'Good people wouldn't be capable of this'

Independent Decade
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Indy Lifestyle Online
Saturday, 9 November

The usual wake-up call, this time at 7.20am: dull booms, in threes, twos, then barrages of six. All phone lines are down, all refugee ferries were stopped yesterday. We are truly under siege. The warning siren wails from the loudspeakers in the Old Town. It is a spine-chilling sound. The Croats have set up a mortar close to our hotel, just as they have next to hospitals and refugee centres. This may make us a target. Sooner or later, they are going to lay a couple of rounds on us.

Sunday, 10 November

I dreamed last night that the army had occupied us. I was arrested and searched. An officer slowly cut a diamond shape out of my calf and ripped the entire skin off. I think that's when I woke up.

At 9.20am, Sarah Marojica, the British consul, pinned the Union Jack to her balcony. "This declares that I am now in residence. Under the consular convention, police should not be able to come in here unless I say so," she says. Then sniper bullets sang out and I yelled at her to get down. The chambermaid, Mare Djanovic, fiddled with her rosary and said: "Good people would not be capable of doing this. They must be demons." Later, I passed an open room and saw Mare on the balcony, silhouetted against the sea, arms aloft, pleading with them to stop. It was a sight I shall never forget.

At 1.50pm, I was outside the hotel front door when a movement on the ridge above caught my eye. A head, perhaps a rifle barrel. I was asking the hotel policemen if the Croatian Guards had men there when it hit me. The explosion was astonishing. On my left leg around the shin. It was deafeningly loud, too, and almost knocked me off my feet. I half-crawled into the lobby and called out to two journalists nearby. I remember saying, "I've been hit" and they dragged me out of the sniper's line of sight.

When I rolled up my trouser leg, it looked bad, bleeding profusely from two wounds. I turned hot and felt faint. Peter produced a hip-flask of Scotch, but a friendly refugee who was also tending me appeared to empty most of it herself. A Red Cross doctor, Didier, bandaged me. I was well enough to sip a beer as my good luck sank in.

Monday, 11 November

I got to the Medarevo hospital, which is more like a bunker. I was X- rayed and saw bits of metal surrounding my shin. Jon Jones, the Independent photographer, showed up when I was jabbed in the bum. He wouldn't take a picture of me like that, would he?

Click, click, click.

Tuesday, 12 November

Worst day so far. The gunboats started firing after 11am and hit the city's clock tower. The hotel is packed with refugees. Shrapnel shattered our hotel windows, cutting children.

Emerging from my shelter in a stench-filled toilet, I see Milo, the barman, still at his post in black suit and bow-tie. Surreal. The locals are horrified. Old Dubrovnik is burning. At night, a local lady joins us. "It's a catastrophe," she says. Someone pours her white wine in the only glass available. "I can't drink wine from a cognac glass,'' she says.

Phil Davison was shot by sniper fire while covering the Yugoslav war. In 1992, he received the Granada What the Papers Say award for Foreign Correspondent of the Year.

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