Wales

Bosnian War family's thanks to Gwynedd woman 22 years on

Lowri Owain Glyn as a child Image copyright Lowri Owain Glyn
Image caption Lowri Owain Glyn sent this photo of herself in the shoebox

A woman who sent a box of gifts to a family from Montenegro during the Bosnian War has been tracked down and thanked by them 22 years later.

Lowri Owain Glyn, now 28, from Bangor, Gwynedd, was shocked when she was traced through Facebook by those she had helped.

They told her how grateful they were to get the Operation Christmas Child box.

The charity believes it could be the first time social media has helped unite a sender and receiver.

Growing up in Ruthin, Denbighshire, Mrs Glyn said the horrors of the Bosnian War were lost on her.

All she knew when she packed the Operation Christmas Child shoebox with toys, a toothbrush, toothpaste and a picture of herself was that she would be helping a child in need.

"Being six I wasn't really aware of what was going on in Bosnia. I think I knew there was a war but didn't really understand," she said.

"I was sort of aware the box was going to help other children in difficult situations."

Image copyright Lowri Owain Glyn
Image caption Mrs Glyn hopes to travel to Sweden to meet the family in the future

She said she thought no more of it - until she received a message on Facebook earlier this month.

"I just got this message from a lady I didn't know with this picture of me as a child saying 'hello, is this you?'," she said.

"I said 'yes'. I thought it might be someone I'd met on a holiday as a child and gave my name and picture to."

It turned out the woman who had got in touch - Anesa Avdic Dzinalic - was married to Mirzet Dzinalic, the little boy who received the shoebox in Montenegro.

Together with his sister, Safida Dzinalic-Dedic, who was 12 at the time, they were so grateful for the unexpected gift that they kept the photograph of the little girl who had sent it.

Crucially, she had written her name on the back of it.

It was taken with them in their family album when they later moved to Sweden.

Image copyright Lowri Owain Glyn
Image caption Mrs Glyn wrote her name and age on the back of the photo

"When Anesa - and then Safida - got in touch, I was quite emotional about it," said Mrs Glyn, who is now married with two young daughters.

"The first thing I thought was how amazing it was that they'd kept the picture and also that they had traced me on Facebook as they only knew me by my maiden name.

"I got talking to them and found out more about what I'd packed in the box as I couldn't remember. A Mickey Mouse puzzle, a toothbrush and my picture with my name written on the back...

"Safida said they didn't have much stuff back then and they really appreciated the things in the box. The fact they traced me shows that."

Image copyright Facebook / Safida
Image caption Safida Dzinalic-Dedic had kept the picture sent by Mrs Glyn

Now a primary school teacher at Ysgol y Gymraeg Dewi Sant in Rhyl, Mrs Glyn plans to tell her pupils about her shoebox experience when she returns after maternity leave before Christmas.

"Our school still takes part in Operation Christmas Child so I will tell the children how you never know when these things pop up again and how you are really helping people," she added.

She also hopes to travel to Sweden to meet the family in future.

Operation Christmas Child - the Samaritan's Purse campaign which helps people send shoeboxes of toys and supplies to children in need around the world - said Mrs Glyn's story was quite unique.

"Many people include short letters and photographs of themselves, a good number of those packing and receiving the shoeboxes become close pen-friends, and we often have 'full circle' stories where children who received a shoebox become packers themselves," a spokesman said.

"But I've never heard of someone finding the packer through social media in that way."

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