CORRESPONDENCErnLetter From Bosniarnby Momcilo SelicrnFrom Beyond the PalernWe saw them at dawn: a dozen men inrnragged camouflage, lugging dull blackrnweapons glinting like poised snakes.rnTheir faces rugged like Arizona bluffs,rndark brown or brick red, they movedrnwithout a sound, like the mist rollingrnout of the forest. Large and beefy, theyrnstood around our campfirc and smiled atrnus. A tall, lanky soldier looked at me andrnsaid, “Old man, what are you doingrnhere, among all this rot, mud, and allrnthese dead men, pretending they are stillrnalive?”rnHis face, nut-brown and clean shaven,rnshone like the barrel of his M84. Hernleaned on his weapon and his eyes twinkled,rnblue, like two weirs. I must havernsmiled at him. After three days in therntrenches, opposite Olovo, a Muslimrntown in Bosnia, my beard was a stubble,rnpepper-and-salt, and he had singled mcrnout as an outlander. Kula, Joker, andrneven Savo Tushevlyak he knew fromrnbefore. Small and wizened under hisrnSerbian officer’s cap, Savo Tushevlyakrngrinned at him, then at me, expectingrnmy reply.rn”And how old arc you, yourself?” Irnasked the machine gunner, as he rolledrna cigarette, slowly, like a man enjoyingrnhis leisure. His hands were large andrngnarled, as he pulled at his buttermilkcolored,rnhomemade woolen socks, to setrnthem aright, before he looked at mernagain. Strong as an elk and shy as one,rna true Romania Serb (i.e., a Serb fromrnthe old Roman province), he suddenlyrnrealized I was a guest. “I was born inrn1948,” he said, somewhat sheepishly,rnand I told him I was only two years olderrnthan he, but a city boy, to boot. Thernsoldiers and the bunker crew laughed,rnand the Romania men squatted, or satrndown among us, quiet as they came.rn”This IS the time they usually make theirrntry,” said the major. A six-footer, hernseemed somewhat smaller than his menrnand his face—urbane and tired—betrayedrnhim as a town Serb, on his wayrntoward my condition.rnThe sun shone through the pines inrnparallel shafts of grace, and the sky wasrnclear like a mountain brook—no cloudsrncame upon us but the forest was a cloudrnin itself: dark, moldy, cold as the insidernof one of our gun emplacements.rn”What you’ve got to watch out for isrntheir rifle grenades, and their rocketrnlaunchers,” said the major. He steppedrnclose to me and sat upon the woodenrnbench by the fire, the plank groaningrnunder him. A red-faced soldier, blueeyedrnlike the rest, never left his side,rnsmiling all the while, like a neighbor.rnThere must have been well over 200rnraw-boned pounds of him, yet he lookedrnas spare and tough as a warrior hewnrnout of oak or beech. “But then,” saidrnthe major, picking at our fire with arnstick, “we got the .50 caliber on the hill,rnand a tank close by, to make the “lurks’rnsuffer, should they rush your position.”rnThat dav the Muslims did not hit us,rnbut on the next day they did: at MacakrnHill they stormed our trenches, after arnwhole-day artillery barrage, but thernRomanians of Sokolac held. Behind ourrnbacks, less than a mile as the crow flies,rna battle raged while we kept watch overrnour section of the forest, forlorn, like hikersrnin a rainstorm. On Tomcat (Macak)rnHill, the men of Hawktown (Sokolac)rnbeat back the Muslims from Leadstonern(Olovo), though some of our units tornthe left and to the right of them ran,rnpanic-stricken at the thought of capture.rn”This is for you,” Savo Tushevlyak hadrnsaid to mc, the first day our squad camernto the front. He gave me a black, ribbedrnhand grenade from his own stock, keepingrnthe green, smooth one for himself.rnThe grenade, of course, was not for mernto throw at the “Turks” but to lie uponrnmyself should the line break. We all havernseen the corpses of our prisoners, eitherrnwith our own eyes or on TV: eyes gougedrnout, lips, noses, and ears slit off, throatsrnslashed, bellies cut open. Some of ourrnmen, Muslims and Croats tortured withrnblowtorches, while the lucky ones werernaxed or bludgeoned to death.rnAt Foca, they had roasted Kreza alivernafter impaling him on a spit, so that thernOld Man had to shoot him himself, nornone else having the guts—or the heart—rnto do it. Kreza’s eyes had popped outrnbut he could still beg his buddies to killrnhim, and the Old Man had obliged.rncrying like a baby. The Old Man was arnChetnik from somewhere around Nish,rnin Serbia, while the rest of the companyrnwere either volunteers or regular soldiers,rnbut no one said a word when he tookrntwo Muslim prisoners and treated themrnthe same way their compatriots hadrntreated Kreza. “I guess,” the Old Manrnsaid to me later, “the ‘Turks’ never didrnthe same thing again, at least not to anyrnof my men, or to any other Serbs nearrnFoca, or anywhere else, for that matter.”rnThe men sitting around our campfirc,rnabove Krivajevici near Olovo in Bosnia,rnwould have all done the same as the OldrnMan, a Chetnik major from east of thernDrina River. The Old Man was himselfrna peasant and a laborer, like them; hernwas a bricklayer while they were lumberjacks,rnpoachers, husbandmen, andrncarpenters, but each of them couldrnbutcher a pig like someone else couldrndress a cutlet, no blood and sweat beyondrnthe necessary. The Muslims, ofrncourse, hated pigs, for their own butcheryrnwas much more human-oriented, arntrue gift of the Fast.rnAfter the Romanians from Jahorinarnleft—a squad of giants on their wayrndown our line—Markan came, his beardrnsoft and brown, like his eyes. Markanrnwas also a Chetnik (and a butcher inrncivilian life), but for the time being hernserved as our company commander,rnand we thanked God for it. Only a sixfooterrnand somewhat lanky, Markanrnwas a Sarajevo boy, like Savo Tushevlyak,rnlike hinr also chased out of his homernby the “multicultural, multiethnic,rnmulticonfessional” government of AlijarnIzetbegovic, but he was an old hand atrncombat, so he smiled, like a bashfulrnyoung girl.rnWe were expecting an attack, whilernthe Jahorina men and Markan’s attackrnplatoon kept watch over us, ready tornplug any breach in the hidden, deadlyrnline of bunkers and trerrches that wernmanned, the civilians and volunteers ofrnPale, and elsewhere. But, strictly speaking,rnno one was a civilian in Pale, therncapital of Serb Bosnia. Just above Sarajevo,rnbefore the war a sleepy village. Palernwas the place where the Serbs defeatedrnsome Germans at the beginning ofrnWorld War II, and the furthest pointrnreached by the Montenegrins, in theirrnexpedition against the Austro-I lungarians,rnat the start of Wodd Wir I.rn38/CHRONICLESrnrnrn