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(E) Story Re Reporter Killed in 1991 in Croatia
By Nenad N. Bach | Published  03/2/2002 | News | Unrated
(E) Story Re Reporter Killed in 1991 in Croatia
The following appeared in the Cincinnati Enquirer. The story with photos 
can be seen at 
Poem foretold reporter's death in Croatia 
'And your name, too, will be killed tomorrow' 
'To the reporter' 
Take as many notes and shots as you can, 
my friend. 
But do not report to the world that only 
a number was killed. 
In the golden fields of Slavonia. 
As no number has any given name or 
any taken future. 
Do report to the world that 
it was Johann and William 
and Victor and Francesco 
That was killed 
in the heart of Slavonia 
And that Gabriel and Gyorgy 
and your name, too 
Will be killed tomorrow 
Take as many notes and shots as you can, 
my friend. 
But do not report to the world that only 
a number was killed. 
In the bleeding fields of Slavonia. 
-- Anonymous 
By Rosemary Goudreau 
The Cincinnati Enquirer 
His picture hangs by my desk, the portrait of a 40-something newspaperman 
with graying hair and wire-rim glasses, smiling as I remember him a decade ago. 
Egon Scotland. 
        So, too, is a copy of the poem found in his pocket a year later, 
after he was ambushed and killed by Serbian guerrillas in the early days of 
the conflict in Croatia. 
        The poem was written in English on an old manual typewriter that 
needed a new ribbon. Titled To the Reporter, the poem called on my friend to 
tell the world that it wasn't just a number killed in the bleeding fields of 
        Report to the world that 
       it was Johann and William, 
       and Victor and Francesco, 
       That was killed 
       in the heart of Slavonia. 
       "And that Gabriel and Gyorgy, 
       and your name, too, 
       will be killed tomorrow. 
        My friend Egon Scotland, a reporter for the Munich-based newspaper 
Suddeutsche Zeitung, died doing what reporters do - telling the world what's 
going on so that people can make informed decisions about their governments 
and their lives. 
        Egon (pronounced A-gon) died nine months after I last saw him in 
Washington, D.C. He and his wife Christiane had just driven in from 
California, where we'd spent a year together in a journalism fellowship 
program at Stanford University. 
        Egon had driven the back roads across the country, following parts 
of Route 66. Unlike most times we saw one another, he had no car stories to 
tell, probably because he'd rented a car. The year of our fellowship, Egon 
bought a beast of a Buick for $600 and it seemed he spent as much time 
alongside the road, as on the road. 
        We were among 18 journalists in the John S. Knight fellowship class 
of 1989-90. Twelve of us came from the United States, eight from other 
        From the day we met, it was clear my foreign colleagues lived a much 
different life. Sitting in a circle that first day, we took turns 
introducing ourselves. 
        There was Joanna Szczesna from Poland, who spoke a broken English 
she'd learned in prison. Joanna was jailed by Polish authorities for writing 
articles about Lech Walesa's upstart Solidarity Movement. Police repeatedly 
raided her apartment, but Joanna was clever. She hid her notes in the wall 
or sometimes in her baby's diaper. 
        There was Rafael Santos, the managing editor of El Tiempo in Bogota, 
Colombia. Raphael told us he had three bodyguards just in case one was 
bought off. He carried a gun and took a different route to work each day. 
Raphael couldn't find someone willing to sell him life insurance. The year 
of our fellowship, his brother Francisco was kidnapped by Pablo Escobar's 
Medellin Cartel. Unlike so many other influential people kidnapped in 
Colombia, Francisco survived. Noted author Gabriel Garcia Marquez later 
wrote a book aboutFrancisco's captivity. 
        And there was Sun Yi, an economics reporter from China. Sun Yi lived 
around the corner from Tiananmen Square, where the pro-democracy student 
movement had been beaten down only four months earlier. Sun Yi didn't want 
to talk about what happened and never did. She spoke little English, but was 
quite comfortable with the word "no." She used it frequently. "Want to drive 
to the coast, Sun Yi?" "No." I'm not sure she always understood the 
question, but she knew her stock answer would keep her from trouble. 
        The lives of my foreign colleagues looked nothing like mine, a fact 
I'm reminded of as we await news of Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel 
Pearl, kidnapped while reporting a story in Pakistan. 
        At the time of the fellowship, I was the medical writer for The 
Miami Herald and the worst threats I'd ever faced were a screaming doctor, a 
woman who spit on me and a few people who promised lawsuits but never filed 
        Egon was a serious student the year we called - and feared would 
remain - the best of our lives. 
