Donna Gavette used to ignore the war in the Balkans, for it seemed a tangled and confusing conflict grinding on month after month in a distant land. But when she read the newspaper over breakfast the other day, the violence in Sarajevo was suddenly brought home.
Mrs. Gavette, of Red Creek, N.Y., felt overwhelmed by photographs of terrified young children whose bus had been attacked as it was leaving Sarajevo, the besieged Bosnian capital. Two children were killed. The images were so shocking that she and her husband, Barry, vowed to try to adopt one of the children or at least send money.
The plight of the children has touched off a surge of phone calls to relief groups, government agencies and news organizations from many Americans who are expressing concern about the war in the Balkans for the first time since it began last year. Many calls are from people wondering if the children, who were from an orphanage, are available for adoption.
"I don't know if they have a full grasp of the issues. But people, when they see the face of a child in pain, respond," said Julia M. Muggia, spokeswoman for the U.S. Committee for UNICEF.
The State Department is advising callers that most Americans cannot adopt the orphans because under Yugoslav law, which apparently has not been changed by the newly independent Bosnian government, only Yugoslav citizens or people of Yugoslav descent can adopt Yugoslav children.
That news has disappointed couples like Randolph and Jill Nudo of Houston, who have been trying to adopt a child for years. "I have never done this before, responded to a picture in the newspaper, but this particular one just happened to be heart-wrenching," Mr. Nudo said.