Made in Portugal – Hasan Nuhanovic
Last week the body of Muhamed Nuhanović was identified whose post-mortem remains had been exhumated from the mass grave site in Kamenica. The identification was confirmed by his brother Hasan who that same day wrote the letter being published by Dani.
Written by: Hasan Nuhanović (translation P. Lippman)
Image: Hasan Nuhanovic
LETTER FROM SREBRENICA
Today I identified my brother by his tennis shoes.
In the fall they got in touch with me about my mother. They found her, or what was left of her, in a creek, in the village of Jarovlje, two kilometers from Vlasenica. My home town. The Serbs who live there threw garbage on her for fourteen years. She wasn’t alone. They killed another six in the same place. Burned. I hope they were burned after they died.
Last fall, also, I went to court to see Predrag “Czar” Bastah. A Serb in Vlasenica told me — I gave him a hundred marks — that Czar had poured gas on them and lit them on fire. When I saw him in the courtroom, they were trying him for slaughtering people in ’92, there was nothing for me to see. Just some stunted piece of trash. Probably he waited all his life for his chance to be “somebody” for five minutes. And he got his chance in ’92. After that there were no more Muslims around to slaughter until Srebrenica fell. He waited more than two more years and then my mother and a few others fell into his hands. His commander, who ordered the killings, now works here in Sarajevo. That’s what another Serb told me — I gave him three hundred marks.
I’m preparing to bury them this year next to my father. They identified my father four years ago, eleven years after his execution. They found a little more than half his bones, they say. His skull smashed from behind. The doctor couldn’t tell me whether that happened after he died. They found him in a secondary mass grave, Cancari. Kamenica near Zvornik. There are thirteen mass grave sites there. The Chetniks dug them up with bulldozers from the primary grave at Pilica, the Branjevo farm, a little before the time ofDayton, piled them on trucks and took them there, forty kilometers away, to dump them and bury them again.
There were around 1500 of them killed there. That’s what they say at the Tribunal. I read the statement of one of the murderers who says, “I couldn’t shoot anymore, my index finger was starting to get numb from so much killing. I was killing them for hours.” Someone, he says, had promised them five marks for each Muslim that they kill that day. And he says that they made the bus drivers get out and kill at least a few of the Muslims so that they wouldn’t talk about this to anyone later.
Oh yes, poor drivers. Poor Drazen Erdemovic, who says that he had to kill or he would be killed. They all had to do it, you see, and only Mladic is guilty because, they say, he ordered it all. And when they catch Mladic, some day, he’ll say, like a real Serb hero, “I am taking the responsibility for all Serbs and for the whole Serb nation. Only I am guilty, judge me and let everyone else go.” And then all of us, we and the Serbs and the rest of them, we’ll be satisfied and happy. We’ll rip off our clothes and jump into bed together. We will no longer need the foreigners for anything.
Last year they put up headstones for everyone, nice ones, white in color, all the same, lined up in rows. Two empty spaces by my father. He’s waiting three years for my mother and his son, Muhamed, for them to be laid next to him.
Then they told me about my mother. I was preparing to bury her by my father this July 11th, 2010.
And then the other day they called me on the phone — they said they had a DNA identification for my brother, but they weren’t a hundred percent sure. They said to come to Tuzla, and I went today.
In the spring of ’95, I bought my brother new tennis shoes, Adidas, from some foreigner. He brought them from Belgrade on his way back to Srebrenica from vacation. My brother hadn’t been wearing them more than a month or two, when that all happened. And I bought him Levi 501s, he was wearing those. I know exactly what T-shirt he was wearing and what overshirt.
And today the doctor showed me a photograph — the clothes. He said, there isn’t much, very little, but there are tennis shoes. When he put the picture on the table in front of me, I looked at the sneakers, my brother’s Adidas, as if he had just taken them off the other day. They weren’t even untied.
The doctor brings in a bag and shakes out everything that they found on his remains into a box in front of me. And after waiting for fifteen years I take my brother’s sneakers in my hands. And besides that a belt, with a big metal buckle, and what’s left of his Levis. And his socks, both of them.
I looked for that well-known slogan on the Levis, that would also confirm my brother’s identity. I took the remains of my brother’s jeans into my hands, after fifteen years. Metal buttons. Part of the inside of the pockets. Everything that was made of cotton had fallen apart. Only the synthetic material was left.
Some other tag hangs untouched, just a little dirty, stuck in those threads, in the strands, the fragments.
I read it, looking for the Levis trade mark. It says, “Made in Portugal.”
All day I see that “Made in Portugal” before my eyes. And for my whole life, I think, I will see that. I’m going to hate everything that was “Made in Portugal,” just like I hated Heineken beer that the Dutch UN soldiers had guzzled in Potocari, on the base, less than an hour after they drove all the Muslims off it – handing them over, right into the Serbs’ hands. Or maybe I will love everything that has “Made in Portugal” written on it, everything that will remind me, until the end of my life, of my murdered brother.
A Dutch soldier, then, a little younger, came up to me and offered me a beer and a Marlboro. I shook my head. He just shrugged and walked away.
And for fifteen years I, like all the rest, prayed to God that when we finally find out what happened, it will be that they didn’t suffer long, that they didn’t die in torment.
They have been dead for fifteen years. In that year some new children were born. And now those children are fifteen years old. This July 11th will be someone’s fifteenth birthday.
I will never do anything, in any way, that would endanger those children’s future. I would not even think of that. May God grant that this will never happen to anyone again.
But, there is no amnesty, my friend. For the guilty there is no amnesty.
The reporters ask me all the time, and again the other day: what is my message for future generations. I tell them about how after Dayton I drove through eastern Bosnia in a car, looking for the traces of the disappeared, the murdered. I knew that near Konjevic Polje, Nova Kasaba, Glogova, on any of the routes towards Srebrenica, there are mass graves, that the meadows are full of them. And when I drove that way when everything was blooming, when it was all green, I did not see that beauty. I only saw the mass graves that those meadows hid. Under the flowers our fathers and brothers were lying, our sons. Their bones.
I drove by the places where Serbs live — I look at them through the window and think, which of them is a murderer? Which of them is a murderer?
It was like that for years. For years. And then, one day, by the road on a meadow where I had heard that a mass grave was concealed, a little girl was playing. She was five or six. Just like my daughter. I knew those were Serb houses.
The little girl ran across the meadow. And everything mixed together in me — sorrow, and pain, and hate.
And then I think, that poor little girl, what is she guilty of? She doesn’t even know what lies under that meadow, under the flowers. I’m sorry for that girl who looked just like my daughter. They could be playing together on that meadow.
And I wish that that little girl and my daughter will never experience what we lived through. Never. They deserve a nicer future. That’s what I said to those journalists. Those last ones were from in Belgrade.
And so, Dr. Kesetovic confirms — the mortal remains of my brother will be prepared for the funeral on July 11th. It is just as if my brother had managed to check in at the last minute, in time to be buried together with my mother, beside my father who lies waiting for them in Potocari.
And so my father, murdered in Pilica and exhumed in Kamenica, my brother, murdered in Pilica and exhumed in Kamenica, and my mother, murdered in Vlasenica and exhumed from under the garbage the creek at Jarovlje, will finally rest beside each other in Potocari.