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The Stress of War Takes Toll on Bosnia’s Soldiers

January 6, 1996

TUZLA, Bosnia-Herzegovina (AP) _ The old fluorescent lights burn 24 hours a day at the Kreka psychiatric hospital. They cast a murky yellow light on patients roaming cheerless hallways that smell of urine.

Many of the 112 patients crowded into the Tuzla facility are soldiers for Bosnia’s Muslim-led government. They suffer various mental disorders from the stresses of combat, of long stints on the front lines, of witnessing too much death and destruction.

``I am afraid to go to sleep,″ Husein Gusic, a 39-year-old soldier, tells a therapist, tears streaking his cheeks as his body trembles uncontrollably. ``I keep seeing the hands, legs I picked up.″

He is talking about what he saw after an artillery shell fired by rebel Serbs exploded in downtown Tuzla on May 25, killing 72 people.

Nightmares, hallucinations, severe depression, aggressive acts and irrational behavior are common at the decrepit, three-story hospital.

There are only eight doctors to treat them, and medicines and beds are in short supply. Only the most serious cases are admitted, 70 percent of whom are regarded as permanent. People who should be hospitalized are left at home with relatives and what little medication the doctors can spare.

Upstairs, under the slanted roof on the third floor, Besim Terzic, 40, another soldier, snaps to attention and salutes when visitors enter the caged ward. He was committed to the hospital after he attacked people in a market.

Terzic shares three small bedrooms and a common area with 20 other patients with severe cases. Nearby, two naked men with shaved heads curl up in each others arms.

``Destroyed buildings can be repaired,″ says Dr. Kasim Brigic, the chief psychiatrist. ``But the human damage, the impact on people’s minds will never go away.″

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