Balkan Reflections

This blog has been set up to assist in communicating with friends and family while we are in Bosnia-Herzegovina

Location: Ontario, Canada

Striving to a better day.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

First published April 16, 2006

The happiest of happy Easters to all!

Well, we've definitely entered a new chapter of Balkan Reflections. On the 19th of March, the Feastday of St. Joseph, my husband told me he was coming home. That is great news.

He comes home next week.

The other related news is that our eldest son will be flying to Banja Luka very soon to work with the same company over there.

My nest will have another empty spot!

I am sure our son will help provide me with new material!

God Bless You.

First Published May 9, 2006


Well, dh is back home. I am writing on a Serbian keyboard attached to a laptop as our computer has crashed.

I hope we can rescue our pictures!

DS is now in Banja Luka. He has, effectively, replaced my husband at his position!

We recieved a terse little email from him the day after his arrival, telling us he was there, and who was sending greetings.

But today we received a phone call. He sounds good, and says he is. He has discovered that there is more incompatibility than just electrical current between here and Europe!

The boy insisted on taking all his DVDs with him over there. And now he finds out they won't play on the apartments DVD player! Apparently we're area 1 and they're area 2 or something like that.

We're already packing a box to send to him. He forgot a couple of clothing items I think he'll miss. But I won't send the DVDs he forgot!

He's had a refresher as to how to drive a standard transmission (stickshift) car.

He also tells me that he didn't notice any war damage as he drove from the airport in Zagreb! He did see mine warnings though. I suspect he's just not sure what he's looking for.

It will be interesting to see what we saw through the eyes of a young man. I hope to keep you posted.

God Bless

First published May 12, 2006


Our son is now ensconced in B-L, doing very much the job that his dad was doing before his return to Canada.

I don't think there will be a shortage of stories to tell, however I will wait until I can do it from my own computer, which is currently ill, and making it so difficult to retrieve files.

Please excuse the pathetic fallacy...but these machines DO tend to develop a personality!

God Bless


Saturday, September 23, 2006

It's been a while.

Our son is having the time of his life in Bosnia. It looks like he'll be home in the Spring, as the EU is closing its base in Bosnia.

Our son figures he'll be working there again in 2 years...he's afraid that once the EU pulls out, hostilities will resume. Sadly, that was my impression too.

Ds went to a local boxing gym. His Serbian friends tried to talk him out of it, but ds insisted. As he put it later "A gym full of weighted gloves and guys who hate NATO. I shan't be going back."

He's nothing if he's not wise!

I do wonder at the formation we gave him. He actually attempted to attend Mass. He couldn't find the church. It turns out, he thought the Catholic Church was an Orthodox Church!

He made a rather astute comment, I thought, last night regarding peace and violence. I will find it and quote it later on!

God Bless

Sunday, September 03, 2006

Well, I'm finally back. We just got our net connection at the apartment today. I apologize to those who have been faithfully and fruitlessly checking in!

We arrived here safely nine days ago. The flight was long but uneventful. The children behaved beautifully, and everything was either on time or early. I did find Gatwick airport unweildy, but we managed.

Our drive through Slovenia after our landing was gorgeous. Think of all the storybook pictures of big, square houses with flower boxes in every window! Everything appeared spotless.

The road through the Balkans was twisting and narrow (we were along the Sava River, but not on the main highway. I at times suspected I'd removed my motion sickness patch too soon!. This was compounded by the frequent sight of some very large truck bearing down on us at high speed around a curve on roads that appeared to be only 1 and a half lanes wide!

For those family and friends who have received pictures of our apartment, be assured that the pictures do not do it justice! It is VERY nice. My only real complaint so far is that the washer does not spin out well, and there's no dryer, so line drying in this relatively humid area is VERY slow.

Although I have not been online, I have been journalling, so I have a lot of material for this blog!

I plan to discuss attending Mass, differences between central Europe and home, the politics, as understood by me, the language(s) as understood by me, shopping, as understood by me the inveterate NON shopper, our day-to-day life, and that sort of thing. There are so many things that have caught the attention of the family!

