Jany Hansal was living in Croatia when the war of independence broke out in 1991. At the time, the Yugoslav People’s Army and the Serbian population strongly opposed the Croatian push toward independence, resulting in the conflict that led to thousands of deaths and nearly half a million internal refugees. Jany was moved by the suffering of the Croatian people. Women in particular were hard hit by the war, often losing both husbands and property. Jany tried to find ways to make their lives more bearable.
In 1993 in the city of Dubrovnik, Jany Hansal founded DESA, an organization for Croatian women who had been driven from their homes. It helped them deal with loneliness and depression by occupying their hands and minds with embroidery and sewing. Using fabrics provided by humanitarian aid organizations, they created traditional clothing and woven goods as a way of holding on to the their Croatian culture. After the war, Jany continued to encourage people to showcase their culture and rebuild their country through tourism.