"Whom I served—by him I was buried!"
—14th-Century Bosnian Inscription
"For now I began to get the news from Croatia," wrote Mrs. Ruth Mitchell, an American in Dubrovnik, in May of 1941. "I could not believe a quarter of them. Unfortunately, I was soon to know that they were a weak understatement of the truth. Men were soon to arrive in Dubrovnik itself, hung with strings of Serbian tongues and with bowls of Serbian eyes for sale."
From the ridge of the Dinaric Alps, Dubrovnik looks golden against a deep-blue sea. Olive groves and vineyards surround it, and the air smells of pomegranates and oranges and exotic, Mediterranean flowers. When they first reached it in the seventh century, the wandering Slavs must have regarded Ragusa as a paradise.
Bosnians, Bogomils who converted into Islam in the 15th century, were the men Ruth Mitchell saw in wartime Dubrovnik. Former Turkish Military Frontiersmen, they, ragged and dark, strolled through white, polished, sundrenched Dubrovnik. Filigreed hanjars glistened in their sashes.
Until 1878, these Islamized Serbs or Croats manned a line that once divided the Eastern and the Western Roman Empire. Starting with the 15th century, the former administrative limes became the Military Frontier which sundered Austria from Turkey, East from West, Islam from Christianity, North...