How I lost my first love
- is today a grown-up successful woman, a wife, expecting a baby. Then, barely a teenager, in Sarajevo under siege, with no electricity, water and gas, talks about the war for „Sarajevo 1425 days, remembering anecdotes and great sorrow that she felt as a girl.
„ Books were exchanged in buildings and houses, we read some of them a few times. We read everything, from classics to love stories and crime stories. In winter we lay under the quilt with a cap on our heads and gloves. We would cut a piece of the glove on the index finger in order to flip pages. Cresset was a must next to our heads and it made soot and gave miserable yellow light. But that light was the window into the life of the book. In imagination we were running away far, far from darkness and the horror of war“, she begins.
The story how she met Nedim in the skyscraper where she lived.
„The whole building liked him. Big dark eyes, encircled by dense eyelashes, always smiling. Sometimes he would honour us with his company and then he would go to the front line. I guess that is why I remember him in the camouflage. We would remain sitting on the stairs in the building , mothers would take turns around the joint furnace to cook impossible recipes of nothing…“, she says.
Every time Nedim went to the front line, he left emptiness in the girl, as big as a planet.
„I was madly in love with, he was my first love. ‘Unfortunately, Nedim perished. He was the first victim in our building. There were more later. I cried for days, non-stop“, she expressed her feelings.
The war goes on. A. spends time in her skyscraper. She remembers socialising next to thecresset, with radio music, humanitarian aid cans, wet, recently cut down tree and cut into pieces that would keep cracking in the furnace and soot on the walls, anecdotes.
„My mother is a nurse, she worked as a nurse midwife at the Department of gynaecology. She would go to work on my pre-war Violeta bicycle, pink – of course. It was her additional means to avoid snipers. One day mother decided to bring home all the health cards of the people who would not need them. On each side of the handle bar one bag of health cards. We used them for burning“, she remembers.
Soon, as A says, her mother’s sister says that even they have nothing to use for heating so her mother sends them some health cards.
„After a few days they are talking on the phone and the mother is asking if the aunt is burning the health cards. The aunt responds: ‘No!’. Mother is shocked and the aunt continues: ‘The cards are useless. By the time I have read the name, the family name, seen the exam results, found the diagnosis… No fire!’. On the other side there was only ‘Fuck you!’.
Sarajevo was shelled every day. Schools, hospitals and children playgrounds were not protected either. The list of the deceased is enormous as well as the list of the massacres in the capital of BiH.
A sunny winter day, January 22, 1994. It is calm. Maybe too much. 9-year old Muhamed Kapetanović goes out with a friend to sleigh. The childrens’ laughter was stopped by the sound of the shell.
“I remember, I turned around, his head was cut off, blood was on the snow. It was horrible. Even now when I remember it, it wasas from horror films, but this was reality”, Muhamed Kapetanović describes the death of his friend Danijel for detektor.ba.
Kapetanović says that that afternoon many children sleighed in the vicinity of his building. When the first shell hit, the children, Kapetanović remembers, tried to escape into the building, but were stopped by the second shell.
“I did not hear any sound whatsoever, I just felt a huge amount of heat and was thrown into the air. I fell to the ground. I felt a strong buzzing in my ears. I tried to get up again but I fell. I had yellow boots on and when I looked at my feet I saw that my boot’s heel was completely broken,” says Muhamed, who ended up losing part of his leg as a result of his injuries.
Muhamed’s father, Hamed Kapetanovic, says that he saw the attack on his son and the other children from their apartment window. His wife, in a state of shock, tried to throw herself off the eleventh floor, convinced that Muhamed had died.
“I saw how the shell threw them. In fact, there was a lot of smoke and fire from the big shell. We heard loud screaming from the children…When I came down, I saw a neighbor holding him [Muhamed] up by his arms, his legs were hanging, and he was very injured. And I also saw many of the others – their bodies were cut into pieces,” said Hamed Kapetanovic.
A few neighbours took the wounded children to the Dobrinja makeshift war hospital where first aid was given.
The same day when Danijel was killed, 5 more children died, from 4 to 13 years of age. 6 children were seriously wounded. The youngest victim was Jasmina Brković. She was four. That day also died her seven years older sister Indira. Four boys died as well – 8-year old Mirza Dedović, 9-year old Admir Subašić, 10-year old Danijel Jurenić and the oldest of them, 13-year old NerminRizvanbegović.
According to the data of the Association of Parents, 1600 children were killed in Sarajevo under siege. Most of them died while playing, killed by shells and sniper fire. So far nobody has been held responsible for shelling Sarajevo.
