Roots Of Peace in Croatia
Since 1999, Roots of Peace has been turning Mines to Vines™ in the war-torn regions of Croatia. Roots of Peace has supported projects in Dragalić, Bebinge, Čista Mala, Čista Velika, Ilok, and Karlovac. We have funded clearance of nearly 500,000 square meters of land, removing over 50 landmines and unexploded ordinance in collaboration with the International Trust Fund of Slovenia, U.S. State Department, Adopt-a-Minefield and the Croatian government’s demining organization (CROMAC).
Ilok is a grape growing region along the Danube River that witnessed the most intense fighting during the Croat-Serbian war. Towns and cities along this border region were leveled and heavily mined. Roots of Peace has funded the landmine clearance of vineyards in the town of Ilok, just south of Vukovar, on the Danube river. The project started in the Fall of 2005 and was completed in the Spring of 2006.
The project resulted in the clearance of nearly 65,000 square meters of land. Roots of Peace funds were matched by the US Department of State and the Austrian Government is funding the adjacent vineyards. The grape growers and winemakers in this region are in the process of reclaiming their vineyards and restarting their wineries. Some of the best Croatian white wines came from this region and will do so again in the future.
Roots of Peace, in conjunction with the Rotary Club of San Rafael, CA, has demined a plot of land near Karlovac. On this site in Turanjski Lug near Karlovac, the first Croatian National Boy Scout Jamboree took place from August 22-28, 1964. Now that this field is demined, the Boy Scout Jamboree can once again take place on this historic site.
We would especially like to thank The North Face, Inc. who donated over $66,000 dollars in jackets and gear for Croatian deminers. We’d also like to thank the US Department of State who has matched Roots of Peace donations through the International Trust Fund of Slovenia.
A primary school, a post office, a dairy processing plant, a farm cooperative—the Balkan War of 1991-1995 turned these communal infrastructures of Dragalic into front lines for battle. The tanks and guns ceased firing and nearly 3,000 inhabitants returned to find their fields, homes, and grazing lands seeded with landmines. Routine activities, such as farmers cultivating their land, and children running through fields, were now life-threatening actions. It was only a matter of time before impending tragedy struck. In March 1999, faced with no alternative means to support his family, farmer Nikola Katic stepped into his tractor and drove out to cultivate his field despite the known presence of landmines. Sadly, his tractor detonated a PROM-1 landmine, and after 12 hard-fought days in the hospital, Nikola died, leaving his wife and daughter to support themselves. The event symbolized another heartbreaking setback in the village’s attempts to put the past to rest. The war the world thought had ended was still being waged on the innocent people who were eager and determined to resume living as normal lives as possible.
Through generous support from U.S. vintners, the U.S. wine industry, and private donations, in May 2000 Roots of Peace completed its first international demining endeavor in the Croatian village of Dragalić, located in the Slavonia region of the country.
Now, thanks to the demining efforts coordinated by Roots of Peace and other organizations, hope and promise are being restored in Dragalić. Thousands of kilometers have been successfully demined. Farmers there can safely pursue their livelihoods cultivating fields. In the local school, Roots of Peace supported the construction of a new kitchen and dinning room as well as a computer lab so that kids who previously couldn’t cross a field may now cross the globe via the Internet.
Dragalić projects realized with support of Roots of Peace include vineyards in Medari, agricultural land surrounding a school in Gorice, and agricultural land in Poljane.
Čista Mala and Čista Velika
The Serb village of Čista Male and the Croat village of Čista Velika have existed side-by-side for centuries. Prior to the Balkan War of 1991 their cultures coexisted in peace and harmony. Villagers met and celebrated births and marriages with one another as neighbors and friends. When word of war and atrocity began to circulate, this peaceful collaboration led to the signing of formal agreements between Čista Male and Čista Velika, each promising to protect the other’s village. As the war escalated and Serbian tanks began to gather momentum along the scenic Dalmatian coastline of the Adriatic Sea, fear began to dominate as the horrors of ethnic cleansing became a reality. The scale of the war overshadowed the agreement that the villagers of Čista Male had signed with their neighbors, and they were stunned when their former friends and villagers arrived in armored vehicles. With flowers stuffed into the barrels of their tank guns, the soldiers opened fire on the unsuspecting people of Čista Male turning once peaceful neighbors into enemies.
Now, nearly 10 years later, the war is over, but the healing process for both the soil and the soul is just beginning. Roots of Peace, in collaboration with the U.S. State Department, the U.S. Embassy, and the International Trust Fund, has demined over 100 acres of prime agricultural land in both villages. Economic prosperity may once again return to the region, and children in Čista Male and Čista Velika may freely run past those dangerous borders, once riddled with landmines, without fear. A renewal of friendship and prosperity has begun.
In July 2000, after raising funds from private-sector donors (which were matched by the International Trust Fund), Roots of Peace supported demining projects in both Čista Male and Čista Velika, enabling children to once again run freely and farmers to tend to their fields. Roots of Peace funds were used to demine over 200,000 m2 of agricultural land in the region and remove over 40 landmines.
In 2000, Jodi Williams (1997 Nobel Laureate for her work in landmines), Heidi Kühn and, her then 13 year old daughter, Kyleigh Kühn visited the minefields of Bibinje. Here they met with farmers whose vineyards had doubled as battle lines between the Croats and the Serbs. Riddled with landmines, their vineyards sat inaccessible as the vines languished in the fields.
After their visit to Bibinje, Roots of Peace supported the demining of 65,000 m2 agricultural land and vineyards in the region. The demining of the Bibinje field was dedicated to the United Nations Secretary General, Kofi Annan, for the United Nation’s support of demining initiatives around the world.