Tuesday, March 6, 2012

(50) A story of a child soldier from Sarajevo who became a man


1) Do you remember were you were when you realized the war was imminent?
 It took me some time to realise that we are actually at war. Strange but even though the bombs were falling and the gun fire was heard every minute of the day, people kind of excepted that the war is on weeks after it actually started. I guess the mind filled with war scenes from CNN and Hollywood could not acknowledge that this is what is happening.
2) Do you remember were you were when the war broke out?
I was at home, skenderija. When I come to think about it, I could bet that at that point when the JNA soldiers were killed next to burning trams on skenderija, was the event horizon of the Bosnian 4 year demonic playoffs to a roughly 4 decades of demising „after effects“.

3) Where were you when the war came to your town?
Since I was a little boy of 14 it was all fun and games for me in the beginning. No school, no obligations, adrenaline rushes every day. That did not last long, about a month, I joined the Terrirorial Defence of Bosnia and it all suddenly turned „real-life-trouble-in-the-most-unforgiving-(Bear-Grylls-is-a-wuss)-environment-lacking-everything-but-the-gunpowder-scented-air. A boy turned a man over night, providing for his family and himself, trying to stay alive for a long as possible.

4) The most memorable event of the war for you was?
There were so many memorable moments during the war. I guess its like that for everyone since everyone is dividing time into pre- and after-the-war. I could probably remember every single week of the first year. Later it became slowly withering away because all the major events took place in the beginning. Maybe because people stopped caring after. There was bloodbaths in Tuzla, Srebrenica, Potocari, Markale but people cool down during the winter of `93 and just developed a certain numbness. They could not care like they used to, their necks were on the line as well... Everything that did not take place in the very home seemed to far to be even considered a topic. I remember how the news of someone death were conveyed in just two sentences: „You know that friend of yours from 4th grade, his mother got killed in the water que the other day.“ – „Oh, too bad“. Actually I don't remember talking at all. If you were hungry you wait for a meal, if you had it sit tight.

5) What made you hopeless during the war?
 Winters! The winter `93-`94! Effects of no water, no electricity, almost no food, no cigarettes were multiplied by harsh Bosnian winter by 10. Darkest 3, or maybe it was 4, months in existence. I think that such conditions are rare even in 3rd world prisons today. I cant remember any thought from that period, it was just an empty... void.
6) What gave you hope during the war?
I divide war in three parts.
Part one is the 1rst year of Rambo movies reenactments – No need for hope.
Part two is facing the consequences of part 1, adapting to a few unpleasant facts and surviving your own conscious days, one at a time – No hope at all.
Part three started, the way I see it, in the late summer of  `94. People started planning as if something told them the wars end is near. People started living again, trams were on the move, even if occasional shell or two tried to slow them down. Life won, a stream of confidence boosted everyone into living again. Part 3 is like the air was hope, the water was life. We adapted, it did not kill us, they missed, we grew stronger!

7) Did you lose anyone close to you during the war?
 I lost a few of my friends in the part 2 of the war. Maybe it was selfpreservation kicking in, or maybe I am a selfish bastard but at the time, my well-being was top priority. I went to their funerals, payed my respects, but never wished to trade places.
8) Were you wounded during the war? Were you wounded?
Fortunately, only a few cuts and bruises. I mean it, mortar shells a few feet away was  like a spam e-mail, it somehow found your address but it does not your name on it, so you just leave it at that. I remember one day I was checking my look in the mirror for a few seconds and went for the door. Than I heard a loud but dull sound, like someone hit a wall with a hammer. I went back into the room where the mirror was and tried to figure it out. After a few minutes a saw a hole in the wall by the mirror. It was about 5 feet from the floor, neck high. It was a sniper 7,9 mm round. I closed the blinds and went on my way thinking that there is no way he aimed at me because he could not see me over the roof of a neighbouring house. He was probably blowing off some steam.

9) Your biggest loss during the war was?
I never lost anyone of my immediate family, so I was lucky and I am grateful. Other losses may seem trivial but some might not see them as losses in the first place.
I lost my childhood and had to take care of myself since I was 14. I met more than 1000 people at the time of equilibrium, when we were all in the same shit hole, so they all showed their real faces. So at a very young age I could tell if someone is a coward, or an opportunist, or a kiss-ass or a plain asshole. On the other hand I saw and witnessed some genuine bravery, patriotism, self sacrifice. If its a loss or something else you need to calculate the age. Does a kid need to know all that? I don't know if the war influenced my opinions and beliefs or my point of view in life and was it for better or worse, but I do hope that I could be the man I am today if  this war was erased from history.

10) What was the hardest part about the war?
For me, the hardest part of the war, are all these years after it. The war was about life and death only. A very simple choices. After the war, majority have faced poverty, misery, corruption and people got to put on their masks again so its harder to tell which ones were cowards and assholes and which were brave honorable men. I was never wrong about someone back than, but people got to enjoy their small joys for which most of them would trade their brothers let alone me, but in those times there were no joys only the man standing next to you in a trench or the one picking you up form a puddle of blood.

11) Did you leave the country during the war?
 No, I had a chance though. During the first year my fathers boss, who is a paraplegic wanted me to leave the country as his „plus 1“ when some international organisation arranged for them to be evacuated. My father also wanted that, but me and my grandmother were against. The destination was Holland.
12) 20 years later, what do you think of what happened?
Well, somebody did his math. Like I said somewhere before. There are bad people everywhere and for a „good war“ you need as much of those as possible.
Lets say, for the sake of argument, that there are more Serbs on the planet than there are Bosnians and Croats combined. Lets say that every 5th man on the planet is bad (its not too hard to believe these days). Now, if you want a war, you need to throw a few bones into the picture and make those bad ones believe that they are doing something good (bad people do not see themselves as bad). Now you need a few bad lieutenants and the game is on. People who are to be attacked are shocked and trying to reason with the attackers, believing anything the attackers say until the first punch. Than, a „blessings“ of one or more „officers“ is required, in terms of embargo's, NATO strikes etc. Also you need to insure to have this war „in peace“ with as little interventions as possible in terms of all kind of UN suffixes. When you run out of steam its game over.
I do not know who orchestrated this war or why or was it the way that somebody hoped for, but I know that it took divine intervention to end it the way it did.

13) Are things better or worse than what you expected 20 years later?
I never expected anything 20 years ago, I was 14. But I don't think anyone expected anything. Usually if you expect something and do not get it, you protest. People here are still honouring elections, tolerating corruption and crime, financing thieves of all kinds at their own expense. Therefore, it would be nice to say that „people are sheep“ but sheep do not choose their shepherds themselves.

14) Do you think war will return to BiH?
No. And when I say that its mostly based on some objective thinking but there is also a part of that „NO!“ that comes from hope, because I really do not think I could survive another.

15) What do you think the future of BiH will be?
I honestly have no idea. I hope that people will come to their senses but historically that's not likely. The show must go on and the audience will be the judge, we on the stage cant really be trusted when it comes to predicting future.

1 comment:

  1. I just found your blog today & have read a lot this morning only. I find it extremely fascinating since I was born on January 15th 1992 in Prijedor & as an infant I spent some weeks in the concentration camp until we could escape to Sweden in the fall of 92. My parents find it very hard to talk about what they went through which I think is a shame, even though I was so young & don't have any memories from the time in Prijedor I believe it's very important to know everything about the history in the region, or at least TALK about it, even if it's hard. As Abdulah Sidran said: "the war has become 'events'". This opens up for something very dangerous, namely: history will repeat itself. People must be educated in the Bosnian war, therefore I'd like to thank you for your blog!