Bosnia village women don folk dresses on election day

KRALJEVA SUTJESKA, Bosnia-Herzegovina — In a small village in central Bosnia that once was home to the country's kings, women keep tradition alive by donning folk costumes on important days like Sunday's election.

The women of Kraljeva Sutjeska turned out to vote dressed in traditional village dresses and black head scarves, a style of dress that dates back centuries.

"We want to show our folk clothes, we want to keep it (tradition) alive," said Nevenka Vazgec, 62. "As long as I live the clothes will live."

Home to a Catholic monastery, an old mosque and a fortress, the village is considered a tourist attraction, but it has not escaped the fate of many other rural places that have virtually emptied since the 1992-95 war.

Out of 12,000 pre-war residents, only 1,000 remain in the village now. The women say they still hope people will return and revive the village despite the hardship of everyday life in Bosnia.

"Now everyone is gone," Ana Komso, 57, lamented.

"Our children are gone. I wish my children were here," she said. "I would be really happy if my children came back home."

Tens of thousands of Bosnians have left to look for a better life elsewhere because of unemployment and lack of hope. Divisive policies of nationalist politicians have held back the country's progress toward the European Union and NATO.

On Sunday, Bosnians voted in a presidential and parliamentary election in which voters may decide to turn their back to ethnic divisions and embrace change and reform.

Franciscan priest Zeljko Brkic said, "People are disappointed with everything politicians are doing, but they (women) hope this election will bring a better future."

"You see they are singing, wearing these folk clothes, they cherish the tradition," he said. "They happily come out and vote for officials whom they believe could bring better conditions."

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Jovana Gec contributed from Banja Luka, Bosnia-Herzegovina.

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