“Such joy and happiness”: 74 refugee and displaced families receive keys to new homes in Tuzla, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Zrenjanin, Serbia

While the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic may have put pause to large Regional Housing Programme (RHP) ceremonies in recent months, the work of the Programme has continued undeterred in order to ensure the delivery of homes to its most-vulnerable beneficiaries during this time of acute need. In January 2021, there was cause for celebration in two RHP Partner Countries, as 34 beneficiary families in Tuzla, Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) and 40 families in Zrenjanin, Serbia, received keys to newly-constructed apartments. The cost of the construction works of the apartment building in Tuzla was approximately EUR 900 000, and EUR 950 000 in Zrenjanin.

In Zrenjanin, the mood was jubilant as a small ceremony took place on 11 January 2021 to mark the delivery of keys to the 40 beneficiary families. Congratulating the beneficiaries, the Mayor of Zrenjanin, Mr Simo Salapura, noted that the city had been proud to participate in the construction of the new apartments through the provision of land and infrastructure, in addition to water, sewage and electricity connections. In addition to the beneficiaries themselves, the ceremony was attended by Mr Vladimir Cucić, Commissioner for Refugees and Migration of the Republic of Serbia, and Ms Svetlana Palic, also from the Serbian Commissariat for Refugees and Migration (KIRS), amongst others.

In Tuzla, the absence of an official ceremony did not dim the significance of the moment for the residents of the new apartment complex, as they collected the keys to their new homes from the city administration in late January. Among the 34 families – mainly those who had been forced to leave their homes in the Eastern region of BiH during the war – was Ms Zejta Hamzabegovic, from Zvornik. Ms Hamzabegovic, a matriarch with 23 grandchildren and 31 great-grandchildren, noted that she had had to move between several homes in Tuzla over the last 18 years, and had recently struggled to pay rent from her monthly pension of 180 BAM (EUR 92). Marveling at her sudden good fortune, she laughed: “When the city administration told me to come and collect the keys, it felt like I had been reborn. I can’t believe that this is my new life.”

Another beneficiary, Ms Rahima Beganović, a single mother from Zvornik, also contrasted her good fortune with the hardships of recent years. During the war, she had lost her father and two brothers, and had found it difficult to raise a child alone, on a minimum income, and in a house full of damp. “After all the suffering that we have been through, my daughter and I finally have a dignified life,” she smiled.  “I am at a loss for words to thank the donors of the RHP who provided us with this beautiful apartment”. She added that she was also thrilled with her new refrigerator and washing machine, which had been installed in each apartment thanks to the EU-funded CARE project, implemented by the Igman Initative.

This sentiment was echoed in the words of the Mehidić family, who had also fled their home in Zvornik, after which they had lived in four different old and damaged houses. “When we heard that we would receive an apartment, I was full of joy and happiness because we had never had a new and such a beautiful apartment,” exclaimed Fatima Mehidić, with tears in her eyes. “I am glad that our two sons will have their own room. I thank the EU and other donors for giving us this beauty!

The RHP aims to provide approximately 11 800 homes to most-vulnerable refugee and displaced families across the Western Balkans. The main Donor to the Programme is the European Union, followed by other key Donors, namely the United States of America, Germany, Norway, Switzerland and Italy.


  • 5 Feb, 2021
  • Jovan

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