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Draginja is 60 years old, a refugee from Petrinja. She fled from Croatia to Serbia in August 1995 during the "Storm", on a tractor with her daughter and a 6-months-old granddaughter. She told us her story:

"I was not able to find my husband anywhere, and we did not know anything about him for three months, not even whether he was alive or not. We checked all hospitals and I found out that he was in prison. He was held in a prison in Sisak and they were tortured for two days, fourteen of them. He went to a trial and they brought him to testify against many, although he had had nothing to do with that, he was not interested in war at all. Yet, they sentenced him. Then, after 8 months I received a call from the UNHCR and they told me that he was released from prison as innocent and that he was coming to Serbia . The first thing he said to me when we met was `I have been born again`.


In Serbia, we spent three years in Mali Po¾arevac, in a barrack made of wood and mud, two small rooms without a bathroom and toilet, with no kitchen, no water. The two of us, our daughter, son-in-law and the granddaughter. It was only important that we were together. My husband does not work, he has no motivation or strength, he simply likes to be alone, not bothered by anyone. If you tell him something, he is aggressive.

We heard about IAN from other people whom you helped. The husband came to get registered as an ex-detainee, and, since he cannot go alone, I went everywhere with him.


October 2003, Draginja Vukmanovic talking with IAN Legal Advisor

Here he went through a treatment and it helped him a lot, his sleep has improved, he has started to do something in the house.When this was finished, I thanked them for everything and I openly said that it was nice that you took care of us and cured us mentally. However, we needed something else, some legal advice to see what we could do with our property in Croatia . Then they directed us to IAN legal officers and they were vey kind and friendly and they received us heartily. I remember, a nice girl, legal adviser, asked us when we got married, and we looked at each other, we couldn't remember, this was the first time since the war that we laughed together. I asked if there was a way for me to obtain my pension, and they explained everything and helped me. So, we first obtained our documents from Croatia through IAN and I was instructed what I was to do next.

After that I constantly phoned and spoke with them, whenever I was in town I dropped by to say hello to them. Then I heard in IAN that there was an organised transport to Croatia , and I thought about whether I was brave enough to go, I was afraid, but after talks with the people in IAN, I decided to go and I travelled there for the first time after the war in August to see my hometown. It was awful when I saw my old house and somebody else living in it. I broke into tears for the first time then.

However, I was pleased that I went there; I regulated all papers and submitted a claim for pension. Since then I receive about 140 EUR of pension and it means a lot to me, we live of that here.

October 2003, Draginja Vukmanovic

Our son-in-law also does season works; it's difficult to find a permanent job. My daughter was in a bad psychological condition for a long time, she felt great fear, she couldn't stay alone for a minute. I think she is not completely well even now, she still needs psychological assistance. And they also need some kind of education, they are young, smart, able to learn, but they had to change everything because of the war. They should be assisted to integrate in the best possible way here, to live like humans and raise their child.

We could not return to Croatia after all we've passed through."



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