Diary from a war hospital in Sarajevo
BLOOD…FIRE… SHOTS… CRYING… I am sitting in the basement with other children from the hospital and Jevra and Mirsada. They are listening to the radio with intensity and crying. “Četnici” have attacked us from Pionirska dolina. Everything is shaking. Jevra and Mirsada are telling us to keep our mouths open so that our ears would not break because of detonations. I am afraid, diary, but I must write you because these are maybe the last words that I will write. I think about my mother, father, brother… Where are they, diary, I cannot talk to my mother on the phone any more… Is father still alive? Will we ever see each other again, diary… I am crying and writing… VILLAINS… I am tired of leukaemia killing me but that is not enough for them.
Jevra says that the soldiers who have just entered said that we should get ready to run into the other building across the road, in the basement. In the Birth Centre, but we will wait a little longer until they call us. Please, diary, if I die… Please… testify about me, that I existed… Talk to the one who finds you that I wanted to live and nothing else… Ask him to find the Kadrić family in Grapska near Doboj, if he/she ever can, to tell them that I loved them… to tell them not to cry for me because I would have died of leukaemia anyway.
21:00: Diary, at 19:30 we ran over here… It was horrible. I am still shaking… I am still crying. I have just survived a scene that I only know from the films about Vietnam – a soldier was shooting and we ran across the street, one by one. All that got me a fever. Now we are in a small room. We are like sardines in a can. There are 19 of us. Ankica’s nose is bleeding and they are trying to stop it. There is no electricity, we have just a little water. I am writing to you under candle light…
Mirsada is back. She is crying. She just screams: „BLOOD!“and nothing else… Other nurses are washing her face, giving her some pills and begging her to talk… She begins. She says that there has just been a massacre on Vase Miskina street. About 70 people were killed while they were waiting to buy bread.
Blood everywhere…. A man leaning against the wall, no legs…blood flowing. The rest of his legs is twitching together with his body… Screams and crying everywhere…The people are being put into the cars and driven to the hospitals… VILLAINS…
An excerpt from the child diary of Admir Kadrić (taken from http://balkans.aljazeera.net/)
Medical nurse in war: Blunt scalpels and candles
In the Dobrinja neighbourhood in Sarajevo, Sadeta Dervisevic risked her own life to help her fellow citizens – many of whom were children – survive the shells and snipers that rained down on the city during the Bosnian war.
In an interview for BIRN Justice Report, Dervisevic talks about the working conditions at the Dobrinja makeshift war hospital. She describes a hospital where all work was done by candlelight, with no anaesthesia, infusion solutions, bandages, and the like.
The Dobrinja make shift war hospital opened on May 2, 1992, when the first barricades were set up in Sarajevo. Dervisevic, who lived and worked in Dobrinja, joined a group of doctors and medical staff in converting a small clinic into a city-wide hospital for the wounded.
“We had no beds, medical supplies, infusion solutions, or instruments, and the wounded had begun to arrive. All of us brought medicine, bandages, everything we had in our homes and started to organise a pharmacy,” recalls Sadeta. She said she’d never dreamed of what would happen next and what kind of operations would be performed in the former clinic.
Bloody patient files
As the war continued, the electricity to Dobrinja was cut off. Before they managed to remove storage batteries from cars, paramedics and doctors at the Dobrinja makeshift war hospital used candles and improvised lamps while treating patients.
“The first operations were performed with a blunt scalpel and candles. I remember our patient, nicknamed ‘Zis’ well. We amputated his finger and ear. Because the scalpel was blunt his finger kept fidgeting, and it could not be cut off properly. We did everything without anaesthetics,” Sadeta explains.
As the war became more intense, the number of patients grew. According to Sadeta, sometimes their patient files were completely covered in blood.
“We became a hospital for all of Sarajevo. People from other neighbourhoods also came, as well as those who were wounded while crossing the airport runway. We also had patients ‘from the other side’,” says Sadeta, adding that enemy soldiers were treated like any other patient.
Going to and returning from the hospital every day was extremely dangerous. In July 1993, Sadeta was seriously wounded after she tried to take a patient home.
“I was shot by a machine gun called “the sower of death” because I was in a white laboratory coat. Until then, I thought that that nothing could happen to me. I remember how it continued to shoot at me when I fell down and how it raised the ground in front of my head,” recalls Sadeta.
Several months after she was wounded, Sadeta rejoined the work at the hospital. Every day, while helping others at the hospital, she left her small children at home and feared for their lives.
