immediately, full-scale war broke out and the city of Sarajevo was
besieged. Baby Eldin was trapped in Sarajevo hospital, far from his
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
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.
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.
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
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.
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
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.
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.
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
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
Orphans Programme Coordinator
Islamic Relief Bosnia-Herzegovina