The Kindness of Enemies

Survivors from Yugoslavia's wars remember the people who saved their lives

| July-August 2002

During several years of traversing the war zones in Bosnia, Croatia, and Serbia, Belgrade physician Svetlana Broz gathered stories: stories of terror and death, but also stories of people aided or rescued by their supposed ethnic enemies.

A.S. (Muslim) 

The horrible conflict in this town between the Croats and Muslims started for me on June 30, 1993, although objectively speaking, it had begun a month and a half earlier. On that day in June, on the west side of town, all Muslims from the ages of 16 to 65 were transported to a camp. Due to my first name and surname, which couldn’t be identified as belonging to a particular religion, as well as my place of birth, I wasn’t included in this roundup. I stayed in my flat, but I didn’t know whether to be relieved or not. That was the most horrible night of my life. Screaming and moaning could be heard as children and wives were left without their fathers, sons, and husbands. I don’t know how I managed to get through the night. I left my flat in the morning, hoping I could reach the hospital where I worked; I knew I couldn’t stay hidden waiting for another knock on the door. But as soon as I stepped outside I came upon a painful sight—I was surrounded by members of the Croatian Defense Council Forces. Many of them were neighbors, young men I saw every day. I stood in my tracks, numbly waiting to be arrested, but nothing happened.

It seemed like an eternity before I saw a neighbor unlocking his car door. He noticed me and took the key out, as though he were coming over to me; but then he turned back. I stood speechless, giving no sign that I expected help.

He made the decision himself: He approached me and said, "What are you doing here?"

"I’m going to work," I muttered.