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Children get Italian treat

By CPO. Tim Adams
First published in
SFOR Informer #79, January 19, 2000

Sarajevo - "I'm happy and excited…because the people in Italy are good and they want the children in Bosnia to be happy," said 11-year-old Dana Josarvic as she and 314 other Bosnian children loaded into buses at Zetra Stadium in Sarajevo. They were preparing for a one-month foreign exchange excursion to Italy.
Amid the noise and confusion of so many children and their parents loading baggage and saying goodbye for a month, there were many happy moist eyes as people felt the emotion of the moment.
It was not so long ago in this city that children could not even cross the street safely. Over 1,000 children were killed in Sarajevo alone during the war, and the total destruction of the children's hospital stands as a mute reminder that children here once may have been considered targets. Even near the war's end, five elementary students were killed while snow sledding in front of their school. But things are much different now that SFOR and humanitarian organisations like Luciano Lama are teaming up.
This teamwork between SFOR and Luciano Lama has made it possible for 3,850 children to travel, study, and learn in Italy over the last three years. Now, children are considered the hope of the future for Bosnia and Hercegovina (BiH), according to Italian Brig. Gen. Giuseppe Sabatelli. "This lets the little children know a new world. We know that these little children don't know what it means to live in a country where we can have all the things we want," he said. "I think that these people have suffered too much. So if we can give them some smiles, some little help, some love - I think if they will come back here with a smile on their lips. I think they will transfer that smile to their parents and to the other people here. I think that is the best thing we can do," said Sabatelli. "I think that love is better than money."
Italian members of the SFOR team are providing the transportation, and Luciano Lama has again organised the Italian volunteer families for this group of children to live and learn with.
Radmila Kutlaca's 12-year-old son Milos spent much of last summer living with an Italian family from the programme, and he is going back again this year. "This is the only way we can send our children abroad to see how life is different from here," said Kutlaca. The fact that a mixture of Bosniak, Bosnian Serb and Bosnian Croat children from all over the country are sharing in this experience is a positive thing for her. "Of course they are mixed together. They will have to live together. We had nice times before the war. I would like the same life for my children."
Enabling these children to live together in peace and grow up to be the parents, teachers, doctors, and leaders of BiH is very important to Sabatelli. He said, "We know how many pains we had after the Second World War. They are now in the same condition which we were when the Second World War finished. So we must avoid other people suffering the same pains that we had many years ago."

Related link:
Nations of SFOR: Italy
Humanitarian Aid