        A German native, he was a spiritual soul who liked the woods. He 
designed and sewed the vest he so often wore. He studied Balkan history and 
the Serbo-Croatian language, knowing he wanted to go to the region when the 
year ended. I remember watching television with him when the Berlin Wall 
fell. It was tough for this seasoned political journalist, so well known by 
members of the Bavarian parliament, to be away from home at such a momentous 
         When he returned to Germany, Egon wrote us that "the safety of 
seclusion has gone on both sides of the Iron Curtain. A major part of the 
political discourse now is discoveries - who, in the past, was whose spy, 
agent or secret ally." 
        Shortly after that, with Communism crumbling in Eastern Europe, Egon 
was sent to Croatia, which was one of the first Yugoslav republics to break 
from the Serbian-dominated central government in Belgrade. The ethnic 
conflict later spread to Bosnia-Herzegovina and Kosovo. 
        "His reports showed an understanding of the region and its history 
that few other correspondents could match," wrote classmate Kathryn Tolbert, 
a Washington Post reporter who visited Christiane in the weeks after Egon's 
        "He was in Turkey and Lebanon and Jordan and in the Kurdish refugee 
camps in Iraq, an experience that aged him, Christiane said. But he had 
become a star at the newspaper." 
        Egon hadn't wanted to go to Yugoslavia. He was tired and had been 
traveling constantly. "But he would not turn down a request from his 
newspaper. The paper asked several other reporters and then came back to 
Egon. So he went," Kathy wrote us. 
        The night before he died, Egon called Christiane around midnight, as 
always. They didn't talk long because he was due home two days later. Egon 
was tired, having spent a month in the region. He would have been home 
already, but his newspaper asked him to stay just a couple of days longer. 
        The next day, Friday, July 26, 1991, terror broke out. 
        The New York Times reported that Serbian nationalists, who 
outnumbered the Croats with whom they'd lived peacefully during the Cold 
War, began rounding up their neighbors to use as human shields for a 
methodical march of death. Times reporter Stephen Engelberg filed his report 
from Sisak, in the region of Slavonia, about 15 miles from where Egon died. 
        The report said that Serbs pulled people from their homes that 
weekend and used them to create "a human wall" as they marched forward, 
steadily firing a heavy machine gun mounted atop a truck. The assault was 
part of a broad offensive to push Croats from their villages and create a 
pure-blood Serbian state. 
        "Police defenders were reportedly paralyzed by the sight of their 
families held hostage and did not return fire," Stephen reported. "The 
Serbian advance was finally halted when a Croatian policeman jumped atop the 
truck and detonated grenades he was carrying in what was apparently a 
suicide mission." 
        At the end of the uprising's first day, Egon was safe in a camp near 
Glina. But a friend of his - Susanne Kupke, a young correspondent for the 
German Press Agency wire service - had not yet returned. 
        And so, with a radio reporter colleague behind the wheel, Egon got 
in a car clearly marked PRESS and went looking for her. 
        On a deserted road, they came upon some stranded cars, doors flung 
open. Egon's friend brought the car to a stop about the same time both 
journalists realized they were facing an ambush. Serb gunmen emerged with a 
hail of gunfire. They shot through the headlights, the surest way into a 
car's interior. Egon was shot in the abdomen. The radio reporter, unharmed, 
threw the car into reverse and managed an escape. He drove to the hospital 
in Sisak, where Egon was pronounced dead. He had bled to death. 
        Egon never knew that the young reporter he sought was safe, taken in 
by a peasant family. For more than a day, she remained huddled in the dark 
of their home, windows shuttered, conversations in whispers. Outside, a 
steady rain of grenades and gunfire was directed at the homes of Croats. 
"Dear God, please help," she heard one woman pray. 
        Susanne reported that the gunmen were deliberately firing at 
journalists. The word among the Serbs, who dominated the Yugoslav Army, was 
that reporters favored Croatia. 
        Egon is one of 58 journalists killed in the Balkans since 1989, the 
victim of an ethnic conflict that left hundreds of thousands of people dead 
or homeless. 
        Today, the man who stoked the nationalist fervor of the Serbs who 
killed him, former Yugoslav president Slobodan Milosevic, faces a war-crimes 
trial at The Hague, Netherlands. He stands accused of crimes against 
humanity - genocide and ethnic cleansing. 
        And so today, let me, too, tell the world: 
It was Johann and William, 
       Victor and Francesco, 
       Gabriel and Gyorgy 
       - and Egon, too - 
       who were killed 
       in the bleeding fields of Slavonia. 
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  • Comment #1 (Posted by Tim)

    Egon was with me at Stanford, at Haus Mitteleuropa, when the Loma Prieta earthquake struck. It was the "German House" and we had a guest speaker who was about to speak about Erich Honecker's resignation that same day. Egon took a great picture from within the house, a portrait of Goethe, still hanging on the wall, with rubble in the foreground and dry wall shattered all around it.
    Egon was a great man. I was lucky to know him and your portrait of him fits him perfectly.
    Thanks for the tribute.
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