A war doctor shares her battlefront journals of aiding military and civilian casualties during the 1990s Balkan wars.
Belgrade-born Serbian physician, anesthesiologist, and debut author Mitić’s time as a trauma physician after the historic breakup of Yugoslavia is on brilliant display in these meticulous journals. Her journey began when she heard about the war in Yugoslavia while vacationing with her husband and two small daughters in Greece in 1991. “The people in Krajina are fighting for their lives and they need help desperately,” wrote the determined Mitić, who rushed home to Smederevo to make plans to travel to the war-torn region of Knin—even though her mother and brother both disapproved. She arrived in Knin the next year and began working immediately at a hospital where “the wounded, the dying, and the dead are arriving from all directions.” At this early point in Mitić’s powerful narrative, she begins incorporating stories and profiles of the medical rescue staff and of the grisly casualties. As explosions reverberated throughout the region, and civilian anger and confusion at the disintegrating multinational army seethed, she saved lives—Croatian children, countless anguished soldiers, a suicidal young mother. Her humanitarian determination kept her working in the hospital despite exhaustion and sleep deprivation. Further travels brought her to a Kosovo clinic, where there was tension with arrogant Albanian staff; and to central Croatia, where “life [was] disappearing fast.” Mitić struggled to manage casualties while ensuring her own safety, harrowingly depicted in an account of an assault by an agitated sniper. The final section finds the author back at home dealing with a catastrophic personal tragedy. At times, the book’s graphic depiction of violence and bloodshed can be arduous to read. However, Mitić shows a knack for relating vivid details of the wounded, of families’ suffering, and of her devoted colleagues. She also unflinchingly sketches her own extended family’s haunted history. Readers interested in the strife and unrest of the Balkan region, its divergent politics and populations, and the plights of its refugees will find Mitić’s narrative illuminating.
A commanding chronicle of focused leadership and admirable humanity.