Breaking down ethnic barriers

Maj. Andrey Karlov
First published in
SFOR Informer#144, August 1, 2002

Zhivana Stevic, Tanja Stefanovic and Zorica Sheshlak are three girls, out of more than 220 Bosnian teens, who recently spent time taking part in a four-day summer camp in the village of Brezovo Polje, Brcko District. These pleasant young ladies were bussed to the site from Petrovo. The girls along with other children attending the camp, stayed in Brezovo Polje with host families where they went to a local school to participate in everyday activities that included creative workshops, games and sports.

Brezovo Polje - The Peace Building camp for elementary and secondary age children was held June 27 to 30. Lt. Col. Nikolay Berzeytis, head of the Russian team for BP camp, stated: "Recently, the grown-ups have owed very much to the kids who suffered in the war. Now they have a little chance to pay their moral debt. SFOR servicemen will try to do their best to make the children forget about their ethnic differences and be just boys and girls," he said.
All ethnic groups
The boys and girls came from nine schools representing all of the major ethnic groups within Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH). Approximately 52 percent of the campers were Bosniac, 40 percent Bosnian-Serbs, and eight percent Bosnian-Croat. All of the children had suffered during the war; with 12 of them being orphans. The Non-Governmental Organisation (NGO), World Vision International, organised the camp; they worked very hard throughout the school year to get the boys and girls together. The main goal of the camp was to provide interaction between children of different ethnic groups and hopefully help them shake some of their prejudices, which are so ingrained, as well as to help them in the healing process.
Without SFOR sponsorship the camp would have failed to come into life. The NGOs budget didn't cover all the expenses: equipment, supplies, etc. that were vitally needed. That is why the organisation's representative Drazenko Civcic, and the local school principal asked the IPTF, Russian and U.S. troops for assistance. Civcic, the project coordinator, explained: "The camp finishes our one-year of continuous hard work with these kids. Only enthusiasts could do it. We thank SFOR and IPTF very much for their great assistance. Without their help we could have failed," he said.
Russians and US
The Russian and U.S. Civil-Military Co-operation (CIMIC) teams from Camp McGovern and Ugljevik Base did their best to make the children happy for at least a few short days. In total, more than 100 servicemen from both sides took part in the four-day camp.
The Russians provided security patrols, medical support, a field kitchen, and a mine awareness class. The American side brought tons of potable water unavailable in the local school because of the on-going reconstruction of the dining building. They also presented the show 'The Shunka Clown Show' performed by Sgt. 1st Class Scott Ham, 1st Battalion, 151st Infantry Regiment. There were plenty of other amazing events and activities to include a soccer game dubbed the World Vision Cup. These young soccer players showed such a level of inter-ethnic tolerance; co-operation and enthusiasm that the boys and girls couldn't fail to receive the message. Zhivana Stevic, a 13-year old schoolgirl from Petrovo, said: "It was great fun. I liked it very much. I'm sure I'd never forget these four days in Brezovo Polje. I met new friends not only among kids of my age, but among the Russian and American soldiers as well," she said.
The best proof showing the true success of the camp was when the children asked the soldiers: "Can you write me down your address, please? I will send you a letter."

Related links:
Nations of SFOR: US, Russia
Humanitarian Aid

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Photos: Maj. Valery Kovalenko

Russian cadets Roman Mitrofanov and Maxim Koptev pass out humanitarian aid supplies.


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Russian medic Ludmila treats a young Bosnian boy who had too much fun.


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A Bosnian boy shows his presents 'za spomen' (for memory) from American and Russian soldiers.


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The Russia - U.S. summit in Brezovao Polje: heads of CIMIC teams Lt. Col. Nikolay Berzeytis and Staff Sgt. Sandra Hawkins discuss plans and policy with their assistants.


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Russian Lt. Andrey Sedov and Bosnian interpreter Ceca Pavlovic conduct a mine awareness class.