Braving wintry weather, Bosnian war refugees dodge sniper bullets, gather wood.

The causes of the former Yugoslavia’s year-long civil war are confusing. The international media tend to portray the war as religious and ethnic, with the Serbs as perpetrators. Diplomatic and foreign-service workers who have lived in that region, however, say it is unfair to blame all Serbs or to view this as an Orthodox (Serbian) versus Muslim (Bosnian) religious war.

Last month’s assassination of Bosnia’s deputy prime minister has damaged hopes for a swift settlement to the fighting. Since the conflict began, more than 17,000 people have been killed. There are one million refugees.

Journalist Lyn Cryderman recently traveled to the former Yugoslavia with Mercy Corps International, an ecumenical relief-and-development agency headquartered in Portland, Oregon. He filed this exclusive report:

I have been to refugee camps, but none like Gasinci in western Croatia. Winter has arrived, and at least half the camp’s population is living in crude, military tents.

There are no floors; no water—except a well a half-kilometer away; rats as big as small cats. With temperatures dropping, the race to cut and store wood consumes every able body. Despite meager resources and a daily influx of Bosnian refugees, Croatia’s arms stretch wide to receive them. If the United States had the same proportion of refugees as Croatia, there would be 17 million to care for. Those refugees not massacred—mostly old men and women, and children—escape to camps such as Gasinci. The younger girls are forced to serve the Serbian soldiers in “rape camps,” while men and intellectuals of soldier age are simply killed.

There is nothing clean or neat about ethnic cleansing.

A crowd gathers ...

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