Exactly 20 years ago, 1993. the Army of Republika Srpska had accepted, feed, healed and settled thousands of Croatian soldiers and civilians who were fleeing from central Bosnia due to Bosnian Muslim offensive.Pressed by the offensive of so-called Amy of Bosnia and Herzegovina, – vehemently supported by the infamous Mujaheddin squads – the Croats from Upper Vakuf, Bugojno, Travnik and all places and villages from the area decided to seek salvation among Serbs, who were considered until then and later, their enemy.
“In summer 1993. about 1,520 people, of whom 450 Croatian Military personnel arrived to our positions in Komar. The first night one man came out; it was the commander of a HVO unit, with his wife and two children. He was seriously ill, with inflammation of the spleen, and his wife was pregnant. She delivered in Banja Luka,” says Nedeljko Budiša, one of the Serbian soldiers from Donji Vakuf, then Srbobran , witness of these events.
Croatian refugees arriving to Serbian territory
Croats from Novi Travnik and Dolac moved towards Komar, those from Bugojno went to Kupres (also Serbian territory), and some of the people from the old Travnik and Turbet i managed to reach Serbian positions over Mount Vlasic and these are the three areas that had been used the most.
” Our (Serbian army) command immediately approved their admission; the Serbs equipped schools in Torlokovac for these refugees. They remained there until the Red Cross registration. Each and every person got medical care, food and everything they needed,” says Budiša.
The wounded Croatian soldiers and civilians were taken to Serbian hospitals. There have been cases when the wounded Serbs voluntarily waited for medical care so pregnant Croatian women could give birth to children.
The video testimonies that have been preserved show the refugees from Central Bosnia who didn’t hide their surprise and appreciation by the reception they found . Many have said that they were accepted as brothers. Stuffed by their war propaganda, they expected to be ‘welcomed’ by bearded aggressive ‘Chetniks’ with knifes in the teeth.
Nedeljko remembers women and girls whispering: ” Have you seen the Serb army? They are so tidy, all shaven and neat,” and that many Croatian soldiers were surprised as well.
He is sure that If they could, at that time, half of them would have accepted to fight alongside the Army of the Republika Srpska. However, they had been transported further, mainly to Croatia. Many of them returned to Croatian army . Some had probably been involved in the ‘Storm’ and ‘Flash’ operations, two years later, when Serbs were murdered and wiped out from these areas, and when the situation reversed. In the same valley of the Vrbas, where Croatian civilians two years earlier found shelter and safety , in 1995. Croatian army shelled and set on fire a bus full of Serbian civilians.
” When they escape to save themselves we accepted them with open heart; they swore to eternal brotherhood and love then… But later … they forgot it all” with the unfinished sentence with melancholy but without remorse, Budiša spoke.