I haven't done anything exceptional so far today, not that would interest anyone else, so I thought I'd transcribe a couple of paragraphs from Mary Craig's book Spark From Heaven. In 1986 she was a journalist working for the BBC and accompanied the team that was to make an excellent documentary about the place. She was also commissioned to write a book and it is that book which piqued my interest, even though it was published in 1988, and I didn't get hold of my copy until 2014.
Her research, not only into the phenomenon of Medjugorje but the history of the region is outstanding, another reason why, as a writer of sorts myself, I became engrossed in it and wanted to know more.
These are just two paragraphs from that book which give some indication of the suffering that has gone on here.
"Our visit to Medjugorje was nearly at an end. Throughout it, one question had consistently nagged us. It seemed to us that there was an unhealed wound at the village's heart. Marija (one of the visionaries) had seen that weeping Madonna crying for peace; and if ever there was an area that needed peace it was this one; for throughout most of its history, it had been soaked in blood. We had read a great deal about the war years (WWII), the Ustasa atrocities, the terrible fratricidal slaughter perpetrated by both Croats and Cetniks. Roger (Stott, the film's researcher) and I had seen, in the Orthodox Monastery at Zitomislic a plaque that froze our blood. It commemorated the day, forty years earlier, 21st June 1941, when seven of the monks, from the Father Superior down to the youngest novice, were buried alive by the Ustase in the pit at Surmanci. Three days after that plaque had gone up, the apparitions started a few miles away in Medjugorje. That weeping woman, could there be a connection? Was this why Medjugorje had been chosen? Had those six children absorbed the hopes, desires, fears -- and guilts -- of a suffering people?
"It was not easy to discover the truth of what had happened in the war years. A wall of silence was erected against our inquiries. The subject, it was clear, was taboo. No one was willing to talk about that dreadful pit in Surmanci. As the Communists won't admit to the crimes of the Partisans, seemed to run the objection, why should we talk about the excesses of the Ustase? On one occasion we obtained a quite horrifying admission by default. Was it really true, we had asked, that in a single day in 1941, more than 700 Serbian Orthodox women and children had been buried alive in Surmanci by the Ustase? No, came the reply, which stunned us, "I have it on good evidence that it was only half that number."
I hasten to add a note of caution myself. While it was the Serbs who suffered in the atrocity of which Mary Craig writes, the roles were somewhat reversed in the war that was to come, with the Serbs accused of an estimated 90% of war crimes committed during that period. In my view sides are not to be taken. The theme here is peace.
And I don't think I've ever felt as peaceful in my life. I ought to be dreadfully bored. There's little to do, no real activities for visitors outside of church related ones and yet I haven't been the slightest bit bored the whole time I've been here.