UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador Angelina Jolie, travelling with her partner Brad Pitt, on Monday visited internally displaced people and returnees in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Jolie’s trip came over fourteen years after the end of the war that ravaged this Balkan country. She took a break from working on her latest movie to highlight the plight of 113,000 Bosnians displaced from their homes and 7,000 refugees from Croatia, many of whom are living in collective centres, often in appalling conditions.
Jolie visited a collective centre in the town of Gorazde where the residents live in dilapidated accommodation with little support and with many completely overwhelmed by helplessness. She then moved on to a village near Visegrad where Jolie visited a family and talked about their return to an area that saw some of the worst atrocities of the war. Jolie said she was “so inspired by these families. Despite the grim realities of their unsettled existence, they have an incredible determination to make a better future for their children.” Jolie then travelled to the town of Rogatica where she visited displaced people in another collective centre lacking basic amenities, such as running water.
From 1992-95, when war raged in the country, over 2.2 million people were displaced. That displacement shattered lives then and the suffering continues to this day for many. Some of those Jolie met during her visit spoke of the terrible anguish they had endured, including rape and torture, with one woman saying “I have my body, but it no longer has a soul.”
“After seeing these people and hearing their stories, I cannot overemphasise the need to focus on the wellbeing of the most vulnerable individuals of the population,” Jolie said, adding that “…by ending displacement and ensuring quality of life, we can help to promote progress and long-term stability.”
Jolie also met UNHCR staff who told her about proposals to help resolve the situation of those still displaced. “I hope we can find solutions for the remaining tens of thousands of displaced people,” Jolie said, adding “…only then can we really close one of the most tragic chapters in modern history.” Although her visit was short on this occasion, Jolie said that she hopes “to return to this beautiful country soon and meet with political representatives to further discuss the solutions that are so badly required.” Looking to the future she noted that “Bosnia and Herzegovina now has the opportunity to move forward by ending displacement and further capitalising on the EU accession process. The local leadership has the ultimate responsibility to make choices to ensure that this will happen.”