THE TORONTO SUN, Monday, April 12, 1999
A NATO bomb killed his mother
By JEAN SONMOR
Okay. So I know about the Compas Poll.
People like the idea of war. Or at least 72% think we're right on the
money bombing the bejeezus out of Serbia and Kosovo. Another 57% want
our troops in there to clean up the mess and a whopping 46% think we
should have sent in troops weeks ago.
Why? Because, as Clinton says, the Serbs are "aggressive" and we don't
like their bullyboy techniques.
Never mind the mind-numbing ironies. Never mind NATO's status as a
supposed defensive alliance whose supreme military commander just
happens to be an old acquaintance of Clinton's. (Both are Arkansans born
just after World War II. Both were Rhodes Scholars at Oxford. But Wes
Clark went on to Vietnam and won the Purple Heart while Clinton avoided
the draft, didn't inhale and wound up Clark's commander-in-chief.
Having watched Clinton in action much of last year, nothing about his
behaviour in this surprises me. This is a guy who knows about bullying
big-time. But where's the logic that says that the crude sledgehammer of
indiscriminate bombing will solve a racial quagmire?
I was on a panel show the other day, with a passel of well-read,
thoughtful men, all opinion shapers in various media. Opinions were
diverse until the conversation turned to Kosovo. It was chilling. The
talk was tactics -- about targets and deployment. We were way past
questioning legitimacy. The real question was whether we should send in
Hold on a minute.
I'd like you to meet somebody, just an ordinary guy who lives in a
neat-as-a-pin Scarborough condominium with his stay-at-home wife and
Stefan, their four-year-old son. He and his wife are immigrants from
Yugoslavia. They've been here 13 years and worked hard to build a good
But Dragan Grujic and his tall, stately wife Sladjana were born Serbs
and now that is the defining fact of their lives.
Their hometown, Vranje in southern Serbia, close to both the Macedonian
and Kosovar borders, has been hit by a dozen NATO bombs, Grujic says,
"even though there haven't been soldiers there for months."
Last Monday was warm and springlike in Vranje and his 67-year-old
mother, Milica Grujic, decided to walk to the post office to collect a
pension cheque. She wasn't indifferent to the danger of NATO bombings
But, as she and her younger son's family saw it, the only logical
target, the army barracks had already been hit. They were likely okay.
Still, an 8 kg rock had wound up on their roof after the last hit. It
left them with cracked ceiling plaster and an uneasy sense of
When Dragan called last Sunday, Milica was her usual motherly self
urging him not to worry about them but to look after his own family in
Canada. Dragan was pleased to hear she was taking the threat seriously
enough to spend most of Sunday with her young grandson filling sandbags
to cover the basement windows. The plan was to move into the basement if
necessary. Night was the most dangerous time.
So walking to the post office Monday morning was a small risk, but worth
the reward of a stroll in the sunshine. The bomb hit without warning. No
sirens. Nothing. Milica was thrown as high as a telephone pole and then
slammed into the earth with such force that only her legs were visible.
There were other fatalities too "between three and 13" says Grujic,
adding that nobody really knows.
Monday morning in Scarborough at 5 a.m. Grujic woke up to call his
mother before heading into work at 6 a.m. "to start up the machines" at
ABC Group where he's a plastics technologist. "It rang and rang but
there was no answer. Later I found out she was already dead for half an
hour or 20 minutes when I was calling."
Grujic, 46, is a precise man, careful to document everywhere he can with
letters, dates and amounts. But his neat assemblage of facts deserts him
as he talks about the unanswered phone. Tears slip down his cheeks. His
voice trembles as he whispers. "Maybe it was my tax dollars that went to
kill my mother."
The air is hot and thick with the sweet smell of funereal bouquets and
suddenly I can feel embarrassing tears welling up in my own eyes. Tears
of frustration and helplessness. I don't want my tax dollars funding
killing either. Not of grandmothers, not of children. Not even of
Kosovo may have atrocities but there is certainly not genocide. The
bombing is creating the refugee crisis. If our ambassador to Yugoslavia
is correct when he describes "implacable racism" on both sides,
partition Kosovo. Balkanize the Balkans.
And get out.
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