Archive for Gorazde

“Then they set the house on fire and everyone inside was screaming – I was the only one who got out”.

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on September 30, 2009 by visegrad92

The Guardian
20 August 1992

“Then they set the house on fire and everyone inside was screaming – I was the only one who got out”.

Maggie O’Kane’s 36-hour trek out of besieged Gorazde brought her to Visegrad with its burned houses along the Drina river valley, a small haven for eastern Bosnia’s Muslims driven from home by conquering Serbs. In the valley, the survivors told their story.

Her ears are melted away. All that is left are two waxy, twisted beige blobs like burned out candles. Her forehead is covered in a huge scab that is still healing and her nose is a maze of burst blood vessels.

She holds out her bandaged burnt arms delicately in front, like a Hindu woman at prayer. She says she is the only one who survived. Her name is Zehra Turjacanin. She is aged 31, a textile worker from Visegrad with a Muslim name. This is her story.

“It happened on June 27. Milan Lukic, a policeman in Visegrad, knocked on our door. He had six Serbs with him from Obrenovac. He said we were to go with him.

“There were eight people in my house: my mother, Djulka, my sisters, Dzehva and Aida and their children, Elma who was four, Ensar who was two, Sada who was five, and Selmir who was seven.

“After about 100 metres we went into another house on Bratislav Street. We were told to go in by the balcony. When we got to the balcony door, I saw that there was a wardrobe against the front door and all the windows had been blocked with furniture.

“There were Serbs all around the house and they were drinking. We tried to stay on the balcony but they started to throw stones at us to make us go inside, then they threw hand grenades. We went inside and it was full of people. They were crying.

“We were the last ones in and then the Serbs took a garage door from another house and put it up against the balcony, so we couldn’t get out. It was just after eight, when the curfew starts in Visegrad, and we were all in a sort of kitchen-dining room. I saw about 10 babies and some old people, but it was mostly families.

“I think there were about 70 people in that room. They weren’t screaming or banging on the doors, just crying because they knew what was going to happen.

“I said to my mother, ‘Don’t worry, they won’t kill us’. Then they set the house on fire and everyone inside was screaming, but nobody could get out. I saw the window in the garage door and I pulled myself through it.

“I was the only one who got out. I was wearing trousers, a jumper and a cardigan, and I pulled off my burning clothes. Outside the Chetniks were standing around watching the house burning. They were drunk and playing music very, very loud, so no one could hear the sound of the burning people screaming inside.

“One of the Chetniks saw me and shouted at me to stop, but they were far away from the house because of the big blaze. Then he just shrugged his shoulders and I ran and hid. I was the only one that survived.

“At one in the morning, I knocked on Ismeta Kurspahic’s door with my foot, and then I went to the Chetnik’s headquarters and I said to the commander: ‘Kill me, just kill me.’ But he said he wouldn’t and he brought Dr Vasiljevic to me and then took me to an old woman’s house.

“I stayed there for a day and then the old woman said Milan Lukic was looking for me, because I was the only one that survived and I knew. So I hid in the cemetery. Then I walked for 18 days and the territorial defence found me and they brought me here.”

Here is the mountain village of Medjedja, in a place the Muslims call the Valley of Freedom. It is a stretch of beautiful Bosnian countryside along the rivers Praca and Drina that wind their way below pine forests and through villages. A 50-mile stretch of the valley that is a last sanctuary for people like Zehra Turjacanin.

Thousands of Muslims have fled here, driven out from towns like Visegrad, Foca and Rogatica, to find peace in this valley. But once inside they are trapped – surrounded by the Serbs. “A bird cannot pass from here,” said one refugee.

But last Friday afternoon, in the driving thunderstorm, the Serbian checkpoint that guards the western entry to the valley was unmanned.

There is no petrol in the valley, so the mountain road along the Praca river is deserted. The Serbs had been through here in April and May. Burnt-out Muslim homes bear testimony to their coming. The people fled into the mountains while their homes were being looted and then moved back to their burnt-out villages, and the Serbs moved on to richer pastures.

A Bosnian soldier came up from the river bank to say we were in Free Bosnia. “Come to the commander,” he said. But the commander came along the river path to us. He and his men melting out of the trees, dressed in teeshirts, jeans and running shoes and carrying rifles. They were young, most in their early twenties and wearing green headbands. They wanted cigarettes; none had come through to their isolated valley for four months.

This Robin Hood band were going “up” – up in to the hills behind Gorazde to attack Serbian artillery positions. The scout who led the way carried a sack on his back, and the noses of a dozen rockets peeped from behind his right shoulder.

The commander, who had a walkie-talkie, was a electrical engineer before he went to war. He wore a green chiffon headscarf with silver spangles around his head. He paused to write our note of passage into his valley.

In the village of Ustipraca, Nehad Devlic said the Serbs had come in April. Then he was a rich man, owned three restaurants and two cars and a lorry. He fled into the forest and when he came out the Serbs had taken his Alfa-Romeo, his Volkswagen Golf and his lorry and burned down his three roadside cafes.

He now lives from the land, on eggs, wild plums and sacks of wheat that come down from the fields high in the mountain. We go to visit the ruin of his roadside restaurant, built in the days when tourists passed on the road to Sarajevo and Dubrovnik. But now the roads have been blocked.

They defend the valley by causing landslides from the hill on to the road to prevent the Serbs from coming back up along the river. The balconies of the modern apartment blocks in Ustipraca are filled with chopped wood. There are no cars, no electricity, and the telephones have been cut off.

There is a tranquillity in Ustipraca, peace among the charred houses in the shade of the mosque, which has a single shell hole left by passing Serbs making their point as they went through. Old men sit in the sun, surrounded by scrawny dogs looking for food and love, with hunting rifles ready for the Serbs if they come back.

