2018 To Walk the Earth in Safety: Europe--Returning Land to Productive Use in Bosnia and Herzegovina
As Slavko Puketa stood on his land for the first time in 23 years, he reminisced about his childhood before his village became mined by both Bosnians and Serbs during the Bosnian War. “Life was wonderful here before the war,” Slavko explained. “My father worked for the railroad and my mother was a housewife. We didn’t want for anything. We had a shop as well, and had plans for the future.”
By the time MAG finished clearing the area in October 2017, they had found and destroyed 131 landmines and 18 pieces of UXO. MAG found 24 mines on Slavko’s land’s alone, with two of these mines buried on his mother and brother’s graves in the small graveyard close to his old house.
As he walked along the safe track toward the remains of his house, a smile spread across his face and tears filled his eyes, “…After 23 years I can at last come home. I come here to clean up, chop wood and light a candle by my brother’s grave. I want to come back and live here but it is probably too late. You see, I had a stroke and I can’t work like before. Many of the people from here went overseas after the fighting started, but now that MAG has cleared the mines I think many will come back. This is their home. There is now thick vegetation on the land, so we will need help to clear it for agriculture. The wells are blocked, and there is no electricity. But [it] is amazing to come back here with no fear. People were injured here trying to come home; one was killed. Life would have been very different if landmines had not been planted here. We grew plums and pears and made amazing brandy. I am so, so happy to be able to come back. I will slowly clean up and try to rebuild. I hope I will be able to spend the summers here in the future. At least I can now put candles on the graves of my mother and my brother. That means so much to me.”