The boy Dragan, the only child in the boarder village of Tiškovac: "I play with dogs, chickens and cats!"

Dragan Vladušić is a four-year-old boy and he is the only child in the village of Tiškovac, which is located in the border area between Bosnia and Herzegovina and Croatia, 18 kilometres from Bosansko Grahovo by a macadam road. His father Jovo recalls the time when the village had a school, which he also attended.

“There were 120 of us who finished the eighth grade at the time; the school was full of children. Our first neighbour had 18 children, Miloš had 14 children, my father had 12 of us. The Una railroad, which is now a border with Croatia, was passing through the village, it was the Bihać-Split line, and the station was always full. We were the busiest railway station after Vinkovci. We had three cafés, three shops and a discount store! Everyone in the village was working – some at the Railway, others at the screw factory. There was only one person unemployed”, tells us Jovo.  For example, this year, only 191 children entered the first grade in the entire Livno municipality; and there are 21 villages from which there is not a single child going to school.

Vladušić family is one of only 15 families currently living in the border village of Tiškovac, to which they returned in 2004. The other part of the village across the railway is in Croatia, and Jovo says that the village was administratively divided among four municipalities – Grahovo, Knin, Lapac and Drvar, even before.

“The people are getting older and older. Every family has two members. We are the largest in number – we are as many as three”, says Jovo, while the boy, Dragan, is playing with the dogs. His nearest company are four little girls in the village of Strmica, which is in Croatia. Mother Drenka and father Dragan say that he still loves to play at home the most. We asked Dragan what his favourite game was.

“I play with dogs, chicken and cats”, he answers briefly and takes us from one dog to another. His dad Jovo says that wolves have killed four of their hounds since their return in 2004.

“We are not afraid of the wolves. They show up from time to time, like everywhere else. I worry about the snakes the most, they are many”, says Jovo, and then Dragan 'takes us over'.

“Take a photo of Rocky! Max is over there; take a photo of him, too! Come here, take a photo of this one and of that tomcat there...”, Dragan is taking us around the front yard, and then shows us how skilfully he can cross the bridge made of a single plank that leads across a little stream to the house of the Vladušić family. He goes to let the hens out of the henhouse into the front yard and then shows us some of his favourite plush toys and wants us to photograph them, too.  

“He likes to play outside the most. He rarely watches TV, only some cartoons and animal programmes. When we take him to town, he does not want to eat pizza and other fast food, because he prefers homemade food”, tells us his mother Drenka. Besides eating healthy homemade food, the Vladušić family have water that comes straight from the spring, and they get electricity from five solar panels installed next to the house.

“It is enough for the TV, the bulbs and the freezer”, says Jovo.

You can reach Tiškovac by a longer, but better road through Croatia or a shorter, but rougher road (18 kilometres of macadam road) from Bosansko Grahovo, which we took by an all terrain vehicle of the Red Cross mobile team, which has been established within a three-year project “Applying the Human Security Concept to Stabilize Communities in Canton 10”, financed by the UN Trust Fund for Human Security and implemented by the UN agencies in BIH – UNDP, UNICEF, IOM and UNHCR.  

The task of the teams, besides delivery of humanitarian aid, food and hygiene packages, is to provide primary medical care to the elderly and sick persons, as well as to the people in social need.  

The focus is also on the health state and wellbeing of children, early growth and development and detection of possible difficulties - a medical nurse makes an evaluation and, if needed, recommends to the parents to take the child for a medical check to one of the doctors or to the professional medical team established in Livno within the Project. In these cases, the mobile team also provides transportation, if the children live in remote villages.  

Nenad Đurić from the Red Cross is driving us to Tiškovac, and we are accompanied by Marija Habek, a medical nurse from Health Centre Drvar and a member of one of the mobile teams.  

According to his mother Drenka, Dragan is in a good health state. He is insured via the unemployment bureau, has been vaccinated on regular basis and has had no serious medical difficulties. Marija talks to Drenka and Dragan, checks the vaccination card and recommends to the parents to take the boy to Livno for a preventive medical check.

“He appears healthy and strong, but it would be good for him to be checked by a speech pathologist. It would also not be bad for him to be checked by the professional medical team, since you already have that possibility”, recommends Marija.

“Why not?! Dragan's health is important to us. We took him to all regular vaccinations, and since we already have that opportunity, I would be glad to have him checked by the professionals”, says his mother Drenka, who is still worried the most about how she will make it possible for Dragan to attend the mandatory preschool programme next year, and after that the school.  

“Dragan needs company. We take him to the town at last once in 10 or 15 days. We have managed to get the border papers, so that we can go to Knin sometimes. Recently, we went to visit our relatives in Belgrade. He behaved well, both in the bus and on the street, where there were many people. We took him to a zoo”, says Drenka, but adds that he would socialise the best in kindergarten and in school:

“It is my wish for Dragan to have everything that other children have. We have talked to the people in the Municipality. There is a possibility that they would allocate us an apartment in Bosansko Grahovo, where I could stay with him while he is going to school, and Jovo would stay in the village, because someone has to take care of the cattle and work the fields.”

The Vladušićs are unemployed, they have no regular income, but they still could not get the child benefit. Jovo says that in addition to the sheep, it would be very good for them to have a cow. He is not sure if he will manage to get an apartment for Dragan to be able to go to school, but he is still an optimist.

“We have a wish and I believe that something will be arranged by then, so that Dragan can go to school. He will not stay uneducated”, Jovo is convinced.

Things are a little livelier in Tiškovac during the summer, because its former inhabitants come to visit, relatives and some who have built holiday homes, so that they can rest in peace and quiet. Jovo says he still likes it the most during the winter, while Dragan is looking forward to the forthcoming visit of his cousin Nikola, with whom he plays.  
“A mathematics and physics teacher from Pula also has a holiday home here and I believe he will manage to teach Dragan something when he comes for vacation”, says Jovo. Marija has finished her part of work. Nenad, who during his visits as a mobile team member helps the families with elderly members with house choirs, has no work to do at the Vladušićs', so we say goodbye to the Vladušić family and head to Bosansko Grahovo by the macadam road...

“The family is oriented towards the wellbeing of the child, and that is positive. It is good that regardless of the remoteness they are committed to having the boy regularly vaccinated. They have agreed to the medical check and it will be useful for him to be checked by the professional medical team, but also for the parents to get the necessary information”, tells us Marija after the examination. She says that the mobile teams have identified 50 children so far who are visited, whose situation is evaluated and, depending of the need, professional medical checks are recommended and provided, regardless of whether the children have health insurance.

“Unlike Dragan, who has been immunised and medically insured, a large number of children we encounter have not. Recently, during a visit to a place near Drvar, we came across a two-year-old child who had never been registered with the health centre, who was uninsured and who was vaccinated only at birth and never again, but now it will finally get the full medical care”, tells us Marija.