"Villa Angelina" in Rogatica

In early November, I traveled to Rogatica to mark the completion of the construction of a social housing project for persons displaced by Bosnia’s 1992-95 war.  I was honored to be hosted by Rogatica Mayor Radomir Jovicic and joined by Republika Srpska Assistant Minister for Refugees Nenad Djokic, Federation Assistant Minister for Refugees Sulejman Sulejman Alijagic, Austrian Ambassador Donatus Köck and representatives of the project’s implementer, Hilfswerk Austria International.

Ambassador Moon speaks at the dedication of the Rogatica Social Housing Complex

The center’s construction was funded with $500,000 from the U.S. State Department’s Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration (PRM) and $33,000 from the Ministry of Refugees and Displaced Persons of the Republika Srpska as well as $85,000 from the Rogatica municipality.  The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) also contributed $24,000 for energy efficiency measures, including thermal insulation and the use of compact florescent light bulbs that will provide further savings for the home owners in reduced energy costs as part of USAID’s Enterprise Energy Efficiency project.

The project provided new apartments for 13 families who had been living in dire conditions for many years in a local collective center.  Just as important, the center has common spaces for social activities as well as small business and vocation training -- making this, like the similar center we recently completed for Bosniak and Serb returnees in Foca, a true example of social housing (and not just a new collective center).
Ed Findlay from the State Department's Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration with Lena and Mara Babic
These displaced persons can now leave behind their old lives and begin again.  Among the new residents are Lena and Mara Babic whose home in Vojnin (Gorazde) was destroyed in 1992.  After living in an abandon house for several years, the sisters moved into the collective center in Rogatica in 2003 where they remained until moving in the new social housing center we just completed.  (During their time in the collective center, they were visited by UNHCR Special Ambassador Angelina Jolie.) 

Vida Matovic was similarly displaced from her home near Gorazde in 1992 and has suffered from a severe hearing impairment for the past decade.  Through this project, Ms. Matovic received not only a new home but also a hearing aid which has literally reconnected her with the world.  I am also delighted that my government could help Professor Radosav Rosic, who was displaced from Sarajevo in 1992 and to whom the project provided (besides housing) a computer so that he can continue his writing.  My heart was deeply moved to hand these and all the center’s new residents the keys to their new homes and their new lives.

As pleased as we were to open the new social housing center, we must recognize that this project is relatively small compared with the 8,000 persons still living in collective centers throughout Bosnia and Herzegovina.  Along with our recently completed projects for sustainable return in Visegrad and Foca, this project underscores the importance of partnerships between local authorities and the international community in promoting sustainable return or local integration and closing Bosnia’s collective centers.

Mayor Jovicic briefed me on the difficult economic situation in his community.  He is working to promote outside investment and create new employment opportunities in a community with a very high unemployment rate and very limited resources.  These circumstances make the U.S. contribution to housing in Rogatica for displaced citizens all the more meaningful.  The United States Government strongly supports the right of every individual and every family to return to their homes with dignity and equal opportunity for a better life.  The United States and its partners will continue seeking durable solutions for BiH citizens displaced by war in Bosnia and Herzegovina to help ensure that no one is left behind on Bosnia’s path toward European integration.