“A hand given to thousands of children, women and elderly people…”
Everything started 15 years ago in a turbulent time of war. In that moment, the still not fully formed First Children’s Embassy in The World “Megjashi” – Republic of Macedonia was faced with the beginning of the Bosnian war. The First Children’s Embassy in The World “Megjashi” sent an appeal from Bosnia to all its members to help with the rescue of children from the war zones. Gordana Zmijanac, coordinator of The First Children’s Embassy in The World “Megjashi” in Macedonia, Skopje, sent an appeal through the media the same day for taking in children from Bosnia and Herzegovina. Large number of families responded to the appeal as well as institutions such as children hostels, homes, hotels, the Red Cross, the Ministry of labor and social policy, and many NGOs. Right away thousands of children, women and elderly people were taken care of. During the following 2 years THE CHILDREN’S EMBASSY “Megjashi” provided food, education, medical examinations, English language courses, social activities etc., for its Bosnian “sufferers”. In this way Macedonia and the NGO sector showed a high level of civil consciousness and humanity.
After a while, in 1993-1994 to be more precise, the refugees from Bosnia left for the USA and to the West Balkans countries. This relocation covered over 4000 people out of which 2500 were children. All of this was made possible by the contacts and services of the First Children’s Embassy in The World “Megjashi” (Macedonia).
Demir has found his mother
Memories from this period project in an endless string. It was a time of tears, troubles, hugs, desperation, a time of lost children… Literally – lost children. We shall recall the story one such child through the article of Jovo Dimitrievik, a journalist from Saraevo.
Rainy weather. The Children’s Embassy Megjashi in Republic of Macedonia is found in room 315 in the former Central Committee of Macedonia. A usual atmosphere. The phones are ringing. Tens of people are settled in the small space – Dragi and Gordana Zmijanac, the director Kole Angelovski, the actor Miralem Zupchevic and tens of volunteers. People with lots of patience. Everyone who comes in has to be heard. A lot of people will be helped, children especially. A boy with a bright look in his eyes but sad and terrified showed up at the door. “Is this the Embassy for us, the children”, he asked. Gordana (Zmijanac) answered affirmatively and the boy started his story. I am looking for my mother. I come from Gorazde. My father stayed in Bosnia and I came here along with my mother and brother. Two months ago I lost my mother in the train by Kumanovo. I heard she is somewhere in Skopje, but maybe she isn’t. My name is Demir and I beg you – help me… He was offered some juice. He won’t have it. He doesn’t want a sandwich either. He wants his mother. Saima, Saima is my mother’s name, he says through tears… The people from the Embassy start dialing telephones. Gordana on one phone, Miralem on the other one. They are calling the refugee shelters. They are looking for the camp on Vodno. They are told that one Saima can be found there… Please find here and we will wait, says Gordana. We are waiting. Everybody is searching, everybody is appealing, but Saima is nowhere to be found. She migh have moved to another place, we think to ourselves. This place war our last chance. Demir started to cry. And just when we wanted to hang up the phone, someone at the other side of the line shouted – wait, here she is. Demir picked up the phone and after about ten seconds we heard a cry – mother, mother…After less than an hour, Demir and his mother were hugging each other in the Children’s Embassy…
The mission continued during the conflicts in Kosovo and Macedonia
The First Children’s Embassy in The World “Megjashi” Republic of Macedonia was actively running during the conflict in Kosovo (1999-2000). In a partnership with Caritas – Essen in the camps Radusha, Stenkovec 1 and 2, Neproshteno, Bojane and Chegrane, the volunteers from the Embassy organized sports, art and educational activities for the children-refugees on a daily basis. It should be noted that the Embassy “Megjashi” has secured the first destination for 107 refugees that moved from Macedonia to France. After this a lot of refugees (mothers, children, elderly and ill people) were transferred in an organized manner from Macedonia to Bulgaria, Spain, USA, Turkey, i.e. in countries that were able to offer them better living conditions.
CHILDREN"S EMBASSY “Megjashi” was providing help unselfishly during the war in Macedonia too (year 2001). More than a hundred volunteers joined the action and took in 16 dislocated persons from the crisis regions (out of which 8 were children) in the shelter First Children's Embassy “Megjashi”. In this shelter Aleksandar, Marija, Nikola and others were born. Biljana Jovanovik is one of the mothers who gave birth during her stay in “Megjashi”.
“We were living in Arachinovo, our house is torn down, but the birth of our child after 8 years spent without children is what replaces all our fears and troubles. We are staying in “Megjashi” now, and our little angel gives us the will to keep going”, the mother Biljana was saying at the time. Everyday, the dislocated children from the regions of Tetovo, Kumanovo and Arachinovo were receiving love, education, fun and play. We are enclosing two statements from children that were part of Megjashi’s shelter center.
Sanela (12) : “I remember very well the first time I came to the First Children’s Embassy in The World Megjashi. It was exactly two years and three months ago, but it feels as if it was yesterday. I was sad at the beginning and I missed my home, I couldn’t sleep at night and I was wondering if I ever would be able to return home.
Here in the First Children’s Embassy in The World time quickly goes by and the sorrow gradually goes away. There are plenty of workshops in the Embassy such as: literature, drama, English, French, math and computers. I hang out with all of the children, but I spend most of the time on a PC. I also like sports, especially basketball. Thank to the First Children’s Embassy in The World I have really expanded my knowledge regarding many useful topics. Although the Embassy “Megjashi” is my second home, I still would like to return to my home. Who knows, maybe one day my wish will come true.
Ivana (12): “It was really difficult to forget the past and the moments when I and my family left our home running away from the winds of the war. It was at the beginning, but now it’s a little bit different. Maybe I don’t have enough space for living, but still, it is better than living in fear. I have found myself in FCEWM . I owe this to Children's Embassy “Megjashi” and to the people I meet there everyday that have helped me a lot. It is always pleasant spending my time here, although I have sad moments in my memories.
The people who were accepted back then by The First Children’s Embassy in The World “Megjashi” have now been returned to their homes. Some of them have returned the previous year of 2006, after a five-year stay at the EMBASSY “Megjashi”. They will never forget the helping hand stretched out to them when they needed it the most.
English translation provided by: Dijana Janevska