Brethren theogian Dale Brown once counted the ability to believe in miracles as an essential component in the psychic constituency of the peace activists. "Mir" is the word for "peace" in Croatian, Serbian, and most other Slavic languages. The title, therefore, reflects the writer's personal belief in persistant peacemaking.
In the summer of 1992, I went on behalf of Palo Alto Friends Meeting to observe the situation in former Yugoslavia first hand. For three months, I avoided journalists and press agents and tried to find out how the war affected the people on all sides of the conflict.
Two things did not fail to impress me: the first was what I called the "Hotel International Syndrome" - the encampment of the foreign press at a certain hotel bar in Zagreb. Periodically, this group would be called by a government press agent and dutifully take the bus to see the latest atrocity. Towards the end of the summer, tourists from Western Europe were showing up to take actual photos of shellings in Slavonski Brod and other frontline cities. Droves of peace activists started showing up in Zagreb following the media coverage of rapes and other outrages by Serbian forces; few went on to get the Serbian side of the story as I had. Because of the way the sufferings of the Croatian, Serbian, and Bosnian people was so exploited, I hesitated to publish my photos outside of a couple of small religious journals. This is the first republication of MIRacles by me since I wrote the pieces back in 1992.
The second thing was the extent to which people's lives were shattered. My photos and show the aftermath of the shelling. What they do not show is the way that people sought to make sense of their lives after the nationalists on all sides had rent apart the Yugoslav dream. Osijek and Vukovar are only 20 kilometers away from one another, but to travel from Croat-occupied Osijek to Serb-occupied Vukovar involved a 400 mile round trip via Zagreb, Budapest, and Subotica. Young people in both towns told me that they missed their friends. I doubted and still doubt that reunions will occur anytime soon.
My thanks to Palo Alto Friends and all the other Quakers and peacemakers who made my trip possible