Djokovic reunites Balkans in flood aid campaign

Published on NewsOK Modified: May 22, 2014 at 11:10 am •  Published: May 22, 2014
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BELGRADE, Serbia (AP) — Novak Djokovic has achieved what no politician has managed since the bloody Balkan wars in the 1990s — he's gotten the former wartime enemies to pull together.

The world's No. 2 tennis player has sparked worldwide financial and media support for victims of the massive floods that have killed at least 45 people and left hundreds of thousands homeless in Serbia, Bosnia and Croatia.

The Serb has in the past triggered fury in the other former Yugoslav republics for what people considered nationalistic gestures, such as celebrating his victories with a three-finger victory sign that was used by Serb soldiers during their wartime campaigns in Croatia and Bosnia.

What has set Djokovic's flood campaign apart is that he also sought support for Bosnia and Croatia which were at war with Serbia. All three states still harbor a deep mutual hatred and distrust, 20 years after the wars ended and the former Yugoslavia split up into seven different countries.

"My heart is breaking when I see that so many people were evacuated and endangered in Bosnia! More than 950,000!!! Hold on brothers ... help will come from the world," Djokovic wrote on Twitter. "I also see that the east of Croatia is hit by floods ... I sincerely hope that it will not hit you like Serbia and Bosnia. Keep safe."

"Long live the people of former Yugoslavia. Let God be with you," he wrote, adding a map of the former Yugoslavia with the flags of now different countries.

The region's worst flooding in more than a century has triggered unprecedented regional solidarity in the Balkans, with the former Yugoslav countries sending rescue teams and humanitarian aid to each other over their borders.

After beating top-ranked Rafael Nadal in the final of the Masters tournament in Rome on Sunday, Djokovic donated all the prize money — about $500,000 — to the flood victims. His charity foundation collected another $600,000.