My HQ ARRC Families Bulletin article highlighting the plight of Bosnian children. Please read on…


by WO2(SQMS) Vic Ferguson AGC (SPS)

When I first met Hurmija Mujic in the Kosevo hospital in Sarajevo, she was sitting in her wheelchair, her face deadened with a combination of grief, loss and boredom.

Since that day in November 1995 I have forged an unusual bond with Hurmija and her family and have dedicated all of my spare time to helping her and other child victims of the war.  I have also recruited the help of many other soldiers and their families who have listened to my plea for help.

Hurmija was injured during the atrocities in Srebrenica, she avoided death – but she has good reason to envy the dead.  Since October 1994 when a piece of shrapnel severed her spinal cord she has been paralysed from the waist down.  She was evacuated to Sarajevo in November 1994.

Unable to control her bladder, she sat in soiled bedclothes in Sarajevo’s underfunded hospital for 18 months, missing her father and her two eldest brothers who were defending Srebrenica when it fell.  They are almost certainly lying in mass graves, victims of the massacre which took place there last July.

She had a completely lifeless expression, spoke only in monosyllables and never once looked me in the eye when I tried to talk to her.  The room stank.  That night I cried myself to sleep.


Since our depressing first meeting I have visited the hospital almost every night in an attempt to brighten up this sad little girl’s life.  On occasion, Hurmija has seemed almost to forget her burden and we have had great fun; sadly these events are few and far between and only last for a short while.

By the end of December 1995 I had been handed more than DM 4,000 by individual officers and soldiers who had heard Hurmija’s story and felt that they wanted to help.  These donations were completely unsolicited.  In January 1996 Petty Officer Phil Ball persuaded me that I should seek the support of the National press to publicise an appeal for funds to help Hurmija.  On the 15th January the Sun Newspaper in the UK first published an appeal.  This led to many offers of help and donations of cash, the fund raising had begun in earnest.  The Sun article was followed up by many other articles and TV/radio broadcasts in the international media.  By spreading the story of the child victims of the Balkans war an increased public awareness was achieved and more offers of help came flooding in together with  more donations.  I realise that there are many people in need of help at home but in life I feel that you must help wherever you can.

By mid-February Child Advocacy International, a UK-based charity, had been successful in securing a place for Hurmija in the Robert Jones & Agnes Hunt Spinal Unit in Oswestry.  The next three weeks were full of problems to be solved.  Transport, hotels, flights, visas specialist medical equipment and interpreters  to name but a few.

Professor David Southall, a senior paediatrician from Keele University, and founder of Child Advocacy International, flew out to Bosnia personally to assist in the evacuation.  To add to our difficulties, we were to take three more sick children and some family members from Tuzla, Mostar and Sarajevo to hospitals in Oswestry, Birmingham, London and Liverpool.  Each child suffering from serious but differing illnesses such as heart disease, intractable epilepsy and paralysis with ages ranging from 16 months to 14 years.  In all, we moved 17 Bosnian and Croatian nationals during the evacuation.

The trip took four days of travelling, a real worry because Adnan, a 16 month old boy, was so frail we were concerned that he would not survive the trip.  We left the Kosevo hospital in Sarajevo on Sunday 17 March 1996, just two months after the fund-raising began in earnest.  A great achievement that would not have been possible but for the outstanding generosity of the British public.

Our arrival at London Heathrow airport was covered by the international press.  This assisted further in raising public awareness of the plight of so many helpless children in Bosnia; the innocent victims of this senseless war.  After meeting Mr Tony Williamson, the Chairman of Lions Clubs International and talking to him about our struggle to raise funds at the airport the ‘Lions’ decided to donate a further £ 25,000.  This money will be used to evacuate a further two children, Muhamed Kovac, a 10 year old boy from Gorazde suffering from heart disease and Lejla Valjevcic, an 11 year old girl from Sarajevo who has a tracheostomy tube fitted in her throat that needs urgent attention after failed treatment  here in Sarajevo has resulted twice in respiratory arrests.  She would die without treatment.

The fund-raising and hospital visits will continue, as long as duty permits.  This work is so important and rewarding that it is almost like a drug; you get hooked!  My thanks go to everyone who has contributed in any way to this appeal, we would have been unable to assist these desperate children without your generosity.

Anyone reading this article who feels that they can help in any way should contact:

WO2(SQMS) Vic Ferguson

Coalition Press Information Centre Sarajevo

Holiday Inn

British Forces Post Office 543

Tel:  (00387) 71 417617

Fax:  (00387) 71 417600


Donations can be direct to:

TSB England & Wales

58 Station Road




Bank Sort Code:  771407

Account Number:  19180060




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