Natalie CastañedaComment

Bosnian lake dries out, memories revisited

Natalie CastañedaComment
Bosnian lake dries out, memories revisited

Hajrudin Kadric never expected to see where his childhood home stood ever again.

Kadric's home was in one of about 20 villages that were submerged to make an artificial lake nearly a half-century ago to feed a hydroelectric power plant in southern Bosnia.

But now Ramsko Lake is practically drained because of an exceptionally dry and cold winter, which prompted a sharp increase in electricity production. As a result, crumbled houses and cracked tombstones have been exposed after the lake's waters vanished.


In this photo taken on Thursday, Feb. 16, 2017, Hajrudin Kadric sits on a stone in the drained Ramsko Lake, near the Bosnian town of Rama, 130 kms south of Sarajevo. Kadric never expected to see where his childhood home stood ever again. His home was in one of about 20 villages that were submerged to make an artificial lake nearly a half-century ago to feed a hydroelectric power plant in southern Bosnia, but the lake has been practically drained because of an exceptionally dry and cold winter, which prompted a sharp increase in electricity production. ( AP Photo/Amel Emric)


For Kadric and others, it's a unique chance to revisit their childhood stomping grounds and return to see what remains of their homes.

"I remember people speedily abandoning our village," Kadric said, recalling the days in 1968 when he and his friends had been forced to part ways. "Every day someone was crying as yet another family would leave."

Nearly 2,000 people were forced to move to make way for the lake. Residents were given several months to leave their homes and move to different towns across Bosnia where authorities provided them with accommodation.

The power plant fed by the lake now produces an average of 650 gigawatt-hours of electricity per year.

The emerald green waters have been temporarily replaced by a trickle of people traversing the lake's exposed muddy floor, some responding to a strong sense of nostalgia and others excited by the rare experience.


In this photo taken on Thursday, Feb. 16, 2017 the drained bottom of the Ramsko Lake is reflected in water, near the Bosnian town of Rama, 130 kms south of Sarajevo. Ramsko Lake is practically drained because of an exceptionally dry and cold winter, which prompted a sharp increase in electricity production. As a result, crumbled houses and cracked tombstones, of the villages that were abandoned when this artificial lake was produced nearly 50 years ago, have been exposed after the lake’s waters vanished. (AP Photo/Amel Emric)


"We usually swim in this lake, but now — strangely — we get to walk on its bottom," Marin Juric, a 16-year-old exploring the almost completely dried lake with his friends, said with a grin.

Local teenagers climb atop what remains of a village mosque, which residents say was at least 300 years old when it was submerged, and wander among old graves.

On the other hand, 79-year-old Ivan Baraban described past times that were "much better, much happier and filled with song."

"People used to gather to mow the meadows together and sing," Baraban said. "We were content to work the land."

Baraban and Kadric conceded that the old times were gone and said they were grateful that the emptying of the lake had at least provided them with a short glimpse of their fondly remembered past.


In this photo taken on Thursday, Feb. 16, 2017 remains of graves at the local cemetery lie at the bottom of the drained Ramsko Lake, near the Bosnian town of Rama, 130 kms south of Sarajevo. The artificial lake was made nearly 50 years ago, in what was at that time a fertile valley, and nearly 2,000 people had to forsake their ancestral homes. Half a century later, the remains of their crumbled houses and cracked tombstones of their elders have been exposed as most of the lake has vanished following an exceptionally cold and dry winter. ( AP Photo/Amel Emric)


Others got a peek at what the area used to look like before the creation of the lake.

"People of my generation do not remember what this valley looked like before," said Franjo Ilicic, a local resident in his early 40s. "We know what the lake looks like and we hope it will be back in all its beauty soon."

Ilicic's wish should soon be granted when spring rains and the melting snow from the surrounding mountains start refilling the lake.

The waters, usually up to 95 meters (around 300 feet) deep, will again submerge the graves of the generations who lived and died in the lost villages. And the hubbub of summer visitors to the picturesque lake will return.

After walking around large piles of stones standing where his old school and family home used to be, Kadric said he felt a strong if irrational desire to return and live again in the place where he was born, started school and made his first friends.

"I know it can happen only in my imagination, but that does not kill the desire," he said.


In this photo taken on Thursday, Feb. 16, 2017 a man works at the bottom of the drained Ramsko Lake, near the Bosnian town of Rama, 130 kms south of Sarajevo. Ramsko Lake is practically drained because of an exceptionally dry and cold winter, which prompted a sharp increase in electricity production. As a result, crumbled houses and cracked tombstones, of the villages that were abandoned when this artificial lake was produced nearly 50 years ago, have been exposed after the lake’s waters vanished. (AP Photo/Amel Emric)

 

In this photo taken on Thursday, Feb. 16, 2017 an abandoned boat lies the bottom of the drained Ramsko Lake, near the Bosnian town of Rama, 130 kms south of Sarajevo. The artificial lake made nearly a half-century ago to feed a hydroelectric power plant in southern Bosnia, is practically drained because of an exceptionally dry and cold winter, which prompted a sharp increase in electricity production. ( AP Photo/Amel Emric)

 

In this photo taken on Thursday, Feb. 16, 2017 the remains of grave stones are scattered on the ground of the drained Ramsko Lake, near the Bosnian town of Rama, 130 kms south of Sarajevo. The artificial lake was made nearly 50 years ago, in what was at that time a fertile valley, and nearly 2,000 people had to forsake their ancestral homes. Half a century later, the remains of their crumbled houses and cracked tombstones of their elders have been exposed as most of the lake has vanished following an exceptionally cold and dry winter. (AP Photo/Amel Emric)

 

In this photo taken on Thursday, Feb. 16, 2017 the remains of a road and mosque at the bottom of the drained Ramsko Lake, near the Bosnian town of Rama, 130 kms south of Sarajevo. (AP Photo/Amel Emric)

In this photo taken on Thursday, Feb. 16, 2017 the remains of a house lay at the bottom of the drained Ramsko Lake, near the Bosnian town of Rama, 130 kms south of Sarajevo. When artificial Ramsko Lake was filled nearly 50 years ago villages in what was at that time a fertile valley slipped from sight. Half a century later, the remains of their crumbled houses and cracked tombstones of their elders have been exposed as most of the lake had vanished following an exceptionally cold and dry winter. ( AP Photo/Amel Emric)

 

In this photo taken on Thursday, Feb. 16, 2017 remains of a mosque lie at the bottom of the drained Ramsko Lake, near the Bosnian town of Rama, 130 kms south of Sarajevo. The artificial lake was made nearly 50 years ago, in what was at that time a fertile valley, and nearly 2,000 people had to forsake their ancestral homes. Half a century later, the remains of their crumbled houses and cracked tombstones of their elders have been exposed as most of the lake has vanished following an exceptionally cold and dry winter. ( AP Photo/Amel Emric)

 

In this photo taken on Thursday, Feb. 16, 2017 the remains of an old cemetery lies at the bottom of the drained Ramsko Lake, near the Bosnian town of Rama, 130 kms south of Sarajevo. ( AP Photo/Amel Emric)


 

Text from the AP news story, AP PHOTOS: Bosnian lake dries out, memories revisited, by Amel Emric.

Photos by Amel Emric

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