Saturday, December 25, 2010

"A Srebrenica Christmas: History Is What Happens To You"

Christmas Eve 2000, Eagle Base, Tuzla, Bosnia. The last few days prior to Christmas, I had been in a foul, indeed nearly blasphemous mood. The weather conditions in Tuzla had taken a turn for the worse: foggy and foul, thus precluding a hoped-for trip to cheerier climes. With my family back in the States, I had a remarkable opportunity to indulge in self-pity....

My friends at The American Thinker have very kindly published A Srebrenica Christmas: History Is What Happens To You, an article I published in 2000, about an expedition we took to an orphanage in a village called Lukavac near Tuzla, Bosnia, to deliver presents to war orphans. (The longer version of this can also be found here.)

Below are pictures we took in 2001, when we performed the same ceremony at the same place.

I dragooned a group of lower enlisted soldiers from Eagle Base to help me load vehicles. These kids–some of them carrying responsibilities far beyond their youthful years and low rank–worked the fields of the Lord in the Eagle Base bureaucracy. The vast majority almost never left the post.

This is Selo Mira, or Peace Village. This is the home of a hundred and forty-two Bosniac, Croat, and Serb children, orphans of war and castoffs from the Bosnian social care system. Two-thirds are Bosniacs--that is, Bosnian Muslims--from the Drina River valley on the border with Serbia. Of these, some thirty children are war orphans from Srebrenica.

Another thirty are other war orphans, the children of fathers killed in action and mothers dead, lost or incapable of caring for them alone. The remaining thirty-five or so children are shrugglingly referred to as 'social cases.' These are the children of the latest holocaust, and its ongoing aftermath.

This little ragamuffin is one of the 140 children at the Village.

Here, too, lives little Sabahoudin, age three.

Sled, Santa's, U.S. Army All Terrain.

Two of the older children welcome us to the town.

The little ones recite for us. Old-grey-hair to the left is, presumably, yours truly.

The Ladybug.

This is Srebrenica. The holes in the walls were *not* formed by wrecking balls.

The "Agricultural Warehouse" at Kravica, near Srebrenica: essentially a long, thin barn, the size of a half football field in length, about 20' deep--was once filled with 800 men. Then the Serbs filled it with bullets, killing all but two of the prisoners of war held there.

The warehouse is still standing, and the building is still filled with bullet holes. From the inside. It is a mystery why the shed has not been taken down: probably as a warning to other Bosniacs who might want to move back here.

The Srebrenica Morgue at Tuzla, October 2000. My first visit here. Each canvas bag to the right is a victim of the massacre.

"He's a Bosnian Muslim, thirty-five to forty years old. Judging by the dental work, he's working class or a laborer. The thigh and arm bones show signs that he was very muscular. The ribs are cracked in six places, and the tip of his hipbone is broken, so he may have been beaten. He was shot at close range through the back of the head."

The skeleton above may have had a daughter. Perhaps one of those in this picture.

Some old gasbag says thanks to the village for the opportunity to visit.

The felicitously named Specialist Paschal--who was accompanied that day by the equally felicitously named Sergeant Mass*--gives a gift to a tiny one.

A soldier sheds a tear.

Children waiting patiently.

Why We Served.

"History is what happened... to us."

*This story originally asserted that they were married; I have corrected this point. Memories blend and fade over time.


  1. The picture labeled as Staff Sergeant Paschal is incorrect. I was not a SSG at the time, I was a SPC. I wasn't married at the time either.

  2. My apologies. Memories blend after a time. Corrected. Good to hear from you. Hope all is well. RLK.


Keep it clean for gene.