26 March 2009


One of the comments Fresca gave me about this blog gave me idea to tell you all about the animals in the war zones. They are usually ignored because we humans put ourselves first.
So Bosnia is around 2/3 covered with mountains, the rest is more-less flat (I do not count the hills, they are almost everywhere in that “flat” part). And since the whole of the flat area is populated or used for agriculture, most of the wild life can be found in the mountains.
I mentioned that my mum and I were going to my grandfather farm to work in some kind of garden. His farm was close to the mountain called Kozara, one of the smallest ones in Bosnia, you could reach the top in one day. But since it has very significant history in the Second World War almost the entire top if it was declared as national park (during the communist times). So at my grandpa farm we were used to see some of the wild life typical for the lower mountains. (Birds, some foxes, etc. etc.) But during the war we started to see the animals that appeared only in the high mountains. You see most of the battle lines were in the high mountains so the animals were simply running away, trying to survive. But we could see only the predators and the birds. Bears, wolfs, eagles, kinds of falcons that live far up the mountains, owls, etc. etc... And that was not surprising; soldiers from all sides would let them go. But the animals like deer, elk and similar they would hunt down for the food. Neither of the sides did not feed their soldiers properly, so most of the soldiers went hunting.
I remember one sad/funny story about the horse told by one of the boys who grow up with me. He was stationed in the region around place called Zenica, and apparently some terrible skinny white horse wandered around the local battle lines. The horse was just pile of the bones held together with the skin and very old one at the top of that. And that helped it to survive. The story went that one night someone, some soldier sneaked up to the horse and painted large letters UN on it’s sides. There was a “rule” by which either side was not allowed to shoot any white vehicle with the letters UN on it. So skinny white horse was left alive.
That horse was domesticated, it belonged to some villager who had to flee the area. Usually when people would flee the area they did not take the animals with them. Sometimes they tried, or sometimes animals would follow them (like dogs), but mostly the animals were left behind. So some of those animals would end up as the soldiers’ food, some would die from hunger, and some would go wild.
Also, during the war, no matter how hungry we were we would never, ever accept the pork or the predator fish from someone we do not trust. And that was because the pigs that went to the wild ended up eating the human corpses from killed soldiers and civilians. Fishes, well, if there were the river running trough the battle zone, human corpses would end up in the water. When there was that last battle in the Croatia, the one called “Oluja” (storm) the floating human corpses in Sava were not rare sight. Sadly majority of them were civilians. So we refused to eat predator kinds of fish and pork. Those were acceptable only if you knew for sure where the animal is coming from.
And, what about the animals that followed the refugees? They were abandoned very, very soon. No matter how much you like your dog or any other animal; you cannot keep it when there is not enough food for you. I was in the big city, Banjaluka, and since most of the “leaders” were there, the refugees considered that city the safest and usually came there. That means that the town was flooded with the stray dogs and cats. They were half crazed by hunger, fighting each other and attacking the children too. So from time to time, the major of the city would send some hunters to kill them during the night, when most of the citizens were not allowed to move around. I remember being puzzled by the obvious lack of the dog’s corpses next morning. Until I found out that those dead dogs were ending up as the human food. I heard it once, (it was intended as the nasty joke) that some of those dead dogs were taken to those restaurants that had frequent foreigner guests.
To end the story, I’ll mention my first pet budgie I got just after the war. He was two year old, and I remember once seeing him scared to death when my father was watching some action movie on the TV and they started to shoot in it from the automatic weapons. I do not know what the poor bird went though before he got into my hands, but that fear was more than illustrative. After that I was usually taking him away from the room with the TV when the action films were on.


fresca said...

Oh! Your poor budgie had shell-shock, or "post-traumatic stress disorder," just like a human!

Your stories about animals make the real-life experience of war more real for Americans like me who have never known war, but who love our animals.
To imagine how bad things would have to be before we abandoned our pets makes the Bosnian horrors a little more imaginable, a little more accessible, emotionally, even though--or because--it's so simple and so heartbreaking.

The story of the UN horse is so funny, in a gruesome way.

I haven't checked this blog for a while and am just catching up. But I read only a little at a time because it's hard to bear. That, too, helps me imagine, a little bit, how much harder it was to live through it. And also to write about it.
Thank you.

Darwi said...

Yes, he did. I was surprised by that as well, when it happened first time. Later he got better, in the way, so he was not so scared of the films anymore. At least I was able to calm him down quite fast.

Do not worry about the catching up. I'm slow in writing it. Considering that some of the worse stuff I just need to write down, I'm not so eager to write it down, myself. It means, in the way, going trough all of that again.