2013 March & April

We head for the village of Stolac; Sanel from Stolac has been educating us about the history of Stolac and we want to learn more.Ann & Barry and Sanel (tour guide) and Joseph and Suzanne and Jane are listening to what is going to be seen on this Stolac tour.

Sanel had helped us with the tasks of registering the Romanis for their Bosnian ID cards and their Bosnian Health cards; guiding us from office to office.

A visit is made to the fenced in enclosure of the tomb of a Sarajevo rabbi, Mose Danon. He set off on foot to Jerusalem in 1830; he got as far as Stolac where death overtook him.The tombstone is in the form of the Bosnia Jewish symbol known as the “Lion Couchant”.

The stones are laid out in a pattern which reminds us of a single candle Menorah that has been snuffed out.

 

Sanel managed to make even these rocks so very interesting!Sanel, a Muslim guy, texts us a message on our phone on Easter Sunday wishing us a joyous Easter Holyday!

Classy!

We all wander and wonder.
Impressive!The walls may be as old as 2500 years and were mostly likely built in the Greek (Hellenic) ILLYRIAN period.

 

Suzanne and Barry are with us.
The fortress ruins which were explored on our Stolac tour are on the mountain overlooking the Roma Gypsy camp. It’s kind of a long way down.
Alexandra, along with us, find these ancient grave stones so very interesting. There had been a concern that the stones were made to ‘look like new’ perhaps by sand blasting.We read now that the stones were treated chemically without loss of the engravings and that the process will make the stones even more lasting.
Mary is at the restaurant (naturally). High on the hill is still another fortress yet to be explored!
An unknown (to us) family has bought this ancient property and it is in the process of restoration.
Some of the ruins are so thought provoking.
We are thinking, we are thinking.
Now we are thinking about what to eat!
The proprietor has netted out a fish selection from the fish pool and that will find its way to the grill and then to our plate.
Back at the Chapel at St. James;a lovely American couple renew their Marriage vows after the English Mass! Delightful!
I can just picture him saying “I have not been able to focus on anything”!Can’t be my photo skills.
The St. James Church back area is almost completely block paved! Beautiful!
Mrs. Beljo, one of the families in our program, has greeted us after the early Croatian Mass; the doctor has told her that glasses may relieve her chronic headache. She is worrying now about food for the family. We decide that an early delivery of the Easter food package is doable so we do.Ivan, our driver, is sent to pick up Mrs. Beljo and take her to the eye doctor in Citluk. It is done and Mrs. Beljo is now sporting glasses.
Chocolate Easter bunnies have been picked up for the kids; we start assembling the items; this set will be for the Roma gypsy kids.Malena, from the camp, has called and told us they are all out of food; could we help?
Vinka and Sima’s brother from Switzerland is in the village and has invited Joseph and a group of the relatives for an eat out at his family home here!
Brrr! The roof covering on the outside altar has been removed in order to paint the struts a silver color. Looking good!
Mary and the elves have loaded 4 shopping carts and have flour and stuff on the push pallet. Kemo should be here any moment to take it to the Roma families.
Kemo couldn’t make it! Mary hires one of the store staff and his ‘pull along’ trailer is loaded for the trip to the camp. On the way a stop is made at the Farmers’ Market for bananas, potatoes, and fresh veggies.The families have their bags ready and the food is parceled out!
Pre Easter deliveries of food packages go out to a dozen or so good but needy families.
Some of the families are called and meet us at the stores in their areas where more personalized food packages can be put together with their input.
We check on the progress of a greenhouse for one of our families; thank you John and to all the contributors to the ‘Help for Hungry and Homeless’ Charity for your acts of kindness.

 

Macbeth? No, but it does resemble the play. Anica is back from the hospital; the arm is healing, the cast is ready to be removed, a trip to the hospital will be necessary.
Two of Dragica’s daughters (Antonia and Kata) had been hired and they have been making two trips weekly to visit the two elderly sisters and to bring them fresh baked bread, a hot meal, and whatever is growing in the garden!
The BIG DAY!!Bob & Mary are picking up their Bosnia Herzegovina ID cards. (Kind of like a green card). We do not have to appear at the Mostar Immigration office for the next 10 years!

