With the Kosovo War Crimes Institute beginning its work last month, the atrocities of the Kosovan war return to public examination around the world. An important contribution to the record of that brutal conflict is the recent book by Australian surgeon, Craig Jurisevic, Blood on My Hands.
It is 1999. As Milosevic’s campaign of genocide sweeps through the Balkans and plays out on TV screens all over the world, an Adelaide surgeon watches in horror and makes a personal resolve: to honour the memory of his grandfather, who was once held in a Nazi concentration camp, by offering his medical skills to the victims of the conflict. When he reaches his first field hospital, he discovers that it is magnificently equipped, but too far away from the combat zone to be of real practical use to the wounded or sick. He manoeuvres closer to the war zone, and there he is sickened by the massacre of innocents, corruption and political ineptitude. Jurisevic’s moral outrage forces him to set aside his non-partisan status as healer and take part in patrols behind Serbian lines, to pick up and in many cases to defend the victims and their families. We chose Blood on my Hands as the lead title in this month’s Encounters. We wanted our readers to have access to this deeply affecting account of exceptional heroism amidst unspeakable suffering in our time.
Jurisevic’s story is currently being filmed by Eva Orner, Academy Award–winning film producer. She says: ‘I’m thrilled to be working with Craig Jurisevic to adapt Blood on My Hands into a major motion picture. His unique story of compassion and humanity set against the backdrop of a war-torn country is truly inspiring. I read it from cover to cover in one sitting and immediately knew it would translate perfectly to the big screen.’
To read an extract from Blood on My Hands, click here.
It is hard to reconcile the author's portrait (right) with how he looks in the photograph above, where he and his troops are carrying out 'dusk retrieval'. Craig says, 'The heavy loss of life with patrols necessitated night movement. By this stage of the war I was underweight and exhausted. I am on the right at the front.'
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