The floods which struck the Balkans this spring were the worst since records began. In Serbia alone, 1,500 people were forced to leave the town of Kraljevo and 600 homes were destroyed. Serbia was just one of three countries affected, with devastation hitting Bosnia and Croatia as well.
Only in movies
Zorica's family home was left uninhabitable when the waters came suddenly in the night. She remembers hearing a noise from the bathroom like the scurrying of rats. “I opened the door and a fountain of muddy water burst from the toilet,” she recalls. “I've only seen such things in movies before.”
Zorica fled with her five children, but her husband Milan stayed to look after their home, property and the pigs they rely on for food in the winter. Zorica was able to seek shelter in a Kraljevo hotel which opened its doors to evacuees, but they could not stayed forever.
When we offered Zorica and her children accommodation in our Children's Village in Kraljevo while their home was repaired, Zorica admits she wasn't entirely comfortable with the idea. One visit changed her mind.
A refuge amid chaos
“Instead of a hard and sad summer, my children had a lot of fun!” she says. “They made friends and played in the yard.” The Village offered sanctuary at a time when all that was familiar stood in ruins. “The Village is just across town, but it felt like we were miles away. So safe.”
As summer wore on, work progressed on Zorica and Milan's home. The SOS team helped Milan with the work, and ferried construction material back and forth to help the operation go as smoothly as possible. By late August, it was time to go home.
Nine-year-old Bojana was delighted to return, but she misses the Village. “I was happy to go home, but I was sad to leave my new friends,” she says. Luckily, she can visit by bus at the weekend!
“I feel so lucky and thankful”
Bojana couldn't be happier with her upgraded home! When the team visited to check the family were settling in, she was keen to show us everything. “I adore my new room!” she says. “Look, I have my own desk! And a new bed! Do you want to see my new books? I started third grade this Monday.” One little girl is certainly very happy to be back at school!
Meanwhile, four-year-old Milos shows off his new pet parrot. “His name is Radoje,” he reports proudly. But seven-year-old Nebojsa has a warning: “Yesterday, the cat tried to get Radoje. Luckily we saved him!”
Everyone is glad to be home, but Zorica's stay in the Village made a big impression, and she is gushing with gratitude. “It was so wonderful in the Village. We have so many new friends now. All the families accepted us as their own. I feel so lucky and thankful that you gave us a new home when we needed it the most. And you helped us rebuild our own home... I don't know what we would have done without your help. I can't explain how lucky we are!”
Thank you to our supporters in Serbia. Your generosity has helped families in dire need return to normality. If Zorica's story has inspired you to help, what better way to make a difference than to provide long-term support to a vulnerable child? Find out more.