 

Ah Bosnia! The new gas station at the four corners features a snack bar with big big donuts (look like what we are used to but not the same good taste) along with rakija (moonshine) and vino (wine).
Well, Bob has to go for blood work prior to an appointment with the doctor the next day.
Then we make a trip to the Mostar doctor who outfits Bob with a 24 hour heart monitor. We will return it to the doctor’s Medjugorje relatives the next evening to return the monitor and get the results later.
Well we got the results; Bob is given a prescription and we google the word.Oh, oh. Back home the patient would be in the hospital for a couple of days to be watched for the side effects of the prescription.

A group of good friends (Ann and Jane and Barry and Marianne) visit to give us more information and to brain storm.

 

Wilma S. from Washington State ( a good friend of Joseph) has sent in a contribution and that enables us to take on a new family in our food package deliveries.Pictures of that family will be added later.
In the meantime, we visit the family with the 14 ( give or take one or two) children and leave them with a food package.
It is so good to see smiles from the children; there are eight children in this family; father lives else where and he is having a tough time emotionally.
Marianne has brought school supplies and arts and craft supplies. The kids are going to learn something today for sure!
You really expect me to draw something?
We want to draw Easter greetings!!! How do you spell Robert?Good job, Gabrijel.
Rafajel is probably wondering just how can he improve this!Gabrijela keeps on working.

Mary brought home 11 Easter drawings that the kids had added ‘robert’ to each and wanted me to know that they were missing me! Gulp.
Amilija asks Mary to come over here to her house for a big surprise. She has picked flowers for her from the field.
Alexandra displays the “day’s take”!
Everyone wants a family group picture; Marianne is at the center!
A few days ago there was a fierce wind and rain storm. We hunkered down and felt safe in our apartment. Zorica and husband find that their ‘van’ has had the windshield blown in!!We give a little public talk about how our main goal is to bring food; everyone agrees that food is the most important priority.
Marianne is adopted by Amel and Amilija.
Come in; my door is always open for you. We remind ourselves that, a few weeks ago, we ran into Pasionka ‘downtown’ pushing her youngest in the stroller. It was her turn to do some begging. Mary went into the local ‘deli’ and brought her some lunch.Pasionka was so grateful and wanted to refuse when a few coins were added.
Marianne and Mediha would probably love to be able to chat a little.
We had received a donation; part of it went to buy 82 eggs to pass out to the Romani (and we note that some of the families are already cooking the eggs)!
Mrs. Beljo has received her family food package but still has requests. She greets us again after the early morning Croatian Mass. Mrs. Beljo has picked us a beautiful bouquet of daffodils and rosemary; a bag of wild greens and broccoli.

A wonderful Easter gift!

It softens us up.

Marianne and Jane outside the Chapel. Soon it will be time for Marianne to leave Medjugorje. She has been a blessing for us and for the Romani children; thank you so much, Marianne.We are also blessed to have Jane (and Suzanne) on ‘our team’! They help us and the families we all visit. They share also with Mary’s Meals and can often be found at that location here in Medjugorje.
Yeah!! Janet is here for a return visit! Here we have Evie, Bob, Janet and Joseph.All of Janet’s families whom she has helped over the years are so anxious to welcome her back if only for a short visit.
And behind the benches in the back of the church another area has been populated with seating. Beautiful!
End of March and we join with 20 or so others to honor Janet. Where else but at Columbos’!Janet has borrowed a car and scoots out almost every day to visit some of the friends from her wonderful years here in Medjugorje. Good therapy for everyone!
Easter Sunday and local friends visit.The ritual is to pretend to have an egg contest and to act sorrowfully when, again, Bob manages to win most of the eggs.
Two good hearts; Janet and Jim. Both at their happiest when they have made others happy!Beautiful!
And happiness is contagious!
So many people are happy when Father John Chisholm re-visits Medjugorje. Father John was the English pastor here for the 8 years prior to Father Kevin’s arrival.
Jane has made hummus and passed some over to Bob; Jim and Suzanne join in the excitement.
Our friend, Jeannette (straw hat), has come with a Canadian group led by Roger (red shirt). We have been emailing back and forth with Edgar, another long time Canadian friend, and arranging for the veggie seeds to be brought. The suitcase was full and over weight. We got hand crafted rosaries and picture sets of Medjugorje happenings in 1986.Seeds & pictures are already disappearing into eager hands. We are holding the rosaries back for a special project.
Medjugorje shops offer thousands and thousands of rosaries for sale.We have been given hundreds of rosaries made by members of “Club de Rosaire Des Saints, Martyrs” of Tangent, AB, Canada.

