Serb Fighter's Diary Chronicles Change From Enthusiasm to Misery
Jan. 23, 1996
EDITOR'S NOTE _ No one knows where he is, or even if he is still alive, but the discovery of a Serb fighter's diary offers a glimpse of one man's disillusionment with the war in Bosnia. Bozidar Jaksic's 6- by 4-inch appointment book was discovered by Bosnian army soldiers in Gorazde, scene of some of the worst fighting in the nearly four-year conflict. They shared it with an Associated Press reporter.
By GEORGE JAHN
Associated Press Writer
GORAZDE, Bosnia-Herzegovina (AP) _ Neighbors killing neighbors, looting and torching their houses and bulldozing their bodies into a mass grave. Cowards, thieves and liars. Fear, filth and loneliness.
This was Bozidar Jaksic's war.
Jaksic, dubbed ``Rambo'' by fellow Serbs, is nowhere to be found. Nobody in Gorazde knows if he is even alive.
But government soldiers prowling the outskirts of the city recently stumbled across a 6- by 4-inch appointment book that the junior Serb commander used as his diary.
The book chronicles the first months of the siege of Gorazde, one of the Bosnian war's most brutal confrontations.
It begins four years ago, as Serb propagandists urged their people toward war. Jaksic believed their warnings and welcomed the struggle. His first meticulously printed entry calls the coming war ``a spontaneous revolt of Serb citizens.''
Then come the battles, the looting, the arson. In one of the most horrible moments of the diary, Jaksic and his men discover a mass grave containing the bodies of Muslims, 10 miles north of Gorazde.
``We found of lot of bones and skulls of people run over with bulldozers,'' Jaksic writes. ``It was the worst sight in my whole life. I felt sick and enraged at the same time.''
By the time of the last entry, dated Aug. 16, 1992, Jaksic is a changed man. Disgusted by the excesses of his fellow fighters, and increasingly estranged from them, he hungers for the warmth of his home, for his wife, his children.
``I long to be with my family,'' he writes. ``I haven't been in touch with them since this war began.''
Jaksic entered the war as Serb propagandists rallied their people by putting God on the Serb side. They spoke of a struggle against radical Muslims bent on making Bosnia an Islamic state and on exterminating all who opposed them.
His mission was to help besiege Gorazde, the only Muslim enclave that would survive the 3 1/2-year Serb onslaught in eastern Bosnia.
The first attacks seemed relatively harmless, pranks involving young men who have had one beer too many. One early, undated entry describes how Jaksic and his buddies reacted to what they considered gas-hogging by the Muslims.
``We looped a rope around the (gas) pump, tied the other end to the Mercedes, pulled out the pump and drove off, dragging it down the street,'' the diary says.
The confrontations become uglier as the war progresses. Another entry describes how a boozed-up Serb took his gun and paid a visit to a Muslim neighbor.
``He went to Kasim Hamzic's house, took him outside and forced him to come over to his house for a drink. (I can imagine how Kasim must have felt.) After that he started firing until he shot off his last round.
``(Hamzic's) father, Stojan, ran away and slept at our place. I heard him talk to himself while he slept. He asked God to make a coffin for his son.''
Even before the fighting began in earnest, Serb fighters were running away. The first casualties listed in the diary are deserters, shot dead by Serb police. And the first attack _ ``the cleansing of Misjak Hill'' _ fails because ``many people were terrified ... and ran from battle.''
The soldiers who did remain soon changed.
``Alija Hansic and his wife, Adila, were burned to death in their house. It was set ablaze without top command orders, and nobody wants to say who did it,'' he writes. ``After that, more and more soldiers began vandalism, looting, arson.''
Kokino Selo _ Chicken Village _ is the next target. The hamlet, just east of Gorazde, is left to a special volunteer unit from Serbia with a reputation for fighting prowess. But the soldiers' behavior disappoints Jaksic.
``We put them up in Muslim houses, with two easy women,'' Jaksic writes. ``While they waited for action, they looted the area. ... Just after that they withdrew, taking their booty with them.''
Kokino Selo then passes to Jaksic and his men. There is no glory in this battle of neighbor killing neighbor, and Jaksic finds himself becoming a part of it.
``I saw two neighbors of mine with a shotgun, and I recognized one of them as Omer Kaljic. ... We saw them beginning to withdraw ... so we opened fire on them with a machine gun,'' he writes.
``I took a hunting rifle with a scope. I saw a Muslim, and I saw only the head. I aimed at the head and when I squeezed the trigger, I saw the head disappear.''
Jaksic's loneliness grows _ and along with it suspicion that things cannot be right at home without a man to watch over things.
``I think a lot about my children and wife. How are they? Especially about my daughter. She's now into puberty, and if you're not home then, things can get difficult.''
An Aug. 3 entry alludes to one of the only options for soldiers sickened by the war.
``The number of our soldiers is 1,600, after 800 ran away,'' he wrote. The diary ends soon after.
Maybe Jaksic joined them.