Well, duty in the name of our youngest son calls, so I must go.

God Bless and hope to see you all tomorrow!

Nine days to go. We're getting excited.

We now know that we'll be returning on December 9. Another detail down. That trip will be during the day and we splurged and bought premium class! I suspect that by the time we land, we'll be glad for that extravagence.

Coming home, I fully expect to have a walking baby. I think he's waiting to see Daddy before he makes his first steps...take THAT child development experts! At any rate, the bulkhead seats will be more comfortable, I'm sure.

We'll be homeschooling while we're there. We're going light, as I fully expect the girls to learn a lot by osmosis. Plus, who wants to use up all the luggage allowance with books?

So, we're taking English, Math and Religion with us. We'll learn Serbian over there (along with Landmine Awareness!) and I expect history will just come with the territory. Upon coming home, we'll rediscover Latin, Logic (okay, we'll make the attempt!) and science.

I'm still trying to figure out a way to mitigate the 12 hour stopover we'll have in London on the way's going to be VERY early in the morning after an over night flight. We will not be at our best, in all likelihood.

Wish us luck!

Oh...please remember the Afghani people who will be having their first election in 30 years this Sunday, the 18th. Send prayers up for them and for those international troops there to oversee this operation!

God Bless

Well, we're another day closer...and my nerves are getting edgier. Some sleep would be nice. I'm sure I could handle things a lot more efficiently if I could open my eyes all the way!

I'm new to international travel. Heck, I've only been on a large jet on one other trip. And now I'm doing it with three kids in tow.I've heard stories about parents travelling alone with children and how tough it can be to get across international borders. I suppose if someone were attempting to kidnap my child, I would appreciate this diligence. As it is, it's just one more bit of bureaucracy to deal with. So dh is supplying me with a letter giving me permission to travel with our children.

And we still have one dose of Twinrix to get.But I managed to get a number of little things out of the way today, so it was productive.I have a small business selling Catholic books and gifts. Of course, I will be mothballing this while I'm gone, as I do not (yet...) have a website. But today was my absolute cut off for there was that last minute flurry of orders going in. I"m sure the distributor I was talking to will be glad to see me go after this past week! I am hopeful that I've left myself enough time to receive these orders and distribute to my customers...and of course to get my GST return done for this quarter!

While we're gone, our eldest son will be minding the fort. I'm not concerned about wild parties, and he's already starting to keep an eye on the utility bills, so I'm sure they'll be okay.I am a little concerned about the house turning into a science experiment while we're gone. Ds's personal space tends to exhibit his rather relaxed view of housekeeping!

Well, this blog has already caused a reunion of sorts! I sent notice of its existence to a family related to my husband and quickly recieved an update on the family. We haven't heard from each other in several years now.

Greetings to the Victoria connection!

Tomorrow I will be visiting with a friend. I am looking forward to this. We always have a good time when we're together.

And in the 'Pennies from Heaven' department...Last night I was out strolling with our three youngest children. Our baby is way too old to not be walking. Someone suggested that we get him a toy he can hang on to and 'walk' with. I was reluctant as we will be here such a short time and will not be able to take it with us.Well, as we were going through the neighbourhood, what did we see on the curb for "garbage" pick-up but one of those little ride-em cars that can double as a walking toy? It was completely intact, if rather well-loved.It has now been scrubbed and loving decorated by the older siblings. Now we just have to convince the baby how to use it!

Good night and God Bless!

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Hi Again

Well it seems that in trying to create a place to put links to other blogs, I have managed to erase my archives. A wee bit depressing.

If anyone can help me figure out what I did, I'm open to suggestions.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Hello travellers!

My son has sent some news of the more interesting things he has experienced.

Due to his age, his gender, his ethnic background and the company he keeps, he spends a fair bit of time visiting the 'clubs'.

This past weekend was no different. He and a few others went to one place last weekend and were refused entry. They didn't know why. This was a time where they didn't have any Serbians with them, and the group didn't know enough Serbian between them to understand what they were being told.

