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Where are they now?

What ever happened to Harry Wu, Scott McChrystal, Branko Lovrec, Ura Tchekhovski, and Allison Culpeper?

When Harry Wu spoke with WORLD a year ago, he was a folk hero of the human-rights establishment (see WORLD, Jan. 6). The Chinese-born American citizen was accused by Chinese authorities of "stealing state secrets" after a series of clandestine trips back to his homeland. The last one, in the summer of 1995, landed him in prison for three months. When he emerged he had attracted a new level of international attention to China's extensive prison camp system and its use of forced labor in the production of cheap products for export.

Now Mr. Wu's 15 minutes of celebrityhood are over. His uncompromising desire to bring down China's communist government is drawing fire on American soil too. Critics accuse him of exaggerating the human-rights abuses he has investigated. They say he has peddled his findings without regard to their effect on U.S.-China relations. But supporters note his extensive research has not been discredited, and that granting Most Favored Nation status to the Chinese government hasn't changed its despotic habits, anyway.

One critic, Chinese-American businessman George Koo, so disliked Mr. Wu's work that he organized a group called Concerned Citizens for Rational Relations with China to protest Mr. Wu's nomination for the 1996 Nobel Peace Prize. Mr. Wu's supporters point out that Mr. Koo's California-based consulting firm helps U.S. corporations do business in China, particularly with its military.

Among conservatives Mr. Wu's reputation is now mixed. Hoover Institution colleague Ramon Myers spoke out against Mr. Wu in an interview with the Los Angeles Times last month. He called Mr. Wu "a bitter person who vehemently wants revenge." Although he provided the initial funding for Mr. Wu's research, Mr. Myers told the Times, "I regret, frankly, that he was ever at Hoover."

But after Mr. Wu testified at a July hearing on Capitol Hill, Senate Foreign Relations Committee chairman Jesse Helms said, "If freedom ever comes to mainland China, as they call it, I hope they will consider a statue on Tiananmen Square to Harry Wu."

Mr. Wu's latest campaign is against the World Bank. He accuses the bank of spending $125 million to fund an irrigation project in China that uses exiled laborers and includes military activity.

Mr. Wu himself may not have escaped his own spiritual wilderness. Last December he confessed, "I doubt of God," even as he said, "I think God is still inside my heart. I think he is supporting me and escorting me." In his latest book, titled Troublemaker: One Man's Crusade Against China's Cruelty and just released by Random House, Mr. Wu writes, "I'm a secular man ... with no streak of the martyr."

When the Dayton Accords were signed one year ago, President Clinton promised Americans their soldiers would be needed in Bosnia only until this month. It took him nearly the full year of their deployment to admit to what U.S. Army chaplain Scott McChrystal told WORLD last March (see WORLD, March 30): "We are planting a seed here, and I'm not sure if one year is enough time to let it grow."

A smaller contingent of American soldiers will stay into next year, but Lt. Col. McChrystal's work in the former Yugoslavia is finished. He left U.S. headquarters near Tuzla, where he was head chaplain to the Army's 1st Armored Division, in November. He is on leave before resuming duties back in Germany next year. His division, which served as part of NATO's implementation force known as IFOR, is being replaced by a smaller police division in what will be known as SFOR, or sustainment force.

If the acronym hints at shades of Vietnam, the similarities are not lost on Lt. Col. McChrystal, who was an infantry officer in the Vietnam War. Even the rough terrain around Tuzla and the ubiquitous dampness reminded him of Southeast Asia. "Except in this case we are not at war, we are still enforcing the peace."

Rules for U.S. troops even in peacekeeping are stricter than ever before, given attacks on Americans in Saudi Arabia, and farther back, Somalia and Beirut. Requirements to abstain from alcohol and the local social scene have remained in place, and they are hard on some soldiers. Maintaining "full battle rattle," which means keeping weapons at hand and wearing flak vests with helmets at all times, is stressful to everyone.

For chaplains like Lt. Col. McChrystal, their own workload has increased as a result. An associate with Lt. Col. McChrystal, army chaplain Charlie Morrison, said: "Once the decision was made [to send U.S. troops to Bosnia]--even if you don't agree with it--then good chaplains take care of soldiers. The more alone, isolated, and forgotten they feel, the more important our ministry is to them."

Last Christmas Branko Lovrec (see WORLD, March 30) had shoeboxes on his mind; this year, it's chickens. The director of the Christian Resource Center in Zagreb, Croatia, assisted Franklin Graham's Operation Christmas Child to distribute 400,000 shoeboxes filled with goodies to needy children throughout the former Yugoslavia. This Christmas Mr. Graham's organization, Samaritan's Purse, will handle the shoeboxes themselves from Sarajevo. For Mr. Lovrec and his group, it's a purposeful if friendly parting of the ways. "That is about survival," said Mr. Lovrec's colleague Ivan Vacec. "This is about living," he says of the chickens.

The Christian Resource Center helped farmers this year in northern Bosnia raise 100,000 chickens for laying eggs. During five years of war, Mr. Vacec says, the Baptist humanitarian organization distributed eggs and other food for survival. "Now these people are starting to work again." The initial chicken development project helped restart 10 farms; a summer tomato project helped five families return to farming. The center provided farming equipment donated from Austria and supplies like seeds and incubators donated from relief organizations. Once their products sell, these farms will be self-sustaining. "The war is over," Mr. Vacec said. "This is not a Third World situation. These people need to keep going in a normal free-enterprise system."

Ura Tchekhovski and Allison Culpeper did without summer vacations this year. The co-directors of the American-Belarussian Relief Organization instead corralled 312 Belarussian kids into American homes for six weeks to give their bodies a rest from nuclear fallout and economic deprivation. Both stem from the explosion at Chernobyl 10 years ago that sent clouds of radioactive material across Belarus (see WORLD, April 13). It was ABRO's fifth year of bringing children to the United States and its largest group ever.

Mr. Tchekhovski, who threads the children through the red tape of his country's communist government so they can travel, also organized two weeks of summer camp for the first time. Sixty kids came to a wooded site in Belarus far from the nuclear-contaminated zones. They were joined by KGB officers and the country's minister of tourism for the entire time because the property is owned by the government. Belarus's democratically elected president is a communist, and only two weeks ago he abolished parliament after giving himself near-absolute power.

Mrs. Culpeper does not expect the political changes to affect ABRO's work significantly because the group has established a proven record of improving the health of children and hospitals in Belarus. Through the winter months she and Mr. Tchekhovski, working with Dr. Sergei Chunikhovsky, hope to set up a medical-dental van equipped for service in remote areas. Several American hospitals also want to establish formal programs to treat more children in the United States.

Mindy Belz

Mindy Belz

Mindy wrote WORLD Magazine's first cover story in 1986 and went on to serve as international editor, editor, and now senior editor. She has covered wars in Syria, Afganistan, Africa, and the Balkans, and she recounts some of her experiences in They Say We Are Infidels: On the Run from ISIS with Persecuted Christians in the Middle East. Mindy resides with her husband, Nat, in Asheville, N.C. Follow her on Twitter @mcbelz.