Bosnian woman finds a church in her garden as back home

Bosnian woman finds a "church" in her garden when returning home after war. Now she battles it to remove in her land.

Bosnian woman finds a church in her garden as back home

Fata Orlovic's house is easy to find in the village of Konjevic Polje. It is the one with a large Serbian Orthodox church built in its front garden.

Fata herself is an irrepressible ball of energy, greeting me as she has greeted other journalists, with a long fusillade of invective about the building.

"I want them to remove the church and I want soil back on this plot of land," she tells me, furiously motioning towards what would have been her front garden.

Like many Muslims in the hills of eastern Bosnia, she was ethnically cleansed from the village during the war in the early 1990s.

Her husband was killed and she was made a refugee by ethnic Serb military aggression.

When she returned to Konjevic Polje in 2000, she was outraged to find the church had been built on her land.

In their place, new buildings like the church in Konjevic Polje were erected, to emphasise that a new ethnic and religious group now owned the land.

At the time, Serbians from fighting in central Bosnia lived in the village, but now the original Muslim villagers have returned.

Since coming back, Fata Orlovic has fought to have the church removed from her garden.

She encountered bureaucratic resistance and even intimidation, but stood her ground.

Empty church

For members of the powerful international community in Bosnia, Fata Orlovic's fight against the church is seen as a test case.

"If she doesn't get the church off her land you will never have a society that is governed by the rule of law," explains James Rodehaver, human rights director for the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) in Sarajevo.

"It would mean a constant process of dealing with political crises and changes of political will. The legacy of the war would never be resolved."

"It doesn't bother me that it's a church," Fata explains. "It's where they worship and that is fine. I respect churches as much as mosques.

"But if they want a church they should just put it on their own land instead of mine. I respect all nations and religions, but I can't respect people building on my land."

Fata smiles at me again. She knows that her long battle is almost over, and that her front garden will soon be full of corn and vegetables. Fata's land will once again be hers.

BBC, Worldbulletin

Last Mod: 27 Ağustos 2007, 22:33
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