Bosnia's wartime veterans beat the ethnic divide

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Bosnia's wartime veterans beat the ethnic divide

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A bailout is bridging Bosnia’s ethnic divide as 17 years after the end of its conflict, former frontline foes have been digging deep into their pockets in a sign of remarkable solidarity.

Croat and Bosniak war veterans who receive a pension from their part of the country are raising money for their less fortunate Bosnian Serb counterparts who do not get a handout from theirs.

Indicating a former battleground, Bosnian veteran Nihad Grabovica said: “Up there on that hill, in a trench up there, Karadzic and Mladic were playing chess in 1994 and now we are collecting money for those same people who shot at us, from up there, so that they can feed their children.”

He added: “They are people like us, our comrades, who served with us in the Armed Forces of Bosnia and Herzegovina. They have no rights, so now we have collected money to give to them so their children can survive.”

The Bosnian conflict raged from 1992 to 1995, leaving an estimated 100,000 people dead.

The Dayton Peace Accord then split Bosnia into separate entities. But a joint army was later created, bringing together ex-enemies and creating bonds that have overcome deep-rooted ethnic hatred.

“The politicians who misled us back then, who gave us guns when we were 16 or 17, fresh from school, their policies made us kill each other,” said former Bosniak army soldier Senad Hubijer. “And now 15 or 16 years later, we find ourselves helping each other because politicians don’t want to help us.”

Bosnia remains a deeply divided country, but from bitter bloodshed to brothers in arms, these veterans are helping to heal the wounds of war.