Stories of Landmine Survivors – Velezar Šurbat
Mr. Šurbat is one of the 1,277 mine survivors that ITF Enhancing Human Security (ITF) assisted in the last 20 years. In a landmine explosion on 5 March 1993, his right hand was hurt, resulting in the below-elbow amputation of his right arm. In 2017, with the assistance from ITF and financial support of Federal Republic of Germany, Mr. Šurbat came to Ljubljana to receive a new prosthesis at the University Rehabilitation Institute of the Republic of Slovenia (URI – Soča).
Velezar Šurbat was born in Ljubnica, a mountainous village near Sarajevo in 1970. He is now living in the town of Bijeljina, which was an environment that required some getting used to. “I moved here in 1997 and I have to admit that I did not like anything about it at first. In the beginning, I missed the valleys and hills of my little hometown of Ljubnica. Here, in the region of Semberija, there are only plains with high temperatures in the summer, which is a big difference from the climate where I was raised. But in the end, after so many years I got used to it and gradually fell in love with these flatlands”.
While he received the first three prostheses in his hometown of Bijeljina, this was the first time he received one abroad, which together with the beauties of Slovenia made the procedure memorable. As Mr. Šurbat said himself: “In the 14 days that I spent at URI – Soča I did not have the chance to see more of Slovenia than its capital Ljubljana, but I have to say that it is certainly one of the most beautiful cities in Europe”.
“I would like to use this opportunity to greet and thank all the medical staff and the prosthetic technicians who participated in the making of my prosthesis.”
Bosnia and Herzegovina is still healing from the wounds inflicted by the last conflict. This is very visible to people living their everyday lives: “I cannot really say that I like life in Bosnia and Herzegovina. The main reason is unemployment and poverty of citizens. Many young people leave Bosnia and Herzegovina to find work abroad, while the elderly stay and struggle to survive month after month on low wages and even lower pensions”. Taking into consideration that Bosnia and Herzegovina still struggles economically, it is crucial to continue our humanitarian work in supporting both its citizens and the country’s mine action structures in working towards preventing similar accidents from occurring in the future. With more than 1.091 km2 mine contaminated area in Bosnia and Herzegovina, there is still a long way in front of us.
As seen with Mr. Šurbat, people, in spite of many difficulties, always find things in life that bring them joy. For him, this is sport shooting. “I never knew that I have a talent for shooting, until I went to the shooting range with my friends by chance for a training. My friends like to say it was love at first sight and I have been training almost every day for the last five years. The new prosthesis helps me a lot, because now I can hold the rifle much easier, which is important for achieving better results in competitions.”
“The only thing that I can tell your readers and everyone else is that they should never give up on their dreams and wishes, and be persistent in anything that they do.”
We are always glad to hear inspirational stories such as Mr. Šurbat’s, and thank Federal Republic of Germany for enabling this project.