In the village of Kopaci it is not so quiet. In Mehmed Mehovic’s back garden, under trees heavy with apples and plums, broken branches cover an 8ft long cluster bomb, designed to open in the air as it falls and send baby bombs scattering over his village. The cluster bomb did not explode and has been embedded in his back garden since June.

The sound of mortars boom outside. The Serbs are still mortaring the village from the distant hills. “It’s okay, they are only 105mm; they could be 155mm, they’ve used them before – takes the house away,” says the commander.

There is no cover, no cellar. The sound of the mortars landing is like the continuous sound of a door being slammed. An unemployed English-language enthusiast, aged 28, says: “Are you British, will you help us? Do you know that song from Black Sabbath – In the Ashes the Bodies Are Burning?”

Every day someone is injured or killed in Kopaci, but they have to hang on. There is nowhere to run to.

“Wait and listen for the whistle of the mortar, then you know it’s close” says Mehmed.

On Saturday afternoon Senad Niakonja, aged 10, was wheeled in his father’s barrow to see the doctor on the hill, to take out the mortar shrapnel in his back.

Among the refugees in Kopaci is Aldijana Hasecic, who tells us of Zehra Turjacanin’s ordeal. He will take us to see her, but first he wants to say that he has come from the woods near Visegrad and has seen the camp where Serbian men are taking Muslim women.

“It’s called Zamnica and it used to be an army barracks. It’s about 10 kilometres from Visegrad to the east. I went there early in the morning of August 9. It was 5am. The people that had escaped from the Chetniks told us there was a camp for Muslim women there. We went to see if we could save them, but it was too difficult. There were too many Chetniks. I didn’t see any of them being raped, but we know it’s happening. I saw them from the trees taking the young women out from the trucks and into the barracks.”

On the hill above the village of Medjedja the next day, a weeping woman in an orange polka-dot scarf says: “They took my daughter. They took all the girls from the village. We don’t know where they are. I haven’t seen her for four months”. Standing with her in the ruins of her house, where the only identifiable object is a scorched fridge freezer, are Hamed Sulejman and his wife, Kahriman. They have come to live in the woman’s woodshed. Kahriman says they were burnt out of their village and now her home is the woodshed where she lays out her jars of pickled fruit on a shelf above the mattress.

All along the mountain top are small burnt-out villages, clumps of houses where the people who have come out from the forests to live again among the ruins tell the same story, of how the Serbs came, looted their homes, burned them down and moved on.

In the lower hill, near Visegrad, a family of Muslims who fled from the town three months ago keep their bags packed in the sitting room. “We are ready to run if they come for us again,” says their son, Milos, who says he knows of the man called Milan Lukic. He says he watched him execute his friend, Hasan Veletovac, aged 16, on the bridge over the river Drina. “I was hiding in the attic of my house which looks over the bridge. They do the killing at night. They drink first in the Visegrad hotel. When the Chetniks go in ac tion they must drink. They bulldozed the two mosques in the main street in Visegrad so we wouldn’t come back.”

We came out through the trees and walked the last couple of miles into Visegrad, in the open along the road. At first no one seemed to notice two strangers in a town that had a population of 20,000 before all Muslims were driven out and into the valley – 10,000 people.

“All the Muslims have gone,” a journalist at the Visegrad radio station would say later, when he came to translate for us in the police headquarters. “Muslim extremists were responsible, they are on the hills around us. They attacked our church and now there is no mosque in this town.”

But first there is a little time to pass quietly to the main street, where on the corner with Bratislav Street rust coloured earth marks the spot where the first bulldozed mosque stood. Further down the street another mound marks the site of the second mosque.

Behind the supermarket on Bratislav Street, looking out on the cemetery, are the tired remains of a burnt-out house. A house that may have been the one where Zehra Turjacanin’s family and 60 others were burnt to death. We asked casually about a man called Milan Lukic.

“Yes,” said the Visegrad radio journalist. “He’s a policeman here. Not the chief, just an ordinary policeman.”

Papers checked. The English journalists are allowed to pass out of town in a police car with a kind Serb driver who offers cigarettes. A truck piled with furniture is parked outside the burnt-out shell of a two-storey house.

“Muslimanis,” he says, and drives us on through another 20 miles of charred Muslim homes and villages, through an apocalyptic rural wasteland that is the new Serbian republic of Bosnia.


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Alipasin Most WW2 Refugee camp

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on September 14, 2009 by visegrad92

During the Second World War,  Bosniaks from Eastern Bosnia fled towards Sarajevo  due to the genocide committed there by the Yugoslav Royalist Nazi- collaborationist army known popularly as the “Chetniks“(led by Draza Mihajlovic). Most of these Bosniak refugees or muhadziri as they were called in Bosnian, were located in Alipasin Most in Sarajevo. Some later moved to other towns such as Visoko, some as far as Bosanski Brod.  Those who choose to stay suffered  due to hunger,diseases,  lack of medicine and finally Allied bombardment in 1944. Among these refugees were many from Visegrad, who later moved to Visoko. Many stayed to live in Visoko.

Alipasin Most was bombed during Operation Ratweek (Nedjelja Pacova) in September 1944 in which major cities in the Balkans were bombarded including Split and Belgrade. It was a joint Allied – Partizan operation aimed at paralyzing the communication system in the Balkans so as to stop the retreating Nazi army from Greece. The Allies were aiming to bomb the railway station which is right next to the Alipasin Most refugee camp. Unfortunately, they bombarded the camp too. Ustasa propaganda jumped in and used this fact against the Allied forces and Partizans.

Two years ago, while preparing ground for a new building in Otoka, Sarajevo, workers came across human bