"I have a problem with revenge," he says. "Revenge and aggression come from hurt inside. Pain is normal-it wouldn't be normal not to be hurt. The challenge is to recover from those wounds." Tauber began working with refugees and asylum seekers in the Netherlands shortly after he graduated from medical school there in 1988. "It's a complicated situation. . . . you need interpreters, different cultural concepts of disease, and so on. The people are highly traumatized." His pacifist Quaker convictions and his ties with Amnesty International and the Dutch branch of Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War (PPNW) led to an invitation to the former Yugoslavia in 1993. He returned for another assessment visit in 1994 and again for what began as a six-week assignment in 1995. He's been here ever since.
"My parents were refugees, Jews from Hungary and the Ukraine who ended up in Brooklyn. Had I lived 50 or even 20 years earlier, I might have been in the same boat. When I arrived here, I kept seeing images of my grandmother in the people I met. I felt far more connected than I ever had in the Netherlands. In fact, I felt I had discovered my `task'-my lifework."
The people who established the CWWPP include Quakers, Mennonites, and members of the PPNW. Among them was Tauber, who describes the thinking behind this approach. "It's a basic premise of any psychotherapy that people who learn to communicate and express their feelings can get the hurt out of them. The work we are doing is based on the further premise that dealing with pain and sharing common pain can help with reconciliation. Only after we begin communicating and expressing feeling can we hope to begin the processes of reconciliation."
How do you start? According to Tauber, "you have to talk to people if you want to get them through these traumatic experiences. Many international organizations think it's a short process. This is a problem we constantly come up against. Our goal is to end hatred." Before the war, people of different ethnic groups here had lived together and even intermarried. The war tore these communities and families apart. "We start by visiting people and talking to them, from a neutral position of friendship. Then we train them to do this process in groups. Offer them training in skills they can use to help each other-communications, nonviolent conflict resolution, working with psychotrauma.
"Sometimes I've told myself, I will do only psychotrauma and nothing else. But I keep coming back to the larger picture," Tauber says. Jankovic adds, "It's really a very fine line. How much do you take on? It's a mistake to take on too much. But it's worse to take on too little."
Pavle Jankovic, the co-director of CWWPP, is a Serb from Belgrade who brings 10 years' experience in mediation and peace-building to the organization. A diplomat by education, he has a master's in international relations and strategic studies from Lancaster University in the U.K. and specializes in resolving inter-ethnic conflicts.
Jankovic and Tauber agree on the long-term view. As Tauber says, "We're talking about reconstructing a post-conflict society and preventing violence in the future." Jankovic adds: "I've seen quite a few conflicts over the years; I've lived in both Lebanon and Iraq, I've seen the breakup of my own country. I want to work in what used to be my homeland."
In the past five years, Tauber has worked with countless individuals and dozens of groups in eastern Croatia, northern Bosnia (including the Brko region), and Vojvodina. One Belgrade-based group of Serbian professionals were themselves refugees from Croatia who were working with refugees in Eastern Slavonia. Between 5 percent and 15 percent of the people here have been physically mistreated in prisons or concentration camps, Tauber says. "In fact, few people have not been traumatized."