Lazar’s Story: An Update, 2014

 

Some great news — while staying with Lazar’s uncle this summer, we learned that Lazar’s family is eligible to receive compensation from the Croatian government for the years a squatter lived in their house after they fled. Croatia was originally offering two types of compensation for citizens who lost their houses due to the war: firstly, funds to renovate looted/damaged houses and secondly, rent back-payments for those homeowners who ended up with squatters living in their homes rent-free. Unfortunately it seems the first type of compensation has ceased due to a lack of government funds, but the second type is still available.

Lazar’s family actually has two houses in Orlić, the village outside Knin where he grew up. We visited both this summer. The first is his grandfather’s house: a tiny, traditional stone farmhouse set in a complex of extended family members’ stone houses. Lazar lived here until he was 12. Today, the paths between the buildings are thick with stinging nettles, the house’s floorboards almost rotted through, the surrounding homes largely empty. Not much to renovate there.

The second house is the one Lazar’s parents were building when the war started, the one the squatter lived in. It’s a large, modern house and Lazar’s family lived in it for a time, but didn’t get a chance to complete it. The water has never been connected, the outside never painted. When we visited it this summer, we discovered the place filled with items left by the squatter: old clothes and an army uniform, porno magazines, mismatched secondhand furniture. The front yard is even more overgrown than the old house’s. Before beginning any renovations, we’d need to hire a slasher just to clear the yard. But structurally, the building is fine. So while the compensation won’t be much, it should be enough to make the house livable again. Selling it is pointless — house prices are abysmal around Knin — yet it would be great to be able to keep it as a family holiday house. Who knows, perhaps one day our kids will choose to use it as a base for backpacking around Europe!

It’s interesting to compare the photo I took outside the new house in the winter of 2000  (see bottom of page) with those below, taken in the summer of 2014.