Tens of Thousands Wait Out War in Seaside Paradise With PM-Yugoslavia, Bjt
MAUD S. BEELMAN
Jun. 09, 1992
MAKARSKA, Croatia (AP) _ Suada Rahic, eight months pregnant with her third child, spends her days on a foam mattress in a gymnasium that reeks of urine.
Her immediate future consists of a sea of floor mats and hundreds of fellow war refugees.
Alma Havic's view from a hotel room is strikingly different - sunlight dancing on the blue Adriatic as small white boats bob in the sea - but her outlook is no brighter.
Mrs. Rahic, a 26-year-old Muslim, fled the embattled Herzegovina city of Mostar with two young daughters two months ago.
She has lived in the gym at Vid Mihaljevic Central Elementary School for more than two weeks because the hotels are full.
Her despair as she watches her 5-year-old Arijana play among the mattresses is obvious. It would be shared by Mrs. Havic, 25, a fellow Muslim from Caplinja, not too far from Mostar.
''In this war, there can be no winners. We are all losers,'' said Mrs. Havic.
From the small room she shares with six others in a seaside hotel, she can hear young children squealing at play outside. Her young daughter now thinks the hotel is home - only grandpa is missing.
The palm trees, promenades and seaside restaurants of Makarska, a former tourist haven, are an unlikely setting for refugees. But the town's location and vacant hotels have made it a sorrowful way station for more than 35,000 refugees, mostly Slavic Muslims.
Refugee coordinator Ivica Lelas is struggling to find space for the 200 newcomers who arrive each day.
Mainly women, children and the elderly, they have left gun-toting husbands, sons and fathers behind and are now part of Europe's biggest refugee exodus since World War II.
Croatia's government feeds and houses the refugees at a cost of about $10 a day per person. The Catholic relief charity Caritas provides some food, but most aid has come from Croats working abroad.
At Adria Tours, a travel agency on Makarska's promenade, Safet Sarkic, 40, sought housing for wives and children of some 6,000 employees of the aluminum company in Mostar where he worked.
Fighting along Croatia's coast and in nearby Bosnia, coupled with the refugee influx, means a second summer of no tourists.
The local economy has been devastated.
Perched in the doorway of Makarska's Red Cross office, 15-year-old Ante Filipovic trades currency on the black market to boost the family income. His mother's wages from a tourist office were slashed.
''If there were no war, there'd be a lot of tourists and she'd make more,'' he said, holding a fistful of Croatian dinars.
Back at the gym, Arijana scribbled on the back of an empty box of donated chocolate-chip granola bars.
Her mother grimaced as she surveyed other women and children sprawling on the floor mats.
''I hope I'll be back home before the baby is born,'' said Mrs. Rahic. ''I can't imagine bringing a newborn baby here.''