A stroll among land mines.

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“Two things are infinite: the universe and human stupidity; and I’m not sure about the universe.” – Albert Einstein 

I can say with great confidence that some of the things I have done are not very smart. My excitement for adventure and exploration has brought me to some pretty cool places. Walking through a field with land mines in Croatia is a great example. Thankfully, I was smart enough to snap pictures. Surprisingly, I did this twice, but in my defense I was young and distracted.

Summer of 1999.  Four years have passed since the war ended (Croatia’s War of Independence 1991-1995). With so much lost and gained emotions are high.  My uncle is driving me to the war camp he was held captive in. This is the first time I’m visiting, and the first time back for him since he was freed.

Side note, my uncle is a Surgeon. As a medical doctor in a war camp, he was forced to work in ungodly conditions, with little sleep or food. The horrors he witnessed and shared, are too graphic for me to recount in this post.

logor slika 1
Prison Camp my uncle, Dr. Ivan Marijanovic, was held in during Croatia’s War of Independence. Photo taken in 1999 during my visit to the site.

So here we are, standing in front of some buildings and bungalows. My uncle is talking about the buildings and what they were used for; when curiosity carries me away.

I wander off, camera in hand. The loud buzzing of swarming bees breaks my day dreaming, sending me running towards the closest building.

The next thing I hear is my uncle screaming “Stop!!!!!!   Don’t take another step!”

I freeze. 

He then says, “Slowly, turn around. Don’t take any steps, just spin your feet around and make sure you are still standing in the same spot.”

My uncle keeps repeating don’t move, just gradually turn around. I do this very slowly, and when I am finally facing him, I ask him if I can move.

“No! Before you take a step, can you see your foot prints in the dirt? If you can, step only on your foot prints and nowhere else. Don’t touch anything you may see on the ground, just concentrate on your steps. You are surrounded by land mines. If you step anywhere outside of your footprints you could die.”

Instinctively, I snap a few pictures. Don’t judge me, I’m trying to create a Kodak moment of my stupidity!

logor slika 2
This is the building I’m standing in front of while surrounded by land mines.
logor slika 3
This is another building adjacent to me. I can’t get any closer for fear of stepping on a land mine.

I see my footprints thankfully and do as I’m told. My heart is pounding and I feel like throwing up. I make it through. Hurray, lets never do this again!

Not so fast. I’m a slow learner. Summer 2002, the Sequel.

Pakrac, Croatia 2002 (seven years since the end of the war). My dad, uncle and I go for a walk in the hills behind the town of Pakrac. We are enjoying our nature walk, casually picking cherry’s as we walk past houses left decaying from the war. I’m taking pictures, but the sun is out and boy is it getting hot. Even with the tree lined road not much shade is offered. Dad starts complaining about the heat, so my uncle (dad’s younger brother) suggests a short cut on a shaded dirt road to get us home.

 

Ruined houses scattered around Pakrac. Photo(s) taken 2002
ruin 1 in pakrac
Hollowed building, with the Church Steeple seen in the collapsed roof. Photo taken 2002
ruin 2 in pakrac
Another sad reminder of something that once was. Photo taken 2002
ruin 3 in pakrac
Ruined apartments in Pakrac. Photo taken 2002
graffiti in pakrac now i have you
Graffiti that reads “Now I have you” on the building my uncle and aunt lived in. Photo taken 2002

All is going great until I get distracted and idly stroll past a barricade. I don’t get to far ahead before my uncle is shouting “Stop”!

Here we go again. I managed not only to walk past a barricade, but right over the yellow tape intentionally put to keep people out. I snap my pictures and am about to carefully take my safe steps back, when a brilliant idea hits me.

“Dad, I’m going to throw you my camera. Catch it, and then take a picture of me. I want to have a picture with me and both my legs just in case.”

Dad’s confused but agrees. Once he snaps the photo, my uncle explains everything.

do i have legs
Me on the wrong side of the tape. Dad took this picture so I could have 1 last photo with both my legs….just in case.

 

yellow tape and mine sign
The road less traveled, and the yellow tape I clearly ignored.
striko pointing out the word mine
My uncle kindly pointing out the sign that reads “Mines” and the yellow tape.
warning
I happened to snap this picture as I’m cluelessly walking into the field of land mines.
tata and striko 1
Finally back on track and together again. No more wandering off for me. My uncle is smiling, dad not so much.
smile dad I have legs
Smile Dad…I still have my legs.

My poor dad. He went from confusion, to disappointment. I will never forget what he said to me when I made it back to where he and my uncle were standing. “ I swear, sometimes you could get a goat to listen better than you do”.    Priceless!

I think dad is still trying to figure out how I could be so stupid. Come on, it’s my job to keep him on his toes. No pun intended.

maramare.v
Mara Vranjes

 

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