By Cpl. Jean-Philippe Lavigne
First published in
SFOR Informer#120, August 22, 2001
On Aug. 14 and 15 in Komusina, 6,000 people of Croat origin
celebrated the Holy Virgin of Kondzilo. Nordic-Polish Battle Group
(NPBG), assisted by an American detachment from Eagle Base, provided
a safe and secure environment, in co-ordination with International
Police Task Force (IPTF) and local police.
According to the legend, the painting of the Holy Virgin was
found in 1637 by a Turkish peasant from Mrkotic village, in
Tesanj Municipality. The Turkish handed over the painting
to Catholic people who decided to lay it in the Komusina Church.
When they tried to lift the painting, they were unable to
do it. Therefore they used to organise a big celebration every
year in honour of the Holy Virgin from Kondzilo, where they
brought the miraculous image from the Komunisa Church to the
Komusina - In 1990, the local HDZ, lead by Stefo
Masatovic, increased its activities in Komusina and its surroundings.
Likewise, so did the SDS in Blatnica and Cevaca, and the SDA in
Gornji Teslic and its vicinity, all in the municipality of Teslic.
The region was divided between the three extremist parties. In
1992, Croat and Serb flags were facing each other in many villages.
On May 28, the first confrontation line between Bosnian-Croats
and Bosnian-Serbs was established. For both parties this area
was of strategic importance. For the B-Serbs because of the waterworks
located in Crna Rijeka, and because of the road linking Teslic,
Studenci and Ocaus. B-Croats wanted to keep Saint Place Kondzilo
and the painting of the Holy Virgin at Komusina Church. The fights
between the two factions within this area began June 1992 and
finished in September. For the third time in its history, the
Christian community had to move the holy painting. The first time
was for its restoration during the Austro-Hungarian Empire. The
second time was during World War II. Most of the B-Croat houses
and churches were destroyed. Nevertheless, Kondzilo Church was
spared by B-Serb troops. According to some B-Croats, soldiers
were scared to fight against the legend.
1993, Bosniacs from Zepce slaughtered many B-Croats. So B-Croats
and B-Serbs, former enemies, fought together against Muslims from
Tesanj, Maglaj and Zavidovici. This co-operation ended in November
Members of the B-Croat community fled from their houses in spring
1992, to safer places within the country, and also to foreign
countries in Europe, the United States or Australia. The
Croat Community kept very strong traditions here, said the
Assistant Archbishop of Vrhbosnia (Catholic B-Croat community
in BiH), Bishop Pero Sudar. Their return shouldnt
be a problem. The houses are mostly destroyed and empty. If we
find donors for reconstruction and infrastructure, people will
come back to live here again. Unfortunately, people are
still waiting for donations.
NPBG on the spot
year, Aug.14 and 15, thousands of people claiming to draw from
the Croat community celebrate Holy Virgin of Kondzilo in Komusina.
This area is sensitive, but we dont expect any trouble,
commented Polish Maj. Kopaci, B-Company commander, in charge of
operations. Everything is prepared to prevent demonstrators from
getting out of hand. NPBG will not interfere in public unrest,
but will ensure the establishment of an outer security ring to
isolate this area from possible unrest, as required. We dont
want to disturb the ceremony, we will maintain a low profile presence.
SDA: Party of Democratic Action (Bosniac)
HDZ: (Bosnian-) Croat Democratic Party
SDS: (Bosnian-) Serb Democratic Party.
The key task is to co-ordinate with the American
detachment which provided a Night Stalker mobile radar to survey
area, two Multinational specialised Unit (MSU) platoons, IPTF
and local police. 1st Ltn. Lis Rafal, 2nd platoon leader, and
WO Adam Dkutlowski conducted patrols to check vehicles and block
eventual hostile elements from entering the area. Following the
overall scenario, Zepce-Maglaj-Teslic was the most likely road
to be used by all the B-Croats coming from Zepce Municipality.
Pilgrims from Croatia entered through Srpski Brod and Orasje bridges.
These points were under high surveillance. Six-thousand people
attended the celebration. IPTF and local police monitored the
traffic and directed bus and car convoys into improvised parking
areas. The 1st CIMIC teams mission was to provide information
and emphasise co-ordination between civilians and the military.
Two medical teams, officially for the benefit of SFOR, ensured
first aid cover. During the three days, Dr Maj. Erik Thornval
and Lt. Puc Piotr only reported a nicked finger and a car in the
river. Three female passengers were shocked but uninjured. In
the end, the celebration was fortunately peaceful and uneventful.
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