Кучета от войната
In the upcoming November/December issue of Best Friends magazine, staff writer Ted Brewer tells the story of how the war in Bosnia spawned a movement of kindness to animals.
In early 1999 I moved to Sarajevo, Bosnia. I had decided to spend a year there researching and gathering material for a book about how the residents of this city were recovering from the war, a war in which Serb forces surrounded the city, shelled it to ruins and killed as many as 12,000 people. What I found when I arrived was a city that had only begun to reconstruct from the longest siege of the 20th century.
Just as pervasive as the destruction were the stray dogs. Thousands of them roamed the streets. Just about anywhere you went in the city, you encountered them: cowering under bombed-out cars, scavenging around dumpsters and garbage cans, or boldly stretched out in the middle of the city’s main pedestrian thoroughfare.
I learned that this staggering population was another effect of the war. Many of these dogs had belonged to people who had either died or had fled the city during the siege. Many more were the unchecked progeny of those dogs left behind.
It was against this background that I happened to meet Velimir Ivanisevic shortly after I arrived in the city. When Velimir – or Veljo, as he’s known – introduced himself, he said he had founded SOS Sarajevo, an organization dedicated to animal welfare.
I was floored. The city and country’s infrastructures were largely in ruins, unemployment was dauntingly high, and memories of the war were still painfully clear, yet here was a man who was looking out for the animals, a cause not many in this devastated country would even consider a worthy one.
In a country with no tradition of animal welfare, Veljo was, and is still, pioneering one, rescuing animals from the streets as well as sheltering, sterilizing, and re-homing them. He also introduced a humane education program in just about every elementary school in the Sarajevo Canton, believing that “if I can teach a child not to kill an animal, that child will think twice about killing a person.”
When I came to work for Best Friends nine years later, I vowed to someday write about Veljo, and I got that opportunity last year when I returned to Bosnia. That story – of how Veljo and others in Bosnia’s fledgling animal welfare movement came to the cause as a result of the war – appears in the upcoming issue of Best Friends magazine.
As Veljo told me, “The war created my attitude to animals. It showed me there are a value and a worth to all living things.”
When Paul Berry, chief executive officer of Best Friends, became acquainted with SOS Sarajevo, he authorized a Best Friends donation of $3,500 to the organization.
“All of us here are inspired by what SOS Sarajevo has managed to achieve under the most challenging of conditions,” Paul says. “Thanks to SOS, animal welfare now has a foothold in Bosnia, where before it had none.”
Wrtten by Ted Brewer
Pictured are author (left) and Veljo