Serbia: A Tale of Reunification

21 September 2017|Violeta Markovic

JRS social worker Violeta Markovic working to support refugees in Belgrade, Serbia. (Jesuit Refugee Service)

In the middle of last year, in mid-June, I met Amira*. She was a vulnerable young woman with four children and a million worries and sadness on her shoulders, and so much power that the whole world could be saved and fed. Her story begins like this.

Amira’s husband lives in Germany. In Turkey, in the German embassy, she began the process of family reunion. For reasons that were related to the safety of her children and herself, she had to leave Turkey, and because of this the unfinished process of reunion was terminated. She arrived to Serbia on 16 June 2016. According to her testimony, she tried to contact several organizations, which might have been able to help her continue the process she started in Turkey Рbut these attempts were unsuccessful.

Then I was introduced to her and listening to her story, seeing the only true desire in it – to allow her children a safe and happy life, I knew JRS could help, so that together we made a first step in fulfilling this desire. Together we went to the Embassy of Germany, and we filed a request for the continuation of the process of family reunification. After we did this, the Embassy took the necessary steps to obtain documents from Turkey, and, in 6 months, everything was ready. In November, we went to fetch an approved visa.

Amira did not speak English, only Arabic, and at that point I did not have an interpreter to help us in communication. It turned out that an interpreter was not necessary. I will never forget the moment when she took the passports in hand and began to check whether a visa was there. She looked at me like she did not believe what was happening, her eyes filled with tears. I held her while she cried, I knew they were tears of joy. Before we went to the Embassy I was only worrying about how I would talk to her, to congratulate her for finally going, but at that moment, as we hugged, I realized that sometimes, a hug can mean more than any word.

Throughout this process, a big role was played by the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR), which makes an extraordinary effort to ensure that every migrant in Serbia has better conditions. UNHCR is a valuable partner to JRS and we thank them for their cooperation and help. On the same day, after receiving the passports, together we finished preparing for her departure and bought bus tickets. On 6th November 2016 Amira, with her four children, boarded the bus for Germany.

A Great Privilege

It was with great gladness that I saw happiness and joy return to the eyes of Amira. Refugees are people, who in one backpack carry only memories. They leave such a big impression on the lives of all of us who have been given the privilege to help them in any way. That is the best part of this job, knowing that you helped someone whose world was destroyed – to return at least one brick out of the rubble to its place. We kept in touch and whilst preparing to write this story I also asked Amira to describe to me how she sees their stay in Serbia and the assistance she received from JRS.

Here’s what she said: “When I came to Serbia and initiated proceedings in the embassy everything went okay. But then, one day, the problems began, I was afraid that everything was finished and that I will not see my husband, and that my children will never see their father. I cried for days, I had nothing, I lost a lot. But then I spoke to Violet, I asked her to help me and she accepted. I went with her to the embassy and she worked hard to help us. She fixed some things, issues that I thought were unsolvable suddenly became small, and in the end, we succeeded!

I got a visa for me and my children, and the same day we went together to buy things for the trip and tickets to Germany. And after two days it was time to go. She was with us until the last moment in Serbia and I cannot find words to describe how much it meant to me. I’m the happiest I’ve met her and grateful to heaven for everything she did for us. Thank God he sent her to us. “