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Bapska, Croatia

overcast 40 °F

[
The flood shows no signs of ebbing. Been twice now to the border crossing into Serbia. The first time was two day ago. Before the police began
putting restrictions on aid workers and journalists. That experience will always remain with me. The conditions were frightening. The police had barricaded the road just outside Bapska, 1 1/2 Km from the border. I'd driven there with a Spanish journalist I'd met earlier that morning. Together we walked the single lane road that snakes thru wine vineyards and freshly plowed fields of rich dark soil. The region has a long histoty of wine making dating back to Roman times. We weren't there for that nor were the hundrends and hundrends of refugees now trapped in the no-mans-land between Serbia and Croatia. They'd been 'released' from Serbia but the Croatian authorities in an attempt to bring some order, were severely restricting the flow on their side. This was the setting for the scene we'd entered.

As we approached the border it was clear the police were desperately trying to maintain some control of the throngs trapped behind the 8' barricades. Hundrends upon hundreds of people all standing ankle deep mud, the few possessions they still had at their side caked in thick grey clay-like mud. Littering the ground was a carpet of countless discarded shoes, childrens clothes, and hundrends of blankets with the blue UNHCR logo just barely still recognizable in the filth. Unlike Opatovac, there were no portable toilets here. These people had been trapped here overnight and in an desparate attempt to stay warm first stripped the trees of all the their branches, then as the temperatues dropped into the low 40's, resorted to burning the sleeping bags and camping tents they'd carried with them in some cases from as far away as Greece and Macedonia. The choking smell of the toxic smoke was overpowering,

No food or water had yet reached this hellish sight, and what small bits of stuff we'd carried with us was gone in a moment. By late morning the situation had grown even worse. Apparently the camp at Opatovac was filled to capacity and the Slovaks were also severaly limiting the number allowed to be sent there. By this time the refugees had become nearly uncontrollable and fights began to break out. In an effort to get away the women and children were forced against the barricades the police were determined to keep standing. There was screaming and yelling everywhere. The police were on bullhorns tying to force the people back had nightsticks in hand and it looked as if at any moment they'd begin using them on the crowd. It was at this moment I found myself at the front of the barricades just steps behind the police. There were perhaps 15 of us, all aid workers. A mix of men and women who instinctively without any clear orders came together and began rushing past the police grabbing women and children
as they were about to the trampled. We formed a sort of instant army of our own pulling the most vulnerable out of the crowd in some cases ripping children from their mothers arms in order that they not be trampled. We'd then run back from the police lines hand the children to one of our own and charge the line again. The childrens screams of terror as they were torn from their mothers arms was something I don't think I'll ever forget.

After what seemed like eternity, the police re-gained control and we were able to begin to reunite the traumatized children with their mothers. When the scene calmed those of us who'd worked together in such a surreal way all stood and looked deeply into each-others tear filled eyes. All of us knew we'd bonded in a way few people ever do. In that moment we were no longer Croats, Serbs, Austrians, Germans, Slovaks or Americans....we were all just human beings who cared about each-other anbd or fellow man.

Posted by Coulter Adams 07:49 Archived in Croatia

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Comments

Mega poignant.

That's why you are there

We honor and admire you

This cathartic saga is transforming you and redirecting your entire being, soul, spirit, flesh and mind.

Be embrace again in a most radical and inspiring way

by stefano

Coulter,

Thank you for being there to help and for sharing the horror that we only hear about on the news.

You are making a huge difference, one person at a time.

by Jennifer Hainstock

Coulter,

You are being of service to others and you are being changed inside. Take care of yourself, also, and keep leaning on Spirit.

Blessings,
Marshal

by Marshal

Your efforts will be rewarded many times and thank you for doing something that I do not think I could do.

by Dave Johnson

No words can describe the pain and suffering these people are going through and the dangers and uncertainties you are facing. We are all watching your journey with fascination, awe and great concern.

by Sara

Coulter,
You are such a wonderful, selfless man! It must be overwhelming to see all of those suffering people, but so rewarding to be able to help where you can. Please be safe and take care of yourself!

by Barb Deer

What a tragic situation for those people. Your act of human kindness in helping with the safety of the mothers and children was a blessing for them. Be safe my friend.

by Jeanne

unimaginable from our quiet warm home in Boise. Thank you for your efforts to bring relief to those homeless freightened souls.

by Ben

There are no words. I feel an immense sadness about the tragedy of what's happening in that part of the world. So few are brave enough to put themselves in the middle of the chaos, yet you are fully embracing the Coulter I have known for over 30 years and making a huge difference in so many lives. Thank you for sharing your story, and please keep posting about your journey there. All my love to you and wishes for your safety.

by Christie Lavigne

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