Srebrenica, a small mountain town once known for its mining industry and tourist spa, is now associated more with the worst massacre in Europe since World War II. In July 1995, families were brutally ripped apart as more than 8,000 civilians – mostly men of fighting age – were taken away and executed.
Today, more than 17 years after, the Red Cross continues to reconnect Bosnian, Serbian and Croatian families separated during the conflict in the former Yugoslavia. Such searches are often emotionally taxing, but can bring much needed closure to families wondering about the fates of their relatives.
With its founding principles of neutrality and impartiality, the Red Cross provides humanitarian services to all parties involved in conflict. Through its Restoring Family Links (RFL) program, the Red Cross is uniquely positioned to help thousands of people around the world in their search for loved ones separated by war or disaster. Thanks to the many volunteers and staff who dedicate countless hours, 74 percent of those cases are successfully resolved, often bringing closure to years of doubt and anxiety.
“I felt like I was a person in a city without any understanding of where they were, and the Red Cross helped me,” said one person who finally learned – through the work of the RFL program – the fate of a family member lost during the war in Bosnia.
The global Red Cross network has assisted in uncovering the fates of 13,500 people since tracing began in Bosnia and Herzegovina, including 520 Srebrenica victims who were finally identified and officially laid to rest this year on July 11, the anniversary of the massacre.
“War affects everyone involved; the humanitarian work we do transcends religious, ethnic and geographic boundaries to provide assistance to the families that need it most,” said Lisa Ghali of the American Red Cross as she recounted speaking with family members at the Memorial and Cemetery of Srebrenica. “Standing here with these women, I see only the tragic and human side of war. I feel their pain and I want nothing more than to help them heal.”
For more information on how the Red Cross reconnects families or to receive help in locating a loved one through this service please visit www.redcross.org/familylinks.
Lisa Ghali, a Restoring Family Links caseworker for the American Red Cross, had the opportunity this past July to visit Srebrenica, Bosnia & Herzegovina, the site of one of the worst genocides in Europe’s history. Read more about her personal experiences on the blog.