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Vlasenica, Bosnia And All It’s Pain

April 25, 2007
by

It was the spring of 1992 and I remember the near daily phone calls to Bosnia.  I still remember the sense of urgency I felt at that time to get my mother’s family to the States.  All of her brothers had allready established themselves here in the US and her mother, father, two sisters (one divorced, one never married) and her niece who must have been about 9 or 10 at the time were alone.  I remember my father saying that nothing would happen, not after what happened in Croatia. 

I remember talking to my aunt.  I remember her telling me that Vlasenica was under millitary control.  I remember her telling me about the curfews, the harrassing phone calls from strangers telling her what they were going to do to them.  I remember the only way out was to sign over all of your property and belongings to the city before you were allowed to leave.  I remember the ….. it will be okays.

I remember the phone call when my aunt called to tell us that they had until Friday, just two days away, to clear out of their homes, to give up everything that they had as for those Muslims remaining, Friday would be a day to remember.

Then I remember the days waiting to get the phone call from Croatia to tell us that they had made it from the Eastern part of Bosnia, about one and a half hours from Serbia and they had to pass through the whole of Bosnia clear to the other side where Croatia offered safety with a flight to Chicago.  I still remember waiting at O’hare and the comfort I felt to finally see my grandmother’s warm face.

That would only be the beginning.  Vlasenica was cleared of Muslims within the first few weeks of the war.  News had spread that that Friday that the Muslims would remember that blood poured down the steeply sloped streets.  Those that remained were killed.  Nearly 3,000 Muslims from Vlasenica are unaccounted for. 

Throughout the war there would be weekly news of death from all over Bosnia.  There would be daily scenes of horror broadcast on the television.  There would be injured, mutilated family members.  There would be images of concentration camps, hostages and there would be the images of Srebrenica.  The next several years would be busy with helping refugees and raising funds to help those in Bosnia. 

I remember Dayton.  I remember what was supposed to be the end.

I remember going to Vlasenica last summer to stand outside of the gate that led to my grandmother’s house.  I remember not being able to walk into my grandmother’s house as it was occupied by serbs.  I remember on that same day, moments later being pinned between a car and a stone retaining wall by a Serb questioning me as to why I had camera’s, informing me that he lived in one of these houses now.   I remember asking myself why is this still happening now?  I remember wondering what had end had Dayton brought for us.

Today I am remembering the events of last week.  The news that the cousin who came here with my grandmother in the summer of 92′ who is now in her 20′s recieving word from her father’s cousin that her father’s body has been recovered from a mass grave.  Her father’s, her uncle’s and portions of her aunt’s body had been confirmed through DNA testing.  I once again remembered the news that she recieved in 92′ that her father had been killed.  I remembered the story of how he called his sister (who was married to a Serbian policeman) begging for his life.  I remember how his life was not spared.  I remember her grieving then and here we are in the Spring of 2007 and she once again grieves. 

On Saturday April 21, 2007 Jenaza prayer and a funeral was held for 42 people recovered from a mass grave in Vlasenica.  On Sunday April 22, 2007 we held a Tevheed (prayer circle for the deceased) for her father and his family.  At the bottom of the page I linked to, there is a list of the 42 people that were burried that day.  Number 36 is my cousin’s aunt.  Number 37 is my cousin’s uncle.  Her father is not on that list. 

It may be that her father’s body was recovered in another mass grave and allready burried.  I am not certain of the circumstances, but all I can think about right now is how many times does she have to go through this pain?   I haven’t been able to call her since I found the list.  I’m not even sure how to do this.

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. April 26, 2007 1:11 pm

    There are rarely words for this situation. I often feel the physical reassurance of a hug is of more comfort than mere words. A reaffirmation of life. Please assure your cousin that not all people are evil. That some of us are ashamed of what our fellows do.

  2. April 26, 2007 4:12 pm

    Thanks, archie. I think she allready knows this, afterall she has been in the US for over half her life now and her friends are a variety of ethnicities.

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