On Saturday morning, we walk downtown. The central marketplace is crowded with shoppers. Reconstructed by the Croatian government, it includes covered aisles lined with permanent shops and an opened roofed area filled with rows of tables rented to vendors of dry goods, meat, vegetables, cheese. One stall sells honey and beeswax candles. Imports such as bananas and shiny new children's bicycles are set out next to women in babushkas who have come to town by bus carrying lettuce, eggs, and homemade rakija (brandy) to sell.
"Things look better, but people are also in a state of denial," Tauber says. "Some don't realize they need to mourn. `Everything is okay,' they tell you. They displace their pain onto `return' and economics: `If I had a job, everything would be great. If I were back in my house, everything would be good.' Denial is one of the problems we work with. So is apathy. You'll be in a village for a year and a half before you get a group going."
"The healing process is going to take a long time," Jankovic adds, who hopes Croatia will ultimately become "part of a United Europe without borders, but people here need to start doing things for themselves and stop waiting for things to happen on their own." One of the legacies of communism is a fear of acting independently. "It's local action, but the stimulus has to come from outside," Tauber says. Jankovic adds, "Economic recovery, justice, human rights, are all part of the picture, and there are groups that are well prepared to deal with those issues."
After five years in the field, Tauber wonders why the aid community is unwilling or unable to commit itself to reconstruction. "When I see the international institutions running away from the real work-the complex rehabilitation of societies that must begin to occur if healing is to happen-I get more and more frustrated. In this sense, this place is even more difficult than when I came."
Tauber can be voluble, impassioned, sometimes rash. "The Friends have a saying, `Speak truth to power,' and I do. That can make me unpopular." His tenacious attachment to the underdog surely upsets bureaucrats ensconced in organizations- the very people whose alliance he needs.
Yet as I reflect on where Tauber's journey has brought him, I sense that his almost reckless willingness to go it alone, without any support system at all, is part of his method. It allows him to meet and help men and women with problems that many of us would shrink from even thinking about.
Vivian Lewin is on the communications staff at McGill University. This is her first article for Reed.
The address of the CCWWPP mission to Croatia