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NPBG monitors pilgrimage of 6,000 to Komusina

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.

The legend
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 Kondzilo shrine.

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.
The war
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.
During 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 1993.
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 shouldn’t 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
Every 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 don’t 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 don’t want to disturb the ceremony, we will maintain a low profile presence.”

Political Parties
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 team’s 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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