Sestovic: So she said that she plans to stay here some time. She can't go back to her home and to her place of birth because her house is burning and she haven't her house anymore. Now she's in Yugoslavia and she's like most of the the others. She will wait to see what the future brings.Anna lives in a housing program for women refugees called, "Lastavica." The name means "swallow." It symbolizes their present migratory status. It houses eight women in Pancevo, a small town near Belgrade. Pancevo has 11,000 refugees in all; nearly one-fourth of it's total population.
Stanisic: They just know the situation is different there and they can't wait for a similar situation to what they had so they'd have to start from the beginning.But for Anna, who only recently took up residence at Lastavica, acceptance of her situation is only beginning to take root. She sits at a kitchen table. She's wearing a black dress and a matching scarf ties her hair back. Her small hands twist a hankerchief as she begins to open up.
Stestovic: And it's not easy for her to start from the beginning. Because if she goes back to Croatia, she'd have to start over. She does not feel she could do it. She said "I am alone, I haven't a husband. I have a daughter but my daughter has to own family and it's not easy for me to start from the beginning to build my life and house and everything so I accept that I will stay here."But Stanisic says accepting Yugoslavia as their new home is only the first step toward taking root in the new land and applying for citizenship. Because most of the women still hang on to the hope of returning, they are not ready to relinquish their legal ties to Bosnia or Croatia. But any lingering thread of hope is wearing thin as stories from those who did take the risk to return make their way back to Lastavica. Those who went back found they had no way to assert a claim on their property. Many homes had been seized by the Bosnian or Croatian Armies. Others returned only to find their property burned to the ground, or smashed and looted.
Stanisic: And in this situation when they try to find a job, someone who is a citizen will find a job easier. So most of them, for example, are of a high education but they work in some market or try to sell something on the black market and I don't they feel good in this situation.Miletza Perovic is 52 years old. In Croatia, she was a well-paid physical-education teacher. But in Yugoslavia, she's been unable to find a job in schools. Her brawny stature made her the perfect candidate to drive the program's shuttle bus over the country's rutted roads. Perovic says shortly after the war ended, there was a lot of economic assistance from non-governmental organizations. Today, she says she feels abandoned. Support has dwindled in the wake of the Kosovo conflict and because of donor countries' frustration toward the Serbian government.
Perovic: And she said in the beginning after the first few years of the war, there were a lot of foreign humanitarian organizations and their aim was to save our lives. But what do we have to do with our lives now?Help from international relief organizations turned sporadic after the end of the war in Bosnia. Some soup kitchens have had to close for lack of supplies. Other kitchens serve up little more than broth or pasta with a few drops of oil. Red Cross officials in the region say the need for humanitarian aid is high, but interest among donors is not. As a result, the Red Cross - and other aid organizations - have been faced with cutting back support on programs; including economic development.
Stanisic: And the next level of support to a refugee group is if you help them to sell their products or to buy something if you really need this. Whenever someone wants to help us sell something in a market, it's nice. Because of the economic situation in the country, it's not easy.Laurence Goldman is a native New Yorker who helps refugee women become thriving entrepreneurs in Yugoslavia. She says the catering business is just one of many examples.
Goldman: The foundation of any economy is going to be small businesses so at least it's a start to make women feel strong there is a way for them to move.Goldman says more and more women are beginning to open up small business ventures. Many recognize that the black market is not the only way to make money. But the remaining obstacles are many. Starting a small business is a huge financial risk when the nation's economy is continuing its downward spiral.