One of the Canadians, who was there with his wife, started to give the bouncer a hard time. The bouncer reacted...with his fist. He then started to give the fellow's wife a hard time, which brought the first Canadian back to action. The altarcation was quickly heating up as others in the group joined in the fray.

Then my son (generally cool of mind) and another fellow dug out the magic bullet...the EUFOR ID card.

The fight stopped dead. Apparently the look on the bouncer's face was priceless. I will remind you that EUFOR badges are almost a get-out-of-jail-free card.

Now there are a couple of interesting things to note here. At one point, anyone who spoke English here was figured to be a EUFOR employee and was treated with deference.

This English speaking group was apparently thought to be tourists. What this means is that there ARE tourists coming into B-L.

As recently as last September, a customs worker looked at us in puzzlement when we said we were going into Bosnia. She asked us why!

Now, eventually the Serbs will have to learn that you don't rough up tourists for know known reason...but still!

Anyway, incident reports were filed both with local police and with the EUPM (who monitor the local police).

There is a list of places to avoid published and circulated among the foreign contingent. Our son says this is how they pick the clubs they go to...

God Bless

Friday, July 14, 2006

This is from a news service I belong to. This explains some of my observations from when we were in Banja Luka!


The right to believe, to worship and witness
The right to change one's belief or religion
The right to join together and express one's belief


13 July 2006
Legally building a place of worship in Bosnia and Herzegovina is often
difficult, Forum 18 News Service has found. Religious communities of all
faiths face obstruction in getting permission to build or re-build places
of worship. For example, in the Bosniak-controlled area, mosques have been
built without official permission. But Catholic and Protestant churches,
and Jehovah's Witnesses, face years of official obstruction, Forum 18 has
been told. In the Croat-controlled area, especially in and around Mostar,
Muslim and Protestant places of worship cannot be legally built. In the
Serb-controlled area, Serbian Orthodox churches can be built, but places
of worship of other faiths can face much obstruction. Another problem
Forum 18 knows of limiting building and other activities throughout
Bosnia-Herzegovina is taxation. All religious communities must pay 17 per
cent VAT on all their activities - even on humanitarian aid.
* See full article below. *

Kyrgykistan and Kasakhstan

13 July 2006
By Drasko Djenovic, Balkans Correspondent, Forum 18 News Service

Eleven years after the end of Bosnia and Herzegovina's civil war,
religious communities of all faiths face obstruction in getting permission
to build new places of worship, or rebuild those damaged or destroyed,
Forum 18 News Service has learnt. In the Bosniak-controlled parts of the
Federation (the larger of the two entities which make up the country),
many mosques have been built, apparently without official controls, but
Catholic and Protestant churches face years of official obstruction. In
Croat-controlled areas of the Federation, especially in and around Mostar,
Muslim and Protestant places of worship cannot be legally built. In the
Serb-controlled Republika Srpska (the smaller of the two entities),
Serbian Orthodox churches can be built, but places of worship of other
faiths face much obstruction.

The Catholic Church recently received permission to build a church in Novi
Grad, in Sarajevo, "after many years struggling for building permission,"
Monsignor Ivo Tomasevic, Secretary of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of
Bosnia and Herzegovina, told Forum 18 from the capital Sarajevo on 24 May.
"For many years, Catholics did not have a place to celebrate Mass. This is
the first building permission we have received in Sarajevo since the
Second World War."

"However," Monsignor Tomasevic noted, "we have also been waiting for years
for building permission for a church in the Grbavica district of Sarajevo.
If you ask town officials they will tell you that they are open and that
we will receive this or that paper. But to complete the whole process to
get building permission is impossible. There is not the political will for
us to receive it."

Sarajevo City Council claims no responsibility for planning in Grbavica,
stating that this is the sole responsibility of Novo Sarajevo District.
With considerable difficulty, Forum 18 was able to track down an official
able to discuss the matter. Velma Kljuco, of the Department of Urban
Planning of Novo Sarajevo District, told Forum 18 on 12 July that "the
first planned location for a Catholic Church was near the Zeljin Stadium.
But because of a planned swimming pool, we offered another location. But
at his location a mosque was planned, and residents were opposed to either
a Catholic church or a mosque. So we will need to revert to the first
location. This means changes in plans, new paper work, and so on."

