Soldiers to Saviours
Twenty or so members who met the eligibility criteria were awarded the civilian version of the NATO medal for peace keeping in the Balkans. They were part of teams of our members from across the UK who, throughout the winter and spring of 2002 / 2003, went out to Bosnia-in-Herzegovina to deliver aid and training to former soldiers. The soldiers were amongst many that had been demobilised as part of the international rebuilding programme following the civil war of the early nineteen nineties and needed training in peace time roles so that they could find employment upon return to civilian life
This project was managed by Operation Florian, sponsored by the British Ministry of Defence and supported by the International Organisation for Migration (An agency of the United Nations), the Japanese Embassy in Sarajevo, the Bosnian Fire Services Association and many local municipalities.
Essentially, the project involved the provision of Fire appliances, firefighting equipment, protective clothing and training to 26 municipalities who lost their fire services or were rendered ineffective during the civil war.
One condition of the aid was that it could not be given to a single ethnic group. Consequently this project proved to be a very effective means of improving community relations. A small number of communities refused to work together across the ethnic divide and therefore did not receive any help. However those that did now have fire services where there were none before.
One of the most notable successes was in Srebreniča where a large number of Muslim men and boys had been massacred by Serbs during the civil war. Serb and Moslem fire fighters were trained together, an appliance and equipment provided by the charity and today Srebreniča has a fire service operated jointly by members of both communities for the benefit of the whole area.
At the time Mostar was still a divided city and generally speaking each side had its’ own public services except for the police. However both fire services were so impressed with the work of Operation Florian that it asked the charity to run a course for both fire stations in the city and the fire services of the surrounding canton. A few years later the city was reunified and, again with funding from the Ministry of Defence, we donated aid and ran an extensive training programme.