Our goal will be to have all of the items blessed at the next apparition; then many of them will be offered, selectively, at the Youth Festival.

Some will be passed on to the Romani gypsy women & they will pass them out as gifts to the Catholics and the Muslims in downtown Stolac!

There are so many thanks to be given to the individual makers of these rosaries and, we are sure, to their helpers.We give thanks (Hvala Boga) to:

Jacques Charmaine Berube,
Jeannette Jacob,
Charles and Mrs. Lina Boily,
Colleen & Veronica & Antoine Jacob,
Patrick Lepage,
Miss Catherine,
&
Joe Bonsan

!!!!

Archbishop Pettipas from Canada celebrated Mass on Easter Monday (Annunciation of the Lord) and gave a beautiful powerful homily.That’s Father Mike just behind the archbishop.
April 8: Mary emigrated to Canada from Croatia at the age of 11 and spent 25 years or so there so has a special place in her heart for fellow Canadians; 5 more have been found!Margaret , Dianne, Erin and Marie have joined Pat in the Medjugorje journey!
Tony & Dominique De Wilde from Belgium are here along with daughters, Julie and Alies, and grandmother Irene. Karel, the son is also here! All are in the music box blessing us with wonderful singing and music.
Finally, the International Expo in Mostar has opened and we make an appearance.Maybe we can find some ethnic costumes for a couple of the Romani in Stolac to wear!

We see some but too expensive; we will keep searching.

We are able to ‘make a deal’ on a small green house at the Expo; this will improve the quality of life for one of our families!
It’s the 10th of April; we have delightful guests! Bob, Jim and Mike are sharing a good happening!
April 13th: Mary and four of the other Canadians are headed to the Romani camp in Stolac. A stop is made at the Robot general store to pick up some groceries. Pictured are Pat, Marie (mom) and Erin (daughter).
The community is happy to see us; Margaret, Erin, Pat and Marie interact with some of the residents.We see that the yellow van still has not been fixed; we ask “what happened”?

We had left funds for the repair.

Dean is told to quickly run and bring out the parts they have purchased; they have spent all of the money left with them; they apparently under estimated.
While visiting the various homes, Mary notices a new picture on the wall. It includes Bisera and her son, Dean. A regional representative of the Roma people had come to Stolac (Romani Day is April 9th) and called Bisera and son to attend a meeting. Bisera has no other information or names or promises.Is it just a photo op?
Well we are happy that Dean and mom were invited; we will try to find out more.
Cousins Dean, Behara, and Gabrijela are looking good.
It is good to catch Pat and Margaret with big smiles.
Pasionka asks whether we might have any clothes for the new baby on the way. Mary has been supplying vitamin pills which Pasionka has been taking faithfully; we shall see what else we have.The health card stamps are turned over to this family. That finishes this task of making sure that everyone in this camp now have their local ID cards and their health cards for doctors, hospital and prescriptions!

Everyone feels good about this.

All are invited to grab a bag and line up for some good eats.
A project we have been ‘wondering’ about for almost 3 years. A handicapped boy in Citluk about to turn 18 is still coping with his child size wheelchair. Mother is just not able to save. Social services will pay 850 KM towards a good wheelchair from a designated supplier but that still leaves a sizable balance (4000 KM).We think it is doable!

We are sad that the boy will no longer be able to be part of Holy Family Home for the Handicapped once he becomes 18. Then he will be homebound until, at the age of 24, he might be able to be enrolled in some other program!

