It’s hard for me to explain Domaljevac, because this is the place where a red flower found life through the concrete in a place where time stopped in 1891. Or even earlier.
But look, in Domaljevac, there is only one house with a damaged façade from the last war, several unfinished houses and only a few with a natural line from the 2014 floods. Located in the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina, on one side of Domaljevac is Orasje, and in the opposite direction, is Bosnian Samac in Republika Srpska, just a ten minute drive. An hour away is Croatia, and independent Brcko District is also close by. So, looking at the division around this place, who exactly would help if they needed it?
But River Sava was flowing before my time, and that was the time when women went on dates in rubber boots and then men picked them up in canoes. The water did not disappear for half a year in the 70s.
I do not know if I’m sad for I was not in Domaljevac at the beginning of the last flood or that I was not born to witness rowing on dates!
In 2014, we dealt with floods and surviving differently. That’s when I met Domaljevac and the locals who cleaned up their homes and town by themselves, without waiting for anyone’s help. And Domaljevac is the place where the water kept for the longest time during floods in BiH; it stayed for 20 days.
But this is also a place where, from the newly renovated Health Center, I saw a cow looking at me through the window. This is exactly the place where the waitress from the local cafe comes for a free IV because, she explains, she deserves it because she deals with patients daily, but not these from the Health Center, but from the cafe. And Café, located in Hotel Pauk, where we stay, is one comforting place for everyone, despite all the unusual people that make it look like time has stopped, because the truth is, those people are great friends of all of us.
That’s why it’s difficult for me to explain this place.
“Have you lost your way?” The driver in the bus for Orasje asked me the other day. “No, I’m going with you and then I’ll go to Domaljevac.” He says, “Oh, I’m from there.” And instantly, I answer, “I am too!”
Who wouldn’t be?
Though people with their suitcase full of life experiences, phases of life, come there, for outsiders, it is best to understand this place as some kind of a comedy. But under the roof of Hotel Pauk, is the place where people are actually real, and where the Catholic Nun and Muslim doctor, fought together for their people to survive the flood. Kristina, the chemist, her Cuban husband, and her parents, Miron from the Red Cross, and the many locals I met, fought and communicated with people from the EU’s global organisations for clean water. That is why underneath this roof, everything that separates people such as religion, nationality is not fount… And to be precise, the guy who talks to aliens while he drinks his coffee, is protected here the same way the doctor who prevented the place from the epidemic, the bartender, me, and even the smallest kitty that plays with Kristina’s daughter.
But then the waitress throws the cat, because it annoys her. But believe me, she’d flick anyone who tried to hurt this cat!
“You’re not crazy,” says young Marko. “And yet, you are really are,” looking at the doctor, me and our team who met again after several years. And the laugh lasts for several hours and I never want to leave this place!
I do not know if it there was one time that the rainbow didn’t await me upon my entrance to Domaljevac. I also do not know if there was one visits not accompanied by the rain. And I do not know if there is a religious institution that accepts people and doesn’t judge them as much the people under the roof of Pauk!
It may seem like the time is still here, but when I come to Domaljevac, I see the biggest sunflowers and flowers growing from the asphalt. They are symbolically beautiful and strong. And it tells me, they’d survive thousands of floods more..