|Prepared and sent by Blazo Nedic
The Independent, 2 April 1999
War in The Balkans - Belgrade displays its
own casualties of the battle
By Robert Fisk in Belgrade
On the second floor of the Serbian Clinical Centre in Belgrade are
of the Balkan war who will never be mentioned in any Nato briefing.
a 14-year-old boy with his head crushed, lying in a coma, eyes
a fat oxygen tube down his throat. There's a middle-aged farmer
hit in the
head by shrapnel and expected to die within a few hours. A little
down the emergency ward is another boy - 13 this time - with his
swathed in bandages, moving in agony, his brain damaged and his
fractured by a falling building. They are Nato's victims.
Our victims, I suppose. Standing at their bedsides, the phrase "collateral
damage" seems somehow obscene. Ivan Tanasijevic, the 14-year-old
Drina river valley, was wounded in a Nato air raid on Loznica,
father came to see him on Wednesday. "He asked if he could
see his son,"
Dr Dragana Vujadinovic says. "I said, yes, but that Ivan was in
a coma. The
father sat by his bed here and cried. He is a farmer. Yes, I told
son is very bad but that we wouldn't know what will happen for
days. Yes, the boy is likely to die."
Of course, walking the emergency ward of this modern hospital, one
of other human suffering far away to the south, of the exhausted
scrambling over the borders of Albania and Macedonia and Montenegro,
executions and of "ethnic cleansing". But the victims of our bombs
- nine of them, all originally Serb refugees from Croatia, were
pieces in a Nato raid on Nis last week; they had been living in
abandoned army barracks.
Dobrica Vukojicic is likely to join them soon. He was a farmer and
to have been in his fields near Kraljevo when a Nato missile exploded
metres from him. Pieces of metal smashed into his head and the
what the doctors call "contralateral" damage to his brain, which
internal bleeding. He was brought to the medical centre on Wednesday
Will he live, I ask Dr Mihaelo Mitrovic? He looks at me as if I
to ask and raises his eyebrows. The man breathes noisily through
huffing and puffing as if aware of his fate. He will probably never
Dr Mitrovic, who refuses to talk politics, insists on pointing out
patients who are not war-wounded and those who - though they may
direct victims of Nato's bombs - are victims of the war. Milan
example, lies unconscious in a bed at the end of the ward, his
bloated as a football, his face a mass of bruises. "We think he
commit suicide after the first bombs," the doctor said. "He jumped
fourth floor of his apartment block. Look at his X-rays." He holds
sheet of negatives that shows just a big, dark mass. "His head
is like a
For reasons that have as much to do with xenophobia as national
with paranoia and national pride as well as inexperience, the Yugoslav
authorities have jealously guarded the number of their civilian
wounded. Injured children have been taken to the Military Hospital
Belgrade and most casualties among the non-military population
can still be
cared for in civilian hospitals. Dr Vujadinovic receives most of
patients from regional medical centres; the hospital to which Mr
was originally taken in Kraljevo was itself damaged by the explosion
cruise missile in a neighbouring military installation.
And this - the proximity of the Serbian Clinical Centre with its
and 1,200 doctors and 3,000 nurses, to potential Nato targets -
worries Professor Dragan Mitic, the hospital's vice-president.
the non-sectarian nature of his medical facilities, the hospital's
treatment of thousands of Albanian patients - but then comes to
"We are all feeling great tension and anxiety here because we are
to the Interior Police Ministry and the General Military headquarters
building," he says. "We saw on the CNN website that these will
"But what can we do? We have a major hospital here next to places
be targeted. We cannot move these patients, we have no bunkers,
nowhere to take our patients to. We cannot take the wounded and
life support machines in the wards."
The doctors' message is simple. If Nato decides to attack the Belgrade
headquarters of its principal enemies in Kosovo, then the Serbian
Centre is going to be hit.
In one bed lies Dejan Lukic, 13, another victim from Loznica though
time with a birthplace of special horror. He was originally a Serb
of the east Bosnian town of Srebrenica and was driven from his
Muslim forces in 1992. It was those same Muslims who held Srebrenica
filled up with Muslim refugees during the Bosnian war and it was
menfolk who were the victims of the 1995 atrocity when thousands
executed by Serb militiamen. By then, Dejan Lukic was 25 miles
He was still there last week when Nato began raiding the eastern
the Drina. Doctors believe he was running for his life after a
explosion when he was hit by concrete from a collapsing building.
regained consciousness. But his eyes moved yesterday - a good sign,
according to the doctors. He may live.
At least 22 war-wounded have been transferred to this Belgrade hospital
alone since the start of the Nato bombardment, but others - physically
untouched by shrapnel - have not survived their reaction to the
Boris Grubicic was 18 and fell into depression when he heard that
Serbia had gone to war. He had been "ethnically cleansed" from
1996 with 170,000 other Serbs. Perhaps his experiences in Croatia
years ago had unbalanced his mind.
"He was brought in here with a fractured head and neck," Dr Vujadinovic
said. "He had climbed to the top of the McDonald's restaurant in
of Belgrade. That's five floors high. Then he threw himself off
the top. He
died here last night."
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