Healing Hands

Much like the mythical bird that rises from the ashes, members of Sarajevo Phoenix are rising from the devastation of the 1992-1995 war in the former Yugoslavia. The 17-person embroidery cooperative is comprised of Croatians, Muslims, and Serbians who are attempting to heal the wounds of despair, bitterness, and loss through the work of their hands.

The group—originally all women—formed in the fall of 1997; at that time they were all unemployed. Some existed on miniscule pensions. But each woman had learned to embroider at the feet of her mother and grandmother. Now the 16 women and 1 man meet in program director Bela Sejdic’s home, and in their own homes, to produce altar cloths, liturgical stoles, and wall hangings. Each person who cuts and sizes, designs, and embroiders represents the rich diversity of Bosnia-Hercegovina; each believes in a multi-ethnic Bosnia.

The cooperative formed with the help of Hands Raised Together (HaRT), a ministry associated with Church of the Saviour in Washington, D.C. Although the program’s goal calls for self-sufficiency, HaRT currently subsidizes Sarajevo Phoenix’s embroidery work. Members are paid $20 for a stole, for example, that HaRT contracts to sell for $12.50; HaRT pays the cooperative $12 to create a wall hanging that is sold for $6.50. Considering that many of the women’s pensions amount to only $40 a month, they can create three to four stoles and wall hangings and triple their monthly incomes.

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Sojourners Magazine November-December 1999
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