Jehovah's Witnesses in Sarajevo also have problems in Novo Sarajevo.
Building permission was received without too many problems in Ilidza
District, Djuro Landic from their office in the Croatian capital Zagreb
told Forum 18 on 12 July. "But in districts like Novo Sarajevo we have
been indirectly told that we will never receive permission." In Novo
Sarajevo, "we found a plot for a Kingdom Hall and after a year collecting
the different necessary papers, we learned that the urban plan for this
location was changed."

From Forum 18's knowledge of similar situations in the region, it may be
many years before the problems faced by Catholics and Jehovah's Witnesses
in Novo Sarajevo are resolved.

Monsignor Tomasevic noted that some religious communities do not face
difficulties. "Something I have found personally in Sarajevo is that
mosques are built like 'mushrooms after the rain' - as we say in the
Balkans," he told Forum 18. "Some are smaller, some bigger." He said that
some sources put the number of mosques in Sarajevo at 250 or more.

Hare Krishna devotees rent a building as a temple, Miro Skorup of the
community told Forum 18 from Sarajevo on 12 July. He stated that "Sarajevo
is a multi-ethnic town, where the international community is highly
involved in the government, so we believe that we would not have too many
troubles in getting building permission." Outlining how many devotees
there are in Bosnia, Skorup said that "we collected 300 signatures for
registration without too many problems. We do not have a 'church

"Obtaining building permission in Bosnia and Herzegovina varies from town
to town," Landic of the Jehovah's Witnesses told Forum 18. "After the
civil war, we have built 6-7 new Kingdom Halls to add to those we built
before the war." Bosnia-Herzegovina's slightly over 2,000 Jehovah's
Witnesses have not requested building permission in the past year.

There were "a lot of problems in Zenica, in the Bosniak-controlled area.
We submitted all the required papers and exhausted all the legal
possibilities in the town. So eventually we had to take our case up with
the highest authorities in Bosnia and Herzegovina in Sarajevo, such as the
Ombudsmen." When the Jehovah's Witnesses did this, "very soon afterwards we
received building permission for Zenica's Kingdom Hall," Landic told Forum

In Bihac in the north-west, also in the Bosniak-controlled area, Jehovah's
Witnesses are planning to ask for building permission for a Kingdom Hall.
"We will see how this will work out," Landic commented.

In the ethnic Croat-dominated town of Mostar in the south, sharp
geographic religious divisions are clearly visible. City authorities have
not allowed the Muslim community to rebuild the destroyed mosque, Muharem
Omerdic, director of the educational service of the Islamic community in
Bosnia and Herzegovina, complained to Forum 18. He added that in Banja
Luka, in Republika Srpska, renovating the town's sixteenth-century
Farhadija Mosque, destroyed during the civil war, remains a big problem.
"It is a political game," he told Forum 18 from Sarajevo on 30 June. "The
Islamic community insists that everywhere where believers and real needs
exist, rebuilding places of worship should be allowed."

Mufti Seid Smaikic of Mostar told Forum 18 on 30 June that, several times,
the Muslim community has built small mosques without permission. "Building
a mosque east of Mostar, towards towns such as Capljina and Stolac,
conflicts with the 'ethnically clean' concept that some politicians have,"
he told Forum 18 on 30 June. "When we apply for building permission, the
administration just gives no response. So in west Mostar, we built a
mosque without building permission." Smaikic said "besides these small
mosques, we need bigger - modern mosques. In Mostar we have been waiting
for permission for such a mosque since 2000."

It is not just Mostar's Muslims who face obstruction. Karmel Kresonja,
president of the Evangelical Church in the non-Serb area of Bosnia and
Herzegovina, says there is a "big problem" in all of the
Croatian-controlled area. "In Mostar we have been waiting for planning
permission for more than six years," he told Forum 18 on 3 July. "It is
basically impossible to get it, even though in law we have the right to
build a church."

