Thank you for the birthday gift – the article you published on January 15th 2010 on Pescanik’s website. Your article helped me come to terms not only with the fact that I turned forty, but also that I’ve had 15 ‘extra’ years – a full 15 years more than what was, because of geography, ethnicity, faith, age and nationality, assigned to me by Karadzic, Mladic, Cosic and the rest of “your” guys, whom you – as you say – (and I believe you did) fought against in vain (but nothing is in vain, dear Ljubo!). You know, Ljubomir (I once had a teacher by that name), it is not easy to live to 40, at the far end of the world, in Australia, knowing that many people close to you never lived to be 15 – like my little cousin Dino (I held him when he took his first steps), who was taken from his mother’s arms on July 11th 1995 in Potocari, and with other Bosniaks taken away and shot by the Republika Srpska’s Serbian Army and other killing experts from the ranks of the Serbian Police, and all that in the name of Serbs and Serbian states, Serbian forests and God knows what else Serbian. Dino was found in 2006 in a mass grave near Zvornik, so me and my cousin, who also survived, buried him in Potocari on July 11th 2007. The cousin came from Germany for the occasion, and I came from Australia. Dino’s green casket (tabut), number 362, was light as a feather, because after 12 years under the ground – I did not know this before, Ljubo – a child’s bones weigh almost nothing. I felt bad that this boy, whom survivors in my family remember and sigh over, was pushed into the grown-up categories and statistics and that all the coffins were the same size, because Dino was still a child when they killed him and his bones should have been buried in a suitable, child’s coffin. Let everyone see that he was a child and that he couldn’t have grown up posthumously. The marksman who shot Dino (“multiple chest wounds”) had to aim a lot lower than his partners in murder or otherwise he would have missed him by a foot. As you know, Ljubo, a 14-year-old is a lot smaller than any adult.
In recent years, some 50 members of my family were buried in Potocari, and over a hundred of us were killed – add to that a hundred or so of my friends from school, some one hundred neighbors, a hundred or so people I kept bumping into, some one hundred of those who knew whose kid I was… Here’s a photo of our names in Potocari, and there are also a lot of other last names in our family; Sulejmanovic, Zukanovic, Mustafic, Becic, Salihovic… Many of those on the list could describe all this a lot better than me, because there were writers and poets among them, those who managed to achieve something in life and those who were still dreaming of it. Now it is left to me to speak for them, to thank people like you in their name. I want to thank you for being a man, in the most humane of senses, for understanding and sympathizing. And for not being silent. Now or then!
I know that my dead will not let you have peace of mind, and rightly so, and I don’t even have a right to forget. And let me tell you this: it is a weird feeling to stand in Potocari, silently reading the engraved names, hundreds of them, almost your entire family, and unconsciously looking for your own name among them. You know it would “make sense” if you were there, right there between Hamdija and Hasan, alphabetically. Then you are overcome with shame for being alive, you are embarrassed for having outlived your older cousins and because your younger cousins never lived to be half your age. You’re embarrassed by the iPod in your pocket and some commitments, deadlines and unpaid bills that are waiting for you in someone else’s country where you reside. Then you feel that this is the only place where you are at ease, where you’re among your own people.
I’ll also tell you, Ljubo, that the only reason I survived is because at the time of the annihilation of Srebrenica, I happened to be far from our hometown, in eastern Bosnia (just next to western Serbia). And after my hometown was killed off in July 1995, I had nowhere (and especially no one) to return to, so I went as far away as I could from eastern Bosnia and western Serbia and went to live with those who had nothing to do with this war of “ours”, those Aborigines that you mentioned in your article. Now I share fences with those “peoples”, true – without brotherhood and unity, but with mutual respect and maintaining a polite distance: good morning – good morning.
And in the morning when I look at the ocean, and remember my native Podrinje (and Podrinje has always stretched to both sides of the Drina), I recall the MRL’s, those ‘Fires’ and ‘Hurricanes’ which we were so proud of once, seeing them as a proof of our brotherhood and unity, while ‘our Yugoslav National Army’ pranced around in all those military parades each December 22nd and May 25th. Those same MRL’s, Ljubo, still with the same insignia, positioned on the Mt Tara plateau, from your country, from your side of the Drina, burned down my land and killed my family in my country. Those ‘Fires’ and ‘Hurricanes’ burned my house to the ground. All this was done ‘legally’, from your country’s perspective, in broad daylight – for days, weeks, months and years – and all those on your side of the Drina who don’t suffer from selective amnesia know that. I know that you are trying to awaken their suppressed memories.
You and your colleagues at Pescanik (and other peace lovers) are the collective consciousness of the state and people from that side of the Drina, the human part that is still worth something, and that always was worth something there. That is why I accept your collective responsibility. And this is why, Ljubo, I’m relieving you, right off the bat, of any responsibility for my burned-down house and dead family, because you sure did not set it on fire or kill anyone – but, as you yourself said, your country did, i.e. very specific people in very specific uniforms did, with clear orders that were carried out. If only we had more Ljubomirs like you “on your side”; I wouldn’t have a reason to write this and things would have been a lot more cheerful, particularly on my side of the Drina.
And one other thing, Ljubo, my ex- countryman. Tell those on your side, those who firmly decided ‘not to believe in Srebrenica’, that there were no Turks killed in Srebrenica (which would not alter the crime), but that there were many Serbian sons-in-law, college students studying in Belgrade or Novi Sad, construction workers that built Belgrade and Serbia. One of those was my sister-in-law Nada’s husband, Nesib (Sejdalija) Halilovic, a veteran of Belgrade dormitories, a sociologist. Born in the late 50s, Nesib was like a character from one of Momo Kapor’s novels (while Kapor was still a writer), and when after ten years or so of studying in Belgrade he decided to come back home to his small town, Nesib brought along Nada, his Belgrade sweetheart. Both of them being ‘from Belgrade’, they worked as sociologists in the city hall. They quickly made a home and fell in love with Srebrenica. A few years before the war started, they had a son, Omer. Just before the war, Nada took little Omer to Belgrade, while ‘things cool down’, while Nesib stayed in Srebrenica. In July, together with his younger (and only) brother Sabit and their father Mehmed, Nesib was shot. Nada’s Omer is the only surviving male from that part of my family.
I don’t know where they are now, Omer or my sister-in-law Nada. Unfortunately, it is a lot easier to count the living than those who were killed, and the few of us who got out alive are resettled all over the planet, often not knowing where the others are. So, Ljubo, you can assure ‘your people’ who are ‘not sure’: the Srebrenica genocide was carried out impeccably. I guess it is because, from beginning to end, the most educated Serbian cadre was involved in it – from those in the SANU, to generals, doctors and other experts in the ‘kill ‘em all’ policy. Bring those who ‘don’t believe in Srebrenica’ to Potocari! Just tell them that you are taking them to see your friend’s family, my friend. Because my dead will not become some death market for settling national accounts, or the excuse for planning a quick and thorough revenge. However, while I’m breathing, they will not be negated or ignored as if they have never existed, regardless of the (non)existence of some resolution on Srebrenica, (not) adopted by the legitimate representatives of your country! I’m only asking for respect for my victims of genocide, I ask that they not be forgotten – not the numbers, but their names, birthdays, occupations, virtues and flaws and everything else that made them people – and that your country finds the planners, marksmen and experts (for killing) and puts them on trial for what they did in the 90s. They can start at the top and find Mladic!
Tell them all this, Ljubo!
Take care, my friend!
Translated by Ivica Pavlovic
Pescanik.net,19. 01. 2010.
- Ljubomir Zivkov, to whose article “The Death Market” Hariz is responding. ↑