Years after a war has finished most of the world has forgotten about the people whose lives were torn apart. I recently had the chance to go to Sarajevo with the charity, Healing Hands Network. From April to October each year they have four therapists in their centre in Sarajevo who provide massage and healing treatments for victims of the terrible war and atrocities.
People who have lost loved ones, whose limbs have been blown off, who have been tortured, raped and sexually abused still live with their pain – both emotional and physical. There is precious little help from the government and while psychological help is available, there is no NHS to fall back on.
Among the people I met were members of the Union of Civilian War Victims and The Association of Concentration Camp Victims. Many of them had endured multiple rape and sexual torture, others had had legs or arms blown off in bomb attacks or from shells or grenades. Others had lost entire families.
One man said that 50 of his wife’s family were locked in a house and it was burnt to the ground. Another woman told how she hid in her Catholic and Serbian neighbour’s house when the Serbian soldiers came because she was a Muslim. It was common for the soldiers who held Sarajevo under siege for four years to take a sports hall, a gym, library or school and turn it into a makeshift concentration camp.
The war has been over since 1995 and the people are living more normal lives but there is incredible poverty – unemployment levels in Hadici are running at 80 per cent. Many buildings are still pock-marked by bullets.
Healing Hands Network has given some 25,000 treatments to people from the various associations for victims of the war in the last 11 years, giving up to 3,000 each year. Many of their clients say that having massage treatments makes them feel like ‘a new born person’. Receiving touch in a caring, nurturing way is important when you have been physically abused, and for many it has gradually helped them to sleep and to heal.
Healing Hands Network needs therapists and funds: www.healinghandsnetwork.org.uk