Although a cease-fire was declared Wednesday in Yugoslavia's civil war, it's unclear when fighting will end, Kansas University professors and a KU student who have relatives in Croatia said today.
"Unfortunately, you think one day things might get better, but then there is fighting again," said Robert Diminic, a KU graduate student from Pula, Croatia, which is near the Italian border. "The situation is very, very uncertain."
Diminic and the two professors said they hoped a cease-fire announced Wednesday by United Nations envoy Cyrus R. Vance would end fighting between independence-seeking Croatia and the Serbian-dominated federal army.
But they said the measure the 15th truce since fighting began in June may not be different from previous cease-fires that failed within hours.
"That's very difficult to say" whether the truce will hold, said George Jerkovich, professor emeritus in Slavic languages and literatures and Soviet and East European studies, who has relatives in the Adriatic Sea island town of Zastrzisce, Croatia.
JERKOVICH said he spoke to his brother, who lives in Zastrzisce, two days ago and learned the town was attacked about a month ago. He said several buildings and an airport were hit. He said bombardment has ended.
"It's pretty quiet right now," he said.
He said his brother owns a restaurant, but business has been bad because there are no tourists.
Joseph Conrad, professor of Slavic languages and literatures and Soviet and East European studies, said he has given up his attempt to get two of his wife's cousins out of Croatia.
Conrad this fall had attempted to bring the relatives, a 19-year-old woman and a 12-year-old girl, to Lawrence until fighting in Croatia had subsided.
He traveled to Austria and met the relatives there, but U.S. officials would not grant the relatives visas to come to the United States.
DESPITE the help of U.S. Sen. Bob Dole, R-Kan., and U.S. Rep. Jim Slattery, D-Kan., Conrad said State Department officials still would not let the two come to the United States to study on a temporary basis.
Conrad today said the relatives are doing fine in Zagreb, the Croatian capital.
However, Conrad, Jerkovich and Diminic said they were worried about continued conflict. Nearly 10,000 deaths already have been caused by the unrest.
Diminic, whose parents and sister live in Pula, said he no longer talks about politics with them over the telephone.
"There is nothing we can do about the situation," he said. "We decided to not waste money talking about it."
Diminic said it also is difficult for him to study and complete school assignments while the conflict in his home continues.
"I HAVEN'T been following the news," he said. "It just makes things worse. It makes it more difficult to function here."
Jerkovich said the war is an emotional issue for him because about 20 Croatian cities have been destroyed.
In addition, he criticized Serbian Communists for continuing the war, and he questioned why the United States government is not helping Croatia.
"Here is the question that really bothers me," he said. "The United States does not help Croatia, even though they have a democratic system . . . and are fighting the Serbian Communists."