Lord, lead us today to someone who needs you”.

We head for the church in Vitina (Our Lady of Good Health). The priest there had told us about a family living in a hole in the ground and perhaps today he will direct us to that family.

Neither of the priests are at home; the housekeeper, Marija, invites us in for coffee and bread (a fasting day).Marija knows the family; they are not Catholic but we assure her that is OK. There are also two other needy families but she would prefer we get the information from the priests.

We will be back.

We head for the two sisters, Anica & Ilka: they are close by.We stop; Joseph and Bob head for the gate, look around and no Mary. Where could Mary be?

Mary is in the field across the road; beans are appearing as is garlic and spring onion.

Is it a wild garden? The sisters do not know.

The sisters ask us in and we are so surprised! Someone has brought in a bed and a couch and have done a lot of straightening; only one stove is left in the room. Surplus stuff has been bagged and is now mostly outside.Mary does spot a number of ants sharing the bed.
Mary checks on the healing of the arm.
Jane and her nurses have been here; someone else has also been here with diapers, sugar and oil. Have Dragica’s daughters been coming twice a week, we ask? Yes, yes, they bring us bread and a hot meal!!
And all of a sudden a car comes down the road and it is two of the daughters, Antonia and Kata.Ilka had told them to make a list and they have a bag with them; bread, milk, lemons and chicken.

We are so proud of them and we catch up with the funds promised them!

We think later that we should pay them more as they are buying things at the store for the sisters.

They will buy and spread some ant repellant.

We are going to check on a Roma gypsy community in the village of Caplina; we have been told it is near the garbage dump.
We stop at an in town gas station to get directions; the men there tell us that, because of the flooding a month or so ago; all of the gypsies have moved out.
We figure we shall see for ourselves; we go a little ways and spot a police car. We ask again and are assured the gypsies have left.
We need to see for ourselves; we head for the village dump; the men working at its entrance point the way.
The first family we meet is Suvad (Stewart) & his wife, Esma. He is 36 years, she has just turned 17. Suvad speaks English (and German) and does tell us that the mayor had relocated them to a higher area but it is isolated and no way of making a living there. They are gradually making their house here livable and are again able to search through the dump next door.
Their income comes from scouring for bottles, washing them in the water from the nearby river and drying them on the blanket and then bagging them; they are able to get 4 KM ($3.00) for every 100 pieces!
We are told, in confidence, that Esma has been to the doctor and shows us a picture (ultra sound) of the expected baby!Suvad can read and write; he will make out a list of the 11 families in the community, their names and ages of the children.

We are told that, a group of Italians used to come and help but that was two or three years ago.

We had been told to not bother with this group because the Italians were already helping!

Glad we didn’t listen to that.

Two more houses to visit and then we will call it a day.Bob spots fingers on the edge of a plastic cistern and goes to investigate.

It is a play pen during the current dry season!

One of the two houses here is built off the ground; smart!
We meet Mr. Izet (47 years) and some of the family; they also collect the bottles. And whenever they find a discarded TV, they can break it apart and sell it generally for 5 KM each ($3.80).Izet saved for 4 years and was able to buy a small car; a lifeline.

We have not yet met school age kids here but we are told none attend school. We are told that there is no water (except the river) for washing.

Sparse is the best description.
They have found some jars of something and are planning that for the next meal. We think it is the local tomato and pepper sauces called Ajvar.
Izet, Bob, Joseph chat about the needs of this community…FOODno period after FOOD because that need never ends.
We take a photo of the dump as we pass by on our way out. A blessing that there is so much cardboard as that can take the place of firewood.We plan to return this coming Friday.
A month or so ago, Mediha (Romani camp) asked if we had any baby things; her sister in another area is due to have a baby.We did and Joseph and we bought some extra stuff including a plastic bath tub; we filled the tub with baby things and delivered it to Mediha.

Request closed. Except this morning we received a phone call from the new mother simply thanking us for the gift!

How very unusual; how very sweet! How very appreciated.

 

As of today we know of three more pregnancies.

 

you can contact Mary and Bob and Joseph at mmryan5@gmail.com