On International Mine Awareness Day, the Sarajevo Times celebrates the work of a woman who has devoted the last twenty years of her life to mine action in Bosnia and Herzegovina.
Marija Trlin began working in mine action in the year 2000 in the field of donor relations, before later joining the Mine Detection Dog Centre where she continues her work today. Her job sees her assisting and empowering victims of mine injury, and keeping citizens safe through mine risk education.
A meaningful vocation
Bosnia and Herzegovina is one of the most mine-afflicted nations worldwide, with approximately 79,000 mines and unexploded ordnance remaining from the 1992-1995 aggression.
Mine-contaminated micro locations span across over a thousand square kilometres of the state, putting the safety of more than half a million inhabitants of Bosnia and Herzegovina at risk of mine casualty.
Ms. Trlin told the Sarajevo Times that while her job at the Mine Detection Dog Centre also includes an administrative component, her field duties and direct engagement with mine-affected communities and individuals is what makes it a fulfilling role.
“You are an administrative worker, but you also go on the field and you meet people…and when you see people who are living ten meters away from a minefield and how grateful they are after you do the Demining….you feel like you’re doing a good, worthwhile job,” she explained.
Ms. Trlin also said that being able to see children and families become safe as a result of demining efforts is significant for her.
“I cannot imagine my child living in a minefield or close to a minefield…or put in that danger…so when you know that they are going to be living freely and safely and that their kids are not going to live close to a minefield [anymore]…it’s meaningful,” she said.
“I love to protect other kids and other adults.
Mine victim assistance is an emotionaly demanding job
Ms. Trlin told the Sarajevo Times that while mine victim support is the most rewarding part of the job, it is also the hardest due to the associated emotional demands of the work.
“Helping survivors, that fulfills me as a person,” Ms. Trlin began.
“You cannot imagine how many people out there need help, and you cannot hear them, you just have to go inside and try to reach them, and that’s what we do through schools and working around the communities…and then you hear about somebody, and you knock on their door,” she explained.
If a person survives a mine injury, they are often left without one or more body parts.
“Every story that I get from a mine survivor is really sometimes too emotional for me, and we [the survivor and I ] kind of spend a couple of hours sitting in a car crying together,” Ms . Trlin said.
According to the director of the Mine Detection Dog Centre Nermin Hadzimujagic, when Ms. Trlin conducts home visits with mine survivors, she often returns to the office moved to tears by what she has heard.
“Marija very often visits those people, and always she comes back very touched and usually she cries when she hears those sad stories.”
Mr Hadzimujagic told the Sarajevo Times that he thinks it is the emotion-provoking element of the job that provides mine victim support workers with the energy to keep going.
“That’s really what gives us some strength to continue with this,” he said.
Working with mine victims causes self-reflection
Ms. Trlin said that working with mine victims who are highly physically active upon receiving the prosthesis
her organisation provides, leads her to think about her own able-body.
“We helped some sportsmen who ride bicycles and they do a lot of things more than I do, and I feel ashamed”, she revealed.
Ms. Trlin said that one mine victim she had provided assistance for who was missing both legs, had asked her if she had climbed a mountain that he himself had climbed with the help of his prosthesis, prompting her to reflect on her own life.
“He’s doing hunting, bicycle riding, he’s doing boxing…I have both legs and he has none, and he does all of that….and I do nothing,” said Ms. Trlin.
“I sometimes feel ashamed, like, why am I even complaining about anything?” she added.
Ms. Trlin told the Sarajevo Times she has developed bonds with all of the mine survivors she has worked with, and that the friendship is “very valuable” to her.
“I don’t know..I could not see myself not doing this [job],” she concluded.
Written by Miya Yamanouchi for the Sarajevo Times