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01 May 1994 The Observer Page 26 Ed Vulliamy.pdf


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personal memories, were whispered, not spoken.
For those who were hit but lived on, there was East Mostar's
underground hospital. By autumn, some 600 operations had been
completed by the tireless staff, working round the clock in a small
room and in a precarious half-light which was every now and then
denied by a generator failure. We walked down past the anxious,
waiting relatives and soldiers with their girls, eager for news, into
cellars lined with rough beds and young nurses equipped with next to
nothing to mount their struggle against pain, death and desperation.
Arijana's eyes stared out with a stab of apprehension from her
beautiful, lacerated face. She was 11 years old, and confused beyond
reason. Half her head was shaven, and the locks of a little girl
flowed down on to the other shoulder. Shrapnel had been removed from
her brain and her left leg was amputated after a tank shell had
exploded near where she was playing one day. Then her stomach had
become swollen - bits of flying red-hot metal had dug their way in
there too. She was not little Irma from Sarajevo, so there would be no
airlift for her. Since the UN convoy, there had at least been some
anaesthetic, but before that there had been none. The underground
wards were full of horribly injured men, women and children, and the
latest severely wounded arrival lay bloodily on the operating table
for all to behold - an old man hit by the mortars that had fallen that
morning.
'We have taken 50 direct hits,' said Dr Dragan Milavic back in
September, 'including 10 tank shells in the last fortnight which
destroyed most of our medicines. The hospital is clearly marked, and
the Croatians know exactly what they are aiming at.' Pathetically, men
were that day busy sawing planks of wood and setting about trying to
repair the roof in anticipation of cold weather. 'Sometimes,' said Dr
Milavic, 'we send people up to try to replace the tiles, but the
snipers just fire on them.'
'Beirut', to the north, was now all but cut off from the centre of the
pocket, because there was too much open ground across which to sprint
through the relentless sniper fire. Young Adnan, sitting on a wall in
the town
centre, would have to sleep there that night. He came from 'Beirut' and was marooned from his
underground home he could not
consider attempting the dash since shrapnel cut into his legs after an
explosion the previous week. Cautious soldiers from the Government
Army advised that 'you'd have to be Linford Christie to make
it alive'.
Two girls were bringing up burned furniture from a ravaged house down
towards the river, preparing to make a new home in a cellar below the
centre of town. 'They come from 'Beirut',' said Adnan resignedly,
'quite a lot of people are moving down to be like sardines in this
tin. But what happens when the Croats come across the bridge and
really start to cook us?' He waves his crutch around the points of the
compass: 'Fascists to the north, south, east and west. We are a Muslim