Last weekend there was an amazing interview in Fréttatíminn with a Bosnian woman named Ranka Inga Studic who came to Iceland in 1998. Reporters from RÚV went to Bosnia and happened to interview her for Kastljós – a harrowing interview, in which she described the conditions in which she lived. An Icelandic woman who lived in Bolungarvík, on the West Fjords, saw the interview, and decided to help Ranka come to Iceland, if that was what she wanted. She did, and a couple of years later, her husband joined her. They now live in Kópavogur.
However, that is not the most remarkable part of her story. Before all this happened, in 1991, Ranka became pregnant. There were complications, and she was admitted to hospital where she was told she had to stay until the baby was born. She knew that a war had started in Croatia, but never thought it would come to Sarajevo, where the hospital was located.
But the war did come. It came closer and closer, and more and more of the hospital staff began to flee the area. In the end Ranka decided to go, too. By this time she was heavily pregnant. She made it to her mother’s house, who decided it would be best for her to go to stay with her aunt, who lived in Jagodina, which is now in Serbia.
Arriving at her aunt’s place, she was taken to a hospital, where she soon went into labour. A midwife arrived and took a blood sample, saying that for some reason they needed to know the blood group of the baby. Ranka was all alone at the hospital, the hospital staff were hostile towards her, and she was scared.
The baby was born, and was immediately taken away. Ranka said she could hear it cry, but very faintly. She was told that it was premature, and some papers were brought for her to sign, allegedly so the baby could be treated. She signed, was given an injection, and fell asleep.
She was kept asleep with injections for an undisclosed period of time. Every now and again she woke up and was told that her baby was sick and that they were trying to treat it. Once she came to from her drugged state as someone was pumping milk from her breasts, and she heard someone say, “100 ml is plenty.”
One day she decided to wait until it was dark. She unplugged herself from all the machinery in the hospital room and headed down the hall to the nursery. A midwife saw her and started shouting at her. Another quickly arrived with a syringe which she stuck right through Ranka’s clothing to give her an injection.
Eventually she was told that her baby had died, as it had been a premie. Her mother, who by this time had arrived in Jagodina, asked to see the baby, but was told that it was not possible. She tried to get information about what was going on, but received a lot of conflicting information from the hospital staff. Eventually she simply took Ranka away.
Cut to three years ago, when Ranka – at home in Kópavogur – receives a phone call out of the blue. The woman on the other end addresses her in her own language, and begins by stating that she had given birth to a child at the hospital in question on July 7, 1992 at 6 pm. Ranka is stunned, and asks the woman how she knows this. The woman tells her that for 17 years this matter has weighed on her conscience, then adding: “Your son is alive.” She tells Ranka that her son’s name is Ratko and that he had been sold to a wealthy family in Switzerland. She then hung up, so that Ranka couldn’t ask her the thousands of questions she says she had.
As it happens, hundreds of parents have come forward in the former Yugoslavia in recent years claiming that their children were abducted from neonatal wards throughout the country. Apparently there was a “baby mafia” operating there for decades, that stole children and sold them abroad. Some of those children were later found; others have never been found.
Since then, Ranka has been searching for her son. She has added anyone she could find on Facebook with the name Ratko who is living in Switzerland and who is around 20 years of age. She’s also been in touch a journalist in Serbia who has written about the baby abductions, hoping she will interview her.
And so, I’m posting this here because a) it’s an incredible story and b) maybe someone reading this will pass it on to someone who will pass it on to someone else who may have some information. The chances aren’t phenomenal, but who knows. Miracles happen.
Update: Ranka has been in touch [see comments] and asks anyone who may have information about Ratko to email her. Thanks!
NB: when I first posted this, I mistakenly wrote that the son’s name is Ranto. That is wrong – his name is Ratko. Totally my bad.
[pic of Ranka borrowed from Fréttatíminn]