Activated - - NEWS - By Anna Per­lini

I first met Dan­ica and Milic over 13 years ago. They were al­ready af­fec­tion­ately known as “the grand­par­ents on the mountain,” be­cause the name of the small vil­lage where they live, Suhodol, means “dry hill.” To reach it, you have to drive on a steep trail, and dur­ing harsh win­ters, there’s no way to get there by ve­hi­cle. They don’t have run­ning wa­ter or in­door plumb­ing, and like many peo­ple in the area of Croa­tia bor­der­ing Bos­nia, they have a sad story of flee­ing from war and de­struc­tion, liv­ing in refugee camps, and fi­nally re­turn­ing home to their vil­lage and their burned-down house and hav­ing to start build­ing a life again at an age when peo­ple usu­ally re­tire.

In spite of hard­ships, their spir­its are al­ways high; and of course, they look for­ward to our vis­its, as these days very few peo­ple live in this iso­lated vil­lage. Once, we came across them wash­ing their clothes in a freez­ing stream and gave them a ride back home. When they en­tered our van, we jok­ingly asked: “Where would you like to go? We can take you anywhere” “To Suhodol,” they proudly an­swered, “the best place in the world!”

Dan­ica is feisty, Milic is meek, and to­gether they are a funny, en­ter­tain­ing, ec­cen­tric and lively cou­ple. De­spite be­ing in their eight­ies, whether there be rain, sun­shine, or snow, they’re busy tend­ing to their land and sheep. I vis­ited them count­less times with other friends and vol­un­teers, bring­ing them food and other ne­ces­si­ties, but al­ways leav­ing with more than what we brought in terms of price­less lessons and val­ues.

A young girl was pro­foundly im­pressed by them and shared: “I hope that one day I can build some­thing as valu­able as they have.” At first, I was a bit puz­zled at this com­ment, as Dan­ica and Milic have hardly any­thing of any value, as much of what they owned was ir­re­deemably lost. I won­dered if she re­ally un­der­stood their con­di­tion, and if so, what she meant.

She ex­plained that what mostly im­pressed her was the love she saw in their eyes af­ter so many years of be­ing mar­ried and fac­ing to­gether all kinds of hard­ships and dif­fi­cul­ties.

In a world where re­la­tion­ships are so volatile and com­mit­ments are eas­ily bro­ken, she con­sid­ered that a most valu­able ac­com­plish­ment, and how could I not agree?

Anna Per­lini is a co­founder of Per un Mondo Migliore, a hu­man­i­tar­ian or­ga­ni­za­tion ac­tive in the Balkans since 1995.

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