More Children Killed in the Besieged Sarajevo, Another Miserable Day in Bosnia
A funeral, a hospital – another miserable day in Sarajevo
By John Daniszewski
The Item, 12 October 1992.
SARAJEVO, Bosnia-Herzegovina – No one at the Children’s Surgery Clinic had the hard to tell Darko Vapetic that his parents wouldn’t be coming.
The eight-year-old boy, lying in a hospital cot after surgery for shrapnel wounds, was calling for his parents. The same Serbian shelling that almost took off Darko’s leg had also killed his parents.
Across town on Sunday, the Islamic faithful buried one of Bosnia’s senior Muslim religious leaders, a 32-year-old imam struck down in the doorway of his house by another shell.
It was a typically miserable day in Sarajevo.
Weeks after Serb rebel leaders promised to put their artillery around Sarajevo under international supervision, mortar shells still rain down on civilians with deadly regularity. Ripping up flesh and families, they leave an aftermath of tears and funerals.
Hadzi Abdulah Celebic, deputy president of Mesihat, the Islamic spiritual community of Bosnia-Herzegovina, was buried under mournful gray skies in the tree-shaded yard of the Carina Mosque.
In a ceremony attended by more than 400 men — soldiers, police, fellow imams, even a Bosnian rock star — he was buried a little more than 24 hours after a shell hit just as he left his home to minister to Egyptian U.N. peacekeeping troops camped nearby.
His wife suffered only minor injuries, but their 5-year-old daughter was fighting for her life in a hospital.
Old women watched the burial through iron-grill windows in the mosque’s stone outer wall, clutching handkerchiefs as tears streamed down their cheeks.
Celebic had been chosen as a leader during time of war precisely because of his youth and energy. He was a professor of theology, a speaker of three languages. He had a brilliant future.
“You can tell how I felt about him by looking at my face,” said an elderly imam, his eyes red from crying, after the hourlong service. “This was a great man.”
At the Children’s Surgery Clinic, Dr. Mirjan Lomas was sorting through more misery.
On Saturday evening, shells hit a tight cluster of stone houses in a neighbourhood near the city orphanage, which now houses refugee. Four children were killed and 12 others badly wounded. Eight required amputations.
“It was more than usual, more children killed than usual, but we’ve had worse days,” said Lomas, a six-year veteran of the hospital.
According to the health ministry, 16 people died and 118 were wounded in Sarajevo Saturday and Sunday.
“The casualty figures wouldn’t tell you that it was a bad day,” said Lomas.
“It’s just that we had more children than usual.”
Among the survivors was young Darko, crying softly in his cot, unaware of the greater blow to come.
Across the aisle, Sinan Karic hovered protectively over his 5 1/2 year-old daughter Mirkva. He stroked her cut forehead tenderly, explaining that the shell had landed while she played in front of her house.
All the children hit were either inside their homes or playing in the yard, said Dr. Sadeta Begic-Kapetanovic. Because of the shelling, the city’s children are never allowed to wander far.
Lomas said it is getting harder and harder for his staff to function. Because buses have all but stopped running, they walk miles in the autumn rains to get to work.
There is no electricity service and often no fuel for the hospital’s auxiliary generator, meaning the staff must work by candlelight.
During their long shifts, the 10 doctors and 15 nurses have no warm food. Begic-Kapetanovic said they usually share a loaf of bread and, if they are lucky, some tinned meat.
Water is also shut off, and supplies of medicines and bandages are low. Mortars frequently fall on the hospital complex itself.
“We did have optimism. But day by day it’s running out,” said Lomas.