The Canadian Shepherds of Korenica

The Canadian Shepherds of Korenica

From Chicken Soup for the Canadian Soul

The Canadian Shepherds of Korenica

The service we render to others is really the rent we pay for our room on this earth.

Sir Wilfred Grenfell

In 1993, Corporal Mike Floyd and Constable Roger Morrow of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) volunteered to serve on a peacekeeping mission as police officers for the United Nations Civilian Police (UNCIVPOL) in the former Yugoslavia. They were posted in Korenica, a small village in Croatia held by the Serbs. Mike is a gregarious fellow with a big heart and liquid eyes that convey compassion and respect for every living thing that crossed his path. His partner, Roger Morrow, who had previously been stationed in Red Deer, Alberta, was proud of the uniform he wore and took his role as a peacekeeper very seriously.

With their pockets always filled with candies for the children they met during their long and perilous patrols, these Canadian peacekeepers became well-known and respected by both sides in that sad war.

On the outskirts of Korenica, nestled in the forested hills, was a small hamlet where an elderly Croatian farmer lived with his wife and sister-in-law. The old man had spent his whole life tending his farm and caring for his sheep. One quiet morning, the farmer and his family were visited by Serb rebels who forced him to watch as they violated and then killed his wife and sister-in-law. That morning the old man lost not only his family but also what was left of his faith in God and human nature.

When the rebels took the old man out to the fields to finish him off, he somehow managed to escape, hiding in the woods until he ran into a patrol of Czech peacekeepers. The local police were called in to investigate but, as is often the case in war, very little energy was put into attempting to bring the criminals to justice.

When our two Canadian Mounties heard of the incident, they drove out to the farm and met with the old man. Mike and Roger listened with compassion as the elderly farmer recounted the senseless loss of his soul mate and her sister. Worried that the thugs would be back to finish the job, Corporal Floyd and Constable Morrow tried to convince him to flee to safety on the other side of the border, where he had relatives. With his voice cracking in sorrow and desperation, the widower explained that not only did he not have the money and connections to make it across the border safely, but that he could not, even with his life in danger, abandon his sheep. They counted on him and under no circumstances could he leave them to fend for themselves.

When the two Mounties returned to Korenica, they convinced their United Nations (UN) colleagues to donate money to help the aged farmer reach what was left of his family across the border. Within a short period, they collected several hundred dollars.

With their pockets holding cash as well as candies, Mike and Roger drove their white vehicle with the black UN letters on the hood back toward the farmhouse. When they arrived, they found the old shepherd tending to his flock.

The farmer slowly made his way toward the two Canadians he had learned to trust. Corporal Floyd looked into the weather-beaten face of the old man. He explained to him again that he must leave his farm and go live with his relatives across the border. The farmer patiently listened to the young Canadian with the blue beret. He lowered his head and reiterated that he didn’t have any money to make his way across the border.

At that point, Corporal Floyd handed him the money and told him they would arrange with the Red Cross to ensure his safe passage. The farmer shook his head and returned the bills to the peacekeepers. Though he had lost just about everything that was dear to him, he still had his pride. “I can’t accept your money,” he quietly said. “And besides, I have to think of the sheep.”

Roger and Mike looked at each other. Mike had an idea. “What about this,” he offered. “With this money, we’ll buy your sheep from you. Then you’ll have the money to go to your relatives.”

“But who will take care of them?” asked the shepherd.

“Mike will,” replied Roger with a grin. The old man stared long and hard at the Canadian Mounties—foreign police officers to him. With his voice cracking and his faith restored in his fellowman, he slowly answered, “Hvallah,” or, “Thank you.”

With the Mounties’ help and the money they had collected, the old man made it safely across the border. The peacekeepers took care of the flock as promised, until word was received that the old man had died. Working with a representative of the village, Mike and Roger then dispersed the old man’s beloved sheep to those local area residents who most needed them. Soon after, our heroes’ tours of duty were over, and they quietly returned to their law enforcement duties in a major Canadian city—where sheep are scarce and shepherds more so.

Who says there are no real heroes in Canada? Few Canadians know that in a small hamlet in a distant land, these two RCMP officers are remembered as “the Canadian shepherds of Korenica.”

Wayne Watson
Orleans, Ontario

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