Grief Upon the Earth

Sojourners staff member Elizabeth Holler participated in a 10-person delegation of Muslim, Jewish, and Christian leaders from the United States that visited Croatia December 9-18, 1992. The delegation made several fact-finding visits to camps for refugees, displaced persons, and newly released prisoners of war in the vicinity of Zagreb, as well as meeting with leaders of government, the United Nations, private relief agencies, and religious groups in the country.

- The Editors

Vukovar is dead.

So say the people who used to call it home. The once lovely Croatian city of 45,000, with baroque buildings and thriving ethnic diversity, is a casualty of war.

Rubble overwhelms the streets. Virtually every building was destroyed during the months Vukovar was under attack. Shadows of life and civilization hover on the skyline; stubby, stark tree trunks, some standing, some fallen, appear ready for a giant's game of pick-up sticks.

Like many besieged and fallen cities throughout Serbian-occupied territories in Croatia and Bosnia-Herzegovina, Vukovar's people are scattered. Vukovar was the first area of major fighting in the former Yugoslavia; many of its refugees, now in settlement camps in Zagreb, Croatia, vow that it will be the last as well.

"I fought for Vukovar -- for my home," says M., a 26-year-old man recently released from a Serbian prison camp. "Everything would be in vain if we don't return."

He lights a cigarette. This is his first interview after the long fight to defend Vukovar, and an even longer struggle to survive continual torture and beatings during nine months in the camp. His lean, muscular body is deceiving. For now, anyway, he has strong conviction but little fight left.

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