Budo Heder knows about flooding. His Cedar Rapids store, Downtown Tailoring, filled with water during the Flood of 2008.
But the devastation wrought by the Cedar River is nothing compared to what he recently watched happen in his homeland of Bosnia.
Bosnia and Herzegovina, along with the other Balkan countries of Serbia and Croatia, experienced massive flooding in May. Officials said three months worth of rain fell on the region in three days, leading to the worst flooding since rainfall measurements began 120 years ago.
Tens of thousands of people were evacuated, and at least two dozen people have died.
As Cedar Rapids residents know all too well, flood recovery is a lengthy and difficult process.
Heder’s shop, at 203 Second St. SE, reopened after the 2008 flood. But rebuilding will be more difficult for Bosnia than it was for Iowa, Heder said, due to pre-existing economic problems and the sheer amount of flooded land — about a third of the country.
“They are now on their knees over there,” Heder said. “What happens after this?”
Iowa has a significant Bosnian community, particularly in the Waterloo area, where many people resettled after fleeing war in the former Yugoslavia in the 1990s.
Heder and his family moved to Cedar Rapids in 1993.
People on the ground in Bosnia have said in news reports the destruction wrought by this flood is comparable with the damage from the 1992-1995 war. Of particular danger are landslides fed by the heavy rain have shifted land mines.
“The civil war recovery efforts were still going on,” said Adis Fazlic, a native Bosnian who lives in Waterloo. “There’s not a really strong economy over there, and now this happens.”
As the rebuilding process starts, the Bosnian community in Iowa is banding together and looking for ways to help. Its members are asking their neighbors to join them.
Fazlic worked with Blu Collar Fashion, an Iowa City-based clothing company, to create shirts with the logo #Pray4Bosnia. He and friends run a Facebook page with over 24,000 followers focused on Bosnian-language videos and gifts.
They leveraged the site to sell the shirts. They’ve sold out two orders and are planning to make more.
Proceeds from the shirts are being donated to the Red Cross of Bosnia. Other fundraising efforts across the state include things small and big, from a raffle sale led by seventh-graders at Waterloo’s Central Middle School to a GoFundMe.com campaign organized by native Bosnian Amina Nuhanovic, of Des Moines, which has brought in over $88,000 in donations.
“We were really just looking for ways to help out,” Fazlic said. “Basically everyone that was affected by the flood lost everything.”
WAYS TO HELP
•#Pray4Bosnia T-shirts: $15, with proceeds to the Red Cross Society of Bosnia and Herzegovina. Order at http://www.blucollarfashion.com/community#!community/c1h1b or call (319) 830-2795.
•Des Moines-based GoFundMe campaign: http://www.gofundme.com/98iwck
l Comments: (319) 398-8434; firstname.lastname@example.org