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Bosnia and Herzegovina/People and Projects

Eldin - War Child of Sarajevo
(12 July 2004)
Eldin was born in Srebrenica in Bosnia-Herzegovina on 12th April 1992, weighing only 1.8kg (4lb). He was two months premature and needed to be in an incubator, but there were none available. Although the conflict was escalating, Eldin’s father Nermin travelled for three and a half hours to take him to Sarajevo hospital. Hospital rules did not allow parents to stay, so Nermin had to return to Srebrenica leaving his new-born son behind.

Almost immediately, full-scale war broke out and the city of Sarajevo was besieged. Baby Eldin was trapped in Sarajevo hospital, far from his anxious parents.

The city and the hospital came under heavy bombardment and the babies were moved to the basement for safety. Food began to run short at the hospital and the electricity and water supplies were cut off. In desperation, the hospital appealed for temporary foster families to look after the babies.

Meanwhile, with telephone lines cut, Eldin’s mother Ifa knew nothing about her baby in Sarajevo. Ifa was terrified of the danger her baby faced, but she was helpless. She had not even been able to name him.

The first news Ifa had of her son was two months into the siege, when she heard the hospital’s radio appeal for foster families. A Sarajevan couple, Merho and Elija, also heard the appeal and decided to help. They took the stranded baby into their family, named him ‘Eldin’, and cared for him as if he were their own. They had no idea how long he would be with them.

In 1993 the foster family decided to escape the war and seek refuge in Germany. But Eldin’s foster parents did not have legal custody of him, which meant he could not leave the country.


A Difficult Reunion

With the help of radio amateurs, the foster family located Eldin’s parents in Srebrenica, and gained their consent for him to leave Bosnia. Eldin finally escaped to safety in Germany. In the meantime, Eldin’s parents had another child, a boy.

In July 1995 over 7,000 men and boys were killed in the Srebrenica massacres. Eldin’s father Nermin became one of many missing Muslims, presumed dead. The authorities are still trying to identify victims found in mass graves, and Eldin´s grandmother has given blood for DNA testing.

After the massacre, Ifa and her baby fled to Sarajevo. From time to time Ifa had been able to exchange messages with Eldin’s foster family in Germany through the International Red Cross. Now she contacted them again, hoping to recover her missing son. Happily, the foster family agreed to return to Sarajevo.

In the summer of 1996, over four years after they were separated, Ifa and Eldin were finally reunited. When she saw her child Ifa was so overcome that she fainted.

But Ifa was not the only one who found the reunion difficult. Throughout their first night together, Eldin could not sleep and woke Ifa, begging her,"Auntie, please take me back to my mother!"

In Good Care

Eldin now has two mothers, Elija and Ifa. During the week he lives with Ifa and his younger brother in a single room in a Refugee Collective Centre just outside Sarajevo. He visits his foster family in Sarajevo every weekend.

The sorrow in Ifa’s eyes reflects the suffering she has experienced. She is grateful to Eldin´s foster parents for saving his life, and shares her son’s respect for Elija. But Ifa worries because she knows Eldin still misses Elija - the only mother he knew for the first four years of his life. She still dreams of the day when he would rather turn to her than to his foster mother.

Eldin loves both of his families, and sometimes feels torn apart trying to give them each enough love. However, both mothers have developed a good relationship and are doing their best to give Eldin all the care and attention he needs.

Eldin now has a third lady looking after him. A lady in the UK is sponsoring him through Islamic Relief’s One-to-One Orphan Sponsorship Programme. Eldin receives money for his schooling, clothes, food and medical care, and his sponsor also sends letters and gifts. Once again, a stranger has taken an active interest in this child’s life, and is helping him when he needs it most.

As Eldin’s story shows, the war in Bosnia has had a tragic impact on thousands of lives, and although the shooting is now over, the suffering still goes on in many different ways.

Adisa Hajdari
Orphans Programme Coordinator
Islamic Relief Bosnia-Herzegovina

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