The timing of your remarks about Kosovo and the NATO attacks on the Serbs bring back memories of mine that cause all of this to hurt and confuse.
In 1984 the commander of the US Army Medical Research and Development Command asked me to serve as a host for a person who would be coming to the US as part of the IMET program. The IMET program was the International Medical Education Trainee program.
My trainee was Ivanko Bojic. He was a physician and a major in the Serbian Army. Yugoslavia was still one country, and there was an opportunity to befriend them in the early years after Tito died.
The idea of officially making friends with folks who we once were not supposed to even look upon because of their being behind the "iron curtain," intrigued me. I took my job as host seriously. I very much wanted to make a friend. Ivanko was interested in immunology (my specialty) so there was much to share. I took him into laboratories at my institute to see how we do our work. He came to my home and met my friends. He went to lab seminars, division seminars, and international meetings held in the area.
We talked about the fundamental differences between how he was living in Belgrade and how we live in Frederick. He was impressed that our individual homes were not surrounded by high stone walls. People seemed open and friendly and he was never restricted in his movements around the base. I was very much aware that Ivanko would go back to Belgrade with a different and friendlier image of the US.
Ivanko told me about how he met his wife. He told me that his wife had had an auto accident just before the day of his departure for this IMET program, but never-the-less she encouraged him to come. He showed me pictures of his daughters and shared his hopes for their future. They were bright young ladies and he hoped they could come to the US to study medicine.
At the time of his visit, my wife and I were in the midst of adopting our daughter in the most open way. Advertising in the newspapers. Just before Ivanko went back to Belgrade he got a chance to see our baby.
We regularly corresponded around important holidays and Ivanko kept me up to date on his progress in his clinic.
Apparently everything went well with regard to my contributions to Ivanko and US Yugoslavian relationships because a while later I received a letter of commendation from the American Ambassador to Yugoslavia and from our Commanding General.
Then all this ugliness happened between religious and ethnic factions in 1989 and Yugoslavia split up into very angry pieces.
During his visit, Ivanko had told me that the Croatians had fought with Hitler during WWII and the Serbs were being slaughtered. When the first battles between the Serbs and Croats broke out, I could appreciate the underlying hostility and desire for revenge, but why now after so many years of apparently peaceful coexistence.
I should have listened more carefully. It seems that the Serbs had not learned about mercy and redemption from their horrible experiences at the hands of the Nazis.
So, now NATO bombers are attacking the Serbs and I wonder what ever happened to the peace. What is happening to Ivanko, his wife and daughters? I hope they are safe.
What we do as people to resolve conflict makes sense to me; but, what we do as nations is harder for me to understand.
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