The year is 1999, and for the first time since World War II, Europe is witnessing scenes of mass murder. The forces of Serbian strongman Slobodan Milosevic have swept into Kosovo on the Balkan Peninsula leaving a trail of death and heartbreak. Scenes of Milosevic’s ‘ethnic cleansing’ play out on television screens all over the world; haunted figures huddled behind barbed wire fences, bodies heaped in ditches.
Adelaide surgeon Craig Jurisevic recalls his grandfather’s ordeal in a Nazi concentration camp and resolves to honour his memory by offering his skills as a surgeon to the victims of the conflict. Leaving his wife and son in Adelaide, Jurisevic flies to the Balkans under the auspices of the International Medical Corps. Although no stranger to the battlefield, he is appalled at the unparalleled savagery of the Kosovo war. Jurisevic’s determination to put his skills to the best possible use leads him closer and closer to the frontline, and deeper into danger. Sickened by scenes of murder and massacre, he sets aside his non-partisan status and joins forces with the Kosovo Liberation Army, operating on the injured at the front and leading night-time missions behind the lines to retrieve injured Kosovar villagers. Struggling to maintain his moral bearings, Jurisevic’s journey from Adelaide to the hell of Kosovo has become a descent into the heart of darkness.
Blood on My Hands tells a story of terrible suffering, of extraordinary heroism, and of the savagery that lies coiled in the human heart.
A surgeon at war
by Jim Molan - 14 May 2010 11:50AM
Major Gen (Retd) Jim Molan is author of Running the War in Iraq.
As a fascinating aside to The Interpreter's consideration of courage in war, may I suggest to readers the newly released book, 'Blood on My Hands: A Surgeon at War, by Adelaide surgeon Craig Jurisevic?
This book tells the story of Craig's journey, as a civilian with a medical NGO in 1999, to assist Kosovar refugees in the Balkans. During his humanitarian journey, he became involved with the Kosovo Liberation Army, trained Kosovar soldiers, and participated in their combat. He saw more of the ugly side of war than most others, has probably seen more combat than most of us, and was proportionately traumatised by it all.
To me, Craig Jurisevic epitomizes commitment in the face of true evil. The war in the Balkans illustrates yet again that all it takes for evil to prevail is that good men stay silent.
Many would say that a surgeon should not be a combatant. The president of the AMA bizarrely said that 'his actions as a combatant ultimately conflicted with his professional role'. This is really confused thinking. If a society has to take up arms to confront evil, why should the medical profession be absolved? But the President of the AMA is not alone in our society in thinking that certain groups are above common demands. I have seen too many in the media who, even when they can see evil, still think it is their responsibility to remain uncommitted.
The AMA president's view also seems to be wrong in fact because Australian medics carry weapons, so they are combatants. I can understand if a medic is too busy treating the wounded to fight. But if fighting is required, medics should not be exempt.
Craig is sure to be criticised for what he did in the Balkans. But he has my admiration. There is too little commitment when we see true evil. We spend so much of our time debating why we should be involved that either others get in and do the job, or evil prevails, while our collective navel finds itself well and truly examined.
Craig saw evil, and he committed. Read the book, please.
Number Of Pages: 350
Published: 1st May 2010
Dimensions (cm): 23.5 x 15.0