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Locals Fleeing for Their Lives

Heroes Remember

Locals Fleeing for Their Lives

Yugoslavia itself when we got there, I mean we came from a very, very, we were living in Germany basically with 3RCR. We were hand picked for November Company to go and accompany the Vandoos so you’re looking at a hand picked group of elite soldiers basically that were taken from within 3RCR to go and do this job. They picked only the best and the brightest basically. And when you get there, it’s hard to describe. It’s like going back 50 years. We went from Germany, you know very, very modern and fast, but you arrive in Yugoslavia to a country that’s basically been encompassed at that point for years by dictatorship and what have you and, of course, you don’t have the modern conveniences. You got stand up toilets versus, you know, what we have here, in sit down toilets. Running water, very, very scarce, you know everything had to be done by hand for the most part until you get into the big modern cities, and then, of course, it was very much like Germany but outlying areas, very ,very it was backwards by almost 40 years I think. I can still recall many, many times we’d go on patrol. We would drive into a town or a village and we would basically be looking for anybody and there wasn’t a soul. So you’re taking a town or a village that maybe had 300, 500, 700 people living in it and the houses are very, very close together, and all you see is a dog perhaps a chicken, maybe a pig running around. We did enter a lot of these homes and take a look around to see what’s there, what’s going on and of course, that’s where you start encountering the bodies. That’s where the sights and smells again of war come into play. But the houses were ransacked and you gotta remember when these people are being pushed out the people that were following along would actually ransack their house and the idea was so they could never come back. So everything that would been in drawers or bureaus or what have you was all dumped over the floor, fixtures were torn off, photos strewn. If I had a dime for every photo I seen over there that was laying on the floor and you can imagine taking your pictures and dumping them on the floor, never ever seeing them again. A lot of black and white pictures of children, of births and celebrations and stuff that these people will never have again and it was very, very disheartening to see this of course but you knew that nobody would ever come back to these homes again and that’s what’s kind of tough. So these villages, it was very, very sad to see, you know, homes probably were owned for many, many years, you know, through families and families and generations and they’ll never come back, you know. I remember going into one actually just off topic, and the food was still sitting, now this house hadn’t been, hadn’t had anybody an occupant in probably seven-eight months and it looked like they were sitting down for dinner. This is one of the lucky ones that didn’t get ransacked but all the food was sitting on the table where it would sit. There was food sitting on the stove, all the pots and everything, the table was set, looked like they were about ready to sit down for dinner and then they were basically told, grab your stuff and get the hell out.

Mr. Ott tells of the elite soldiers picked to provide humanitarian aid to the besieged city of Sarajevo and how life for the locals was destroyed as they fled from the villages.

David Ott

Mr. David Ott was born January 26, 1968 in Amherst, Nova Scotia. Fresh out of high school, Mr. Ott made his decision to join the military and entered battle school. The military way of life held a fascination for him and after being in army cadets for 6-7 years prior, it was an easy decision to choose army as his branch of service for active duty service. He joined The Royal Canadian Regiment and held rank of Corporal. Mr. Ott took his basic training in Petawawa, Ontario and after six months there, travelled to Germany for additional preparation. In 1992, Mr. Ott was part of the contingent of soldiers to arrive in the besieged city of Sarajevo for the purpose providing humanitarian aid and medical supplies, as well as reopening of the airport and for this received an honour, Commander-in-Chief Unit commendation. Mr. Ott made the decision to leave the military shortly after this tour.

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Veterans Affairs Canada
Person Interviewed:
David Ott
War, Conflict or Mission:
Canadian Armed Forces
Royal Canadian Regiment

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