Despite repeated requests from Forum 18, and a promised response from
Miroslav Landeka of the city Press Office which has not been made, the
authorities in Mostar have declined all discussion of building permission.

Bernard Mikulic of an Evangelical church in Capljina, in the
Croat-controlled area, stated to Forum 18 on 30 June that "we are told
that under the urban plan, it is not possible to build a church in the
area where we land for a church. We are not able to get building
permission." The church intends to ask the authorities where it can have a
church. "But to be honest, I do not thing that we will be able to get
permission for a church," Mikulic said, "even though under Bosnian law we
have the right to have a church for worship."

Mikulic told Forum 18 that "only in Sarajevo do I know of Evangelical
churches which have not had building permission problems. In Capljina,"
he continued, "we received building permission for a house where we can
privately have singing and prayers - but we cannot hold public worship
services there." (The building permission describes this as a "monastery,"
but the permission is for a pastor's house with a room for worship.) The
church also intends to apply for permission to build a conference hall and

In Republika Srpska, the Orthodox Church is the only religious community
that does not face obstructions in gaining building permission. Forum 18
has learnt that, because of this, Protestant churches usually buy a house
and then convert it into a church.

Monsignor Tomasevic noted that, in Republika Srpska, the problem for
Catholics is not rebuilding churches, but the return of Catholic people.
From a pre-civil war Catholic population of about 200,000 Catholics, only
6,000 stayed in the area, and in the 11 years since the civil war about
6,000 to 7,000 have returned. "Most churches and parish houses that were
destroyed have been rebuilt or renovated. The problem is that the people
cannot return," he complained. "It is easier to rebuild church buildings
than the living church. The government causes administrative problems to
make it harder for people to return."

Landic of the Jehovah's Witnesses told Forum 18 that in Republika Srpska,
"the Serbian Orthodox Church has the last word." Noting also problems with
registration, Landic said that it "is almost impossible for us to get
building permission." In Banja Luka, the area capital, permission was
received. "We were lucky that because there was already building
permission for another building on the plot of land, not giving permission
for a Kingdom Hall would openly show religious intolerance, so we received
it." Landic claimed that the situation in the entire Republika Srpska "is
chaotic. The Land Register is in chaos and everyone asks for a bribe."

Forum 18 knows of religious communities with problems gaining building
permission in Republika Srpska, who think that publicly discussing this
will end their chance of gaining permission. In one case known to Forum
18, a Protestant church's building permission was revoked when it became
public that a Protestant church would be built.

Another problem facing religious communities is taxation, which restricts
humanitarian work, building projects and other activities. Since January
2006 all religious communities in Bosnia and Herzegovina must pay 17 per
cent VAT even on humanitarian aid. "For public kitchens and other
humanitarian work, this is a big burden," Monsignor Tomasevic, Secretary
of the Catholic Bishops' Conference, complained. "Especially when it is
well-known that the whole country still depends on humanitarian aid."

A printer-friendly map of Bosnia and Herzegovina is available at


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Saturday, July 08, 2006

Hello Family, Friends, and those who just happened to land here from cyberspace...

Finally got a little news from our son regarding his activities. He's keeping busy!

He finally told us that he was in a car accident in MAY...wasn't badly hurt, fortunately. He may not realize how fortunate. Apparently the local hospitals are not exactly what he find at home!

He has done some partying in the residences of the local university, and has apparently claimed the land their for Canada!

He has met a number of local women, but the one woman he seems to bump into the most often is one woman (and their are probably not many like her) who cannot stand EUFOR. She scowls whenever she sees him. Oh well...

Last week he told us he has infiltrated the local castle. All it took was dropping down a well and crawling under some barbed wire...I might add that he's doing this alone and at night. I hope he doesn't end up breaking a leg. He could be there a long time.

And just to make mum grow a few more grey hairs, he's off shooting M-16s with the Green-Howards this weekend.

Never a dull moment!

God Bless