Highlanders' Mercy Mission

Capt. Ian Hamilton
First published April 23, 2003

Nevenka Stojakovic has worked the land for 70 years. She lives alone, scraping a living from her mountain smallholding. It's difficult to even get there. Her small hut lies at the end of a tortuous, winding track, miles from her nearest neighbour. She survives by cultivating root vegetables and tending her small stock of farm animals.

Prijedor - It's a tenuous existence at best. There's no running water, no electricity, nothing that we would ascribe as the basics of life. Even the basic survival task of gathering firewood is made all the more complicated by advancing years.
Waiting for her God
The men of D Company, 1st Battalion the Highlanders found her, curled up on a makeshift bed. The young soldiers had been making a sweep of this remote area, North of the Serb stronghold of Prijedor, after reports of shots being fired in the area.
Nevenka wasn't expecting any visitors.
Eight days ago, she had badly broken her arm tending her animals. There is no option of health-care. The hospitals need money - 200KM just to call out an ambulance. Nevenka has none. Even the physical act of getting to hospital would have meant a 15-mile trek. She had basically lain in the dark, tending her wound, waiting for her God to decide her fate.
Luckily, D Company's specialist medic, Highlander Gary Miller, was able to make an immediate diagnosis. After 8 days, Nevenka's arm was badly swollen. The broken joint threatened to burst through the skin. Infection had already set in. Without prompt and proper treatment, Nevenka might lose her arm, if not her life.
A moral obligation
Gary Millar is 19 years old, He comes from a small island, Orkney, off the North coast of Scotland. Bosnia and Herzegovina is his first operational tour. With his combat medical kit, he made Nevenka comfortable and called for his company commander.
Major Jamie Campbell knew what needed to be done. There was no chance a civilian ambulance could make the journey up the rough hillside to take Nevenka to hospital. Yet there was clearly a humanitarian, if not a moral obligation for SFOR to act. For Campbell, it was a simple decision: "I came into the Army to make people's lives safer and better. To me, there was no real argument. Nevenka needed help and the Highlanders were in a position to fix the problem."
It's a half-hour journey by Land Rover to Prijedor hospital. Nevenka was seen immediately by the skilled doctors of the casualty department. No money changed hands. It was obvious to all that here was an old woman in dire need of help.
Although Nevenka's arm is now in plaster, it will be some weeks before she can look after herself. D Company have now 'adopted' her. For many of the young soldiers, she's the same age as many of their grandparents. There will be no shortage of firewood in her hearth for the foreseeable future.
As Nevenka herself said, "When it happened, I thought some-one might come, but then I lost count of the days. I'll always be grateful to the soldiers from Scotland for saving me."

Related link:
Nations of SFOR: UK

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