The Fate of a Boy from Bihac: Escaped from the War in BiH as a Child, and returned in the Peace Mission of NATO

April 5, 2017 11:30 AM

Kristijan Jankovic“I decided for a career in the US Army because I no longer wanted to run away. As a child, I never wanted to leave my hometown Bihac, but I had to. Later, when we came to Rijeka when I was a teenager, I never wanted to leave Rijeka, but once again, I had to. Finally, when we arrived in the United States, I said to myself: “I will never run away or go anywhere, except by my own will,” said Kristijan Jankovic, a former student of Medical School in Rijeka, who is a highly-awarded major in the US military with a series of combat and peacekeeping missions behind him, and a Master of science who is expecting promotion to the rank of colonel soon.

Although he lives a quiet, family life because of severe injuries in a combat mission in 2014, Kristijan’s life was anything but peaceful.

He was born in Bihac in 1976, which he had to leave like many of his fellow citizens because of the war in BiH. He came to Rijeka, the city with which he is still connected in many ways and that he visits every year. He met his current wife, Davorka, in Rijeka and they had two daughters. Kristijan and his family moved from Rijeka in 1994, when they went to Iowa after he completed the third grade of Medical High School.

He became a scout and tank gunner in the army, and he participated in numerous missions, including missions in BiH and Croatia, as well as even three missions, lasting from several months to a year, in Afghanistan.

“BiH and Croatia remain, of course, in a special memory. I have been twice in BiH, first as Assistant to the Commanding General of Tuzla, and in the second as a Commander of NATO intelligence troops, in which my knowledge of the language and culture helped me a lot. In the first mission in BiH, I was in a military uniform of the US Army, but I have to say that people were great. I felt no animosity nor the difference in members of any of the three nationalities. I’ve never experienced any discomfort because I was in the US Army, nor because I am a Croat. They looked at me like one of their own, someone who has succeeded, and they were happy for me,” said Kristijan.

Afghanistan is a whole different story in his career. He did three missions there, the first one in the province of Khost, in the east of the country, near the border with Pakistan, where they had frequent contacts with enemies, sometimes practically looking at each other from the distance of a few hundred meters.

“There were some almost comical situations if we were not placed in the middle of war tragedy. We were talking on the radio with the enemy soldiers without any problem. At first, it was very uncomfortable, they were threatening to us in English what they will do to us if they catch us. Later on, this became almost a joke, so I used to play Croatian music on the radio and talk to them in Croatian, and this was very confusing to them. Otherwise, that is very difficult, inhospitable terrain, with mountains that are several thousand meters high, and there is almost no vegetation. Only stone and the Talibans. I was joking that we, men from Krajina, are born for that kind of “landscapes”, said Kristijan.

Besides Khost, he participated in the missions in Kabul and Bagram as well, and he was seriously injured a little less than three years ago in the last one, which is why he is not participating in military missions anymore.

“Now I’m working in my office, and my task is to follow the careers and decide the following positions for some officers. This makes my wife happy. It is now a lot easier for her, I’m home, I have working hours, and I no longer go to a combat mission. I must say that she was my biggest support all of these years. Her father was a participant of the Homeland War and a prisoner in Knin. We met when I was in Rijeka and that is a very long and very beautiful story, and without her, I certainly would not be able to achieve everything I have achieved in my life,” concluded Kristijan Jankovic.



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