Villager Defies Battle Raging Around Him to Stay Put With AM-Yugoslavia Rdp, Bjt
BROD, Bosnia-Herzegovina (AP) _ Omer Osmic planted both feet firmly in the mud of his garden as another deafening detonation sent a chunk of shrapnel whizzing by.
″I was born here, and I’m used to living here,″ the pensioner declared, just before an exploding Serb tank round scattered sparrows from a nearby tree. ″And I will stay here until the war ends.″
Brod, once home to 3,000 people, is now a virtual ghost town. Osmic is one of only six remaining civilians, along with some 120 Bosnian soldiers scattered throughout the village.
Part of the 11-month-old Bosnian war’s most vicious battlefront, it adjoins the northern city of Brcko along a corridor carved out by Serb rebels to link territories they hold with Serbia.
Brcko fell on April 30 to the Serbs, who drove out its Muslim majority. Since then, the government troops in Brod have faced down better-equipped Serb rebels dug in only 600 yards away.
Pounded nearly daily by cannon, tank, mortar and machine-gun fire, Brod is a picture of desolation.
Soldiers recently escorted two visitors past the mosque, its graceful minaret snapped in two like a giant matchstick. The main road was cratered by mortars and the school gutted. Most houses were abandoned and roofless, window openings revealing piles of rubble.
Osmic’s dwelling still stands, its red brick walls bullet-pocked but whole, with glass in the windows and an intact, if damaged, roof. He also has kept the adjoining houses of his two sons, off fighting the war, in good repair.
″A mortar round landed on my roof″ on Monday, Osmic said. ″I repaired it the next day.″
He said the only other civilians remaining in Brod live nearby but are unapproachable because of relentless sniper fire in the area.
Preparing to plant two apple saplings under the warm late-winter sun, the 57-year-old former textile worker seemed oblivious to nearby explosions that made the visitors and their battle-hardened escorts wince.
″I moved the wife out to a safe village when the shooting began last year,″ said Osmic. ″But my two sons were fighting on this front, so I stayed.″
″I refuse to give up my property. No power on earth is going to make me do that.″
For half a year he cooked for Bosnian army troops, before being told he was free to do what he pleased. He has remained, rising daily at dawn, going to bed after the late radio news at 11 p.m. and living off food stocks gathered months ago.
″I keep busy enough during the day,″ he said. ″When soldiers pass through I invite them for a coffee. I clean up and repair things. And I feed my chickens.″
It’s the nights he dreads: ″When I’m alone, and there is shelling every night, I spend my time thinking, ’When will it all end, when will things return to normal?‴
The thought of approaching night seemed to turn him somber, wiping away his constant smile.
Another round crashed down nearby. As the visitors bade a hasty farewell, one of them called out: ″What do you miss the most?″
″Life,″ Osmic replied.