“Every time there was a massacre and they brought patients in, you looked at them with fear, to see if one of your own had been brought in as well. You looked at them to see whether you’d recognize your child’s sweater or their sneakers. This happened to our colleagues Olgica and Dusko. Their daughter Mirjana was killed by a shell. Her father closed her eyes while she was lying on the operating table,” says Sadeta.
Grenades and snipers aimed at children
Due to the large number of patients, the hospital soon became a morgue as well. Sadeta said that due to the lack of space, the dead often had to be placed among the living patients.
“After Mahir – a boy who was fifteen or sixteen years old – died, his body ended up staying in our surgical room for days because we did not have a morgue. He could not be buried for days, because there was intense shooting, so he was buried at night,” says Sadeta.
Sadeta’s hardest days were when her patients were children.
“It hurt when children came. I cry right now when I think of it. They would bring in children whose organs were hanging out of their bodies. The parent who carried a child whose liver was hanging out of their body, that can never be forgotten and believe me, I think about it often,” she says.
According to Sadeta’s count, a large number of children passed through the Dobrinja makeshift war hospital, and they were mostly killed by grenades and snipers.
“A father brought in a girl who was seven years old. Her name was Mirela and she was from Dobrinja V. A sniper shot at her, directly in the heart, because she came out onto the balcony. I don’t know what a child could do to deserve being shot and killed,” says Sadeta.
Sadeta said that there were situations in which dead children were brought in and could not be identified. They would end up staying at the Dobrinja makeshift war hospital for days, in a space that served both as a morgue and a surgery.
“We didn’t even know the name of the child, we just put him in the morgue,” says Sadeta.
For a long time, the hospital conditions were extremely poor. This eventually changed.
“As time went by it became easier, since we acquired beds. The drivers, who were brilliant, managed to get patients to the Kosevo hospital in record time, and soon they were also bringing us necessary medical supplies. We were performing real operations and apart from dealing with wounds from gunshots, we also operated on intestines, tonsils, gallbladders, and so on,” explains Sadeta.
The hospital eventually expanded its space to include a library, with the aim of saving as many lives as possible. As Sadeta recalls, they were working incessantly, day and night.
For her courage and professionalism during the war, Sadeta has received many awards, including the prestigious Florence Nightingale Award, the highest international award in the area of medical care.
He kissed me a few times
On February 5th Sarajevo remembers the massacre on the Markale market, when the mine-thrower shell by the Amy of Republika Srpska killed 68 persons and wounded 144.
On that deadly day Jasmina Prozorac lost her life partner. Talking to BIRN – Justice Report she said that the images would never fade away and that she remembered each and every detail when her husband Seid Prozorac died.
“That morning around 7 she came back from the front line. He was in the First Hill Unit on Zmajevac. He was nervous, as if he had been able to foresee. He kissed me a few times while we were drinking coffee, the war kind, cacao and a grain of coffee”, started her story Prozorac. She added that her husband had got ready to go downtown, to clean chimneys and get some food for them and their two under age sons.
She remembers that day as if had been yesterday.
“I was preparing beans and baking bread. My sister and brother-in-law came, after a long time. War, we did not see each other, we lived on the opposite sides of the city. It was calm but Sejo was not coming back. We had that “improvised”electricity. We turned the TV on, it said – General Alarm”, remembered Jasmina. She added that soon there were news about the shell and the tens of dead people on the Markale market.
“On Tv they showed people being transported as bags on trucks. I got scared, impatient. Then I saw his gloves and the tools on the screen. I just new. You simply feel”, remembered Prozorac.
There were a few hours of uncertainty for Jasmina and her family. They wondered if he was alive or wounded. Later they found out, thanks to an acquaintance in the morgue, that someone who fit the description of Sead Prozorac “arrived”.
“My two brothers-in-law went there and identified him. The younger one did not even recognised him. They were sorted according to numbers. He was wounded in the legs, he bled out (…) I watched the footage from the Orthopaedic Department. They dragged him, there was a lot of blood behind him”, said shocked Jasmina Prozorac.
She said that she would not let her sons see their dead father, she wanted them to remember him they way he was when he was alive. The funeral took place the next day, on the family cemetery, near the Vratnik Mosque.
“I wondered for years if they at the clinic could have done something, why they did not take him to save him. They gave me the bloody military booklet, the vouchers that shrapnel tore apart, not his clothes”, said Prozorac. She added that her husband’s co-fighters and the family helped her but that she had to find enough strength to stand up and make money to feed herself and her sons.
Today her sons are adults who have families and Jasmina is very happy to have grandchildren. However, she wishes Seid were alive, to talk to him when the children live their lives.