A Red Cross volunteer comforts Vladimir - ©IFRC/Nicole Robicheau

A Red Cross volunteer comforts Vladimir – ©IFRC/Nicole Robicheau

Tears role down Vladimir Lazarevic’s cheeks when he looks out over his nearly three hectares of destroyed farmland.

“I don’t have anything now because it’s all gone,” he says.

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The 72-year-old has been living alone in a rural area of Bijeljina since his wife died 12 years ago.

Each year he plants corn, wheat and clover in his fields. He tends to them all by himself, with his tractor.

“I’ve always loved to work, I love agriculture,” says Vladimir.

Luckily his tractor survived, even though none of his crops did. He also lost many of his livestock. When he fled from the floods, he wrapped his small dog in his coat. A dozen sheep and a few chickens also survived.

Nearly everything on his first floor home was destroyed. Three truckloads of his personal belongings had to be thrown out.

Vladimir looks over his three hectares of destroyed crops - ©IFRC/Nicole Robicheau

Vladimir looks over his three hectares of destroyed crops – ©IFRC/Nicole Robicheau

Although he has a pension from his time working abroad in France, it’s not enough to replace everything that was lost.

“It’s enough for a normal basic life, but this is not a basic life anymore,” says Vladimir.

He’s been told that the government will give him corn seeds and fertilizer, but he doesn’t know how he’ll manage with such limited resources.

Homes still flooded

Forty miles from where Vladimir looks over his field, Janja Markovic sits down to have lunch in an evacuation centre in the town of Orasje. The 81-year-old is from Kopanice, one of the worst affected areas.

“It is catastrophic, my house is still underwater,” says Janja. Like Vladimir, she had a space to grow crops, although much smaller than his.

Neither she nor her husband has a pension, so they depend on what they grow to eat. They also lost livestock to the floods. 

Janja has been staying at an evacuation centre run by the Red Cross - ©IFRC/Nicole Robicheau

Janja has been staying at an evacuation centre run by the Red Cross – ©IFRC/Nicole Robicheau

“For 20 years since the war it had been getting better, and now this,” says Janja.

Roughly 1,500 people still remain in evacuation centres across the affected areas more than a month after the floods. Many of those are elderly.

“We know that the situation is worst for the elderly after the floods,” says Zaklina Ninkovic, care for elderly programme coordinator for the Red Cross Society of Bosnia and Herzegovina. “Pensions in our country are often not sufficient and medication is very expensive.” 

Volunteers from the Red Cross Society of Bosnia and Herzegovina already help about 6,000 elderly people across the country with housecleaning, preparing meals, shopping, personal hygiene, and buying medicine. 

These volunteers are actively involved in helping people like Vladimir and Janja recover from the floods. 

More than three million people were affected across Serbia, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Croatia, following unprecedented flooding in mid-May. Nearly one million people had to be evacuated. 

By Nicole Robicheau, IFRC