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Speech of Dr. Ulrich Gottstein, Germany

IPPNW-Symposium in Mostar

Bosnia-Herzegovina, 8.-10. June 2012

Our IPPNW meeting here today in Mostar is truly a very special one! This is the tenth time since 1998 that young physicians and medical students from former Yugoslavia meet, not to forget the suffering of the past wars, but to work towards reconciliation, peace and a better future and also to build and consolidate personal friendships. This is the second time that we meet in Mostar. Before, there were three friendship meetings in Sarajevo, two in Belgrade, one in Neum, two in Skopje, and last year we met in Pristina.

In February 1994 Dr. Stambolovic and I went to see the Kosovarian colleagues in Pristina again, and we continued to Pontegorica, the capital of Montenegro. By opponents of Milosevic we were informed about their hope for the near future.

In July 1994 I travelled to Mostar again. This time I was accompanied by our Dutch IPPNW-colleague Dr. Carol de Jong van Lier and the expelled Bosnian Surgeon Dr. Muhidin Alicehajic. We went to Tuzla, Zenica and other places in Bosnia. We passed many villages which were destroyed and we helped two young people in our car whose relatives had just been killed by an artillery shell on our road half an hour ago.   We brought large amounts of medications to a number of field hospitals near the front lines and saw wounded civilians and soldiers, side by side.

On quite dangerous mountain roads along the Mount Igman we reached the besieged Sarajevo, which since 1992 was under attack from Serbian artillery on the mountains and from snipers. We saw the huge destruction of the city and of the University hospitals which had been hit 400 times and had killed 3 doctors and 7 nurses. We also visited the grave yard on the sports ground of the Olympic Stadion, which already had 5.000 graves, 1.100 of them the graves of children. The Director of the Neurosurgical Hospital, Prof.Hafid Konjhadzic and the head of the Vascular Department Dr. Dilic, as well as the Chief Physician of the City Hospital asked for special medications, which I was able to organize. I promised to the chief of the Childrens´ Psychiatric Dept. financial support of the German IPPNW for the renewal of the patients´ rooms. But what made us extremely sad too, was the great disappointment of the physicians and of the members of the Sarajevo Circle of Intellectuals that the United Nations were not coming to their help to liberate them from the siege and shelling. The liberation happened finally in 1995, after three and a half years of siege The NATO had bombed the Serbian artillery on the hills around Sarajevo.

The doctors in Sarajevo decided to found an affiliate of IPPNW, the “Physicians for Peace of Bosnia”, as part of the Medical Association.

After each of my trips on behalf of IPPNW I reported to the German media and the Foreign Ministry and to the German and International IPPNW. So it came about that I also reported in  Wuerzburg at the invitation of Dr. Wolfram Braun and the IPPNW-group He asked me how the Wuerzburg group could help. My answer was that reconciliation work was now of greatest importance and I suggested that it might be possible for them to invite medical students from different regions of former Yugoslavia to work together in the hospital and to live and celebrate together.  So the “Wuerzburg IPPNW-Program” started in 1996 and continues to the very day!

From this program the medical students created the idea to invite their colleagues and the German friends to IPPNW-Symposia in their own countries of West Balkan. That was made true since 1998, and today we celebrate the tenth of these meetings. How wonderful!

May this meeting help peace and reconciliation to develop and to grow in the West Balkans and may it support the commitment of the international IPPNW, which since 1981 has been working to prevent tragedies like Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The prevention of all wars is an absolute necessity and precondition as nuclear war would develop out of a war that was initially non-nuclear.

Dr. Ulrich Gottstein

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