose houses can't be fixed."
Despite the help, many places that were once villages have become hamlets, where bombed out homes crowd around the few houses where life has once again taken root.
In the case of the Kozomora's home, the roof should be up in five days, a speed that astonishes Sgt. Pat Reaume.
"I've got 28 houses in my area and all of them will be ready for December First," he said. "And people put up houses fast and do a good job."
As they watch their house take shape again, Kozomora said he only had one prayer: "I hope the future will be good and life in the region will be safe."

Related link:
Nations of SFOR: Canada
Humanitarian Aid