A Bosnian Bailout: 20 Years After They Shot at Each Other, War Vets Send Cash to Former Foes
They were bitter enemies on opposite sides of the front line during the horrors of the 1992-1995 Bosnian War. Now, one side is bailing out the other in an act of once-unimaginable generosity.
In 2010, soldiers above 35 years old were forced to retire as Bosnia tried to rejuvenate its army. But the checks never came — and hundreds of them fell into poverty.
Slavko Rasevic, a Bosnian Serb veteran, was one of them. Things got so bad he had to siphon electricity from a neighbor’s home because he couldn’t pay the bills. He couldn’t even afford bus fare to get his three kids to school.
Then, just as he was about to tell his 17-year-old daughter she’d have to drop out of school, he got a bit of unexpected news. The men he used to fight against were sending him part of their pensions.
“High praise to those people over there,” he told The Associated Press.
It’s the latest example of former enemies edging closer together in a country still scarred by the legacy of Europe’s worst bloodshed since World War II, one of a series of conflicts that grew out of the breakup of Yugoslavia. Since then, Muslim Bosniaks, Bosnian Croats and Bosnian Serbs have banded together in railway strikes and now serve together in the army. But this is the first time people from one side have reached into their pockets to help the others.
Rasevic joined the Bosnian Serb army 20 years ago to fight against Bosniaks and Bosnian Croats in a war that killed 100,000 people and turned almost 2 million, including him, into refugees.
The violence ended with a 1995 peace agreement that carved the once-multiethnic part of Yugoslavia into two ethnic mini-states — a Bosnian Serb republic and a Bosniak-Croat federation.
A decade later the three wartime ethnic armies melded into one. As a professional soldier, Rasevic found himself sharing army barracks with his former enemies. That was a major move toward reconciliation for a country that still struggles with ethnic mistrust and is held together by an international administrator.