An Aid Worker's Journey into Bosnia
Aubrey Verboven has extensive experience living and working in Eastern Europe while serving on the staff of international aid groups and non-governmental organizations during the 1990s. These organizations include Médecins Sans Frontières, CARE Canada, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees and the International Organization for Migration. As a writer based in Ottawa, he has published many travel related articles in the Guardian Weekly, the Globe & Mail and Central Europe Online.
Verboven's first book, Border Crossings - An Aid Worker's Journey into Bosnia, is based on his personal experiences working with Médecins Sans Frontières during the war in Bosnia. This gripping novel offers an intimate view of life and work while under siege, as it chronicles a young man's efforts to deliver medical aid to people suffering from the conflict. While plunging into the details of a forgotten corner of the Balkan conflict, Border Crossings provides great insight into the motives and challenges experienced by all of the people he encounters during the journey. In the process his experience becomes a journey of discovery into his own character and those of the people whose lives were under siege.
The novel opens with the principal character Justin seeking to employ his knowledge and education in a fulfilling occupation. Starting as a volunteer for a non-governmental medial aid group, Justin becomes directly involved with the operation to bring medical supplies to war torn pockets of Bosnia, traveling first to Austria, then through Zagreb, Croatia to Serb held territories in Bosnia. Crossing a multitude of checkpoints, battlegrounds, and destroyed villages, Justin encounters civilians, paramilitary groups, expatriate journalists, aid workers, and UN peacekeeping personnel on his journeys through the region.
Spawned by ignorance and indignity, these borders intersect the countryside leaving pockets of isolated villages whose neighbors have been displaced by ethnic and religious divisions. Obstacles and tangled bureaucracies make the challenge of delivering vital humanitarian relief almost insurmountable, as different groups of refugees block the main routes into relief areas, and as forces within fight each other. Border Crossings reaches a climax as fighting erupts in the Bihac pocket in Bosnia, surrounded by Serbs forces in both Bosnia and Croatia. While an enigmatic warload within the Bihac pocket fights with his fellow Muslims, a Serb offensive into the area aims to wipe out the Muslim population. For vital medical supplies to reach the beleaguered population, Justin must overcome duplicity, ethnic hatred, and his own fears.