Velika is known as “little Jasenovac.” This village by Plav, Montenegro, at the end of the Second World War, experienced terrible suffering. In just two hours, German, Albanian and Muslim soldiers brutally slaughtered and set fire to over 400 children, women and the elderly. The village never recovered from these atrocities, and the victims were canonized as saints. Velika residents in previous wars had contributed to the liberation of this area from occupiers.
Today, significantly fewer people live in Velika. Life is not easy. Visiting the village, we came upon six-year-old Nikolina Jokić. This bright, happy and beautiful little girl has a disability.
Nikolina is hard of hearing and wears hearing aids. That is why she cannot speak well. She goes to speech therapy, and we hope it will help. She has started school – mother Sladjana explained to us as she welcomed us into their modest home.
We had some difficulty understanding Nikolina as she spoke. We realized that she communicates much more through her curious expression, and wide eyes and child’s cheerfulness.
She is our sweetheart, and her serenity keeps us going even when we are down. Unfortunately, her oldest brother Svetislav (19) also has a problem. He went to a school for children with disabilities. In addition to the two of them, we have Bogdan (16) and Dijana (13) who thank God are healthy. To get to school, my children walk four kilometres each day to the main road where the bus picks them up – the mother adds.
The Jokić family lives in a nearly 50-year-old stone house. A strong earthquake which hit their area a couple of years ago, further damaged this deteriorating home.
The house we live in, as you can see, is in a catastrophic state. We patch it up as much as we can, but the cracks are still visible. Our furniture is completely worn – adds father Dragan who joined our conversation.
Dragan, unfortunately, has a pinched fifth vertebrae, and is not able to do heavy physical work, assuming there was work. Under these conditions, it is not easy to raise four children.
We are trying to farm a little land. We keep a cow, horse and seven sheep. Our big problem is an outstanding 1,400 Euro electricity bill. Our only guaranteed income is social assistance and child allowance which totals 192 Euros. We barely survive, so at the moment, we can’t even consider paying it off – says the father.
Proof that Velika residents are great people was witnessed in a project underway at the Jokićs. Dragan’s relatives and neighbours gathered to help him repair a wall. However, much more is needed to bring this house to a somewhat functional state. The roof needs to be replaced, the interior requires work, new carpentry and insulation need to be installed, and a new kitchen and completely new furniture are needed. Help with breeding animals, a tractor and mower would also be helpful.
Walking around the house with the heroine of our story, Nikolina, we learn that for now her mother is doing her homework for her. Nibbling on breadsticks, she revealed to us her one wish:
I don’t want to be cold.
Christmas symbolizes the birth of hope, and the mission of the Charity organization Serbs for Serbs, is to fulfill children’s wishes. It will take a lot of work to deliver Christmas magic into the life of little Nikolina.
Our plan is to help with the renovation of the Jokić home and with the purchase of furniture and agricultural machinery. To successfully realize this project, 10,000 Euros are needed. Let’s brighten Nikolina’s childhood and show Velika it has not been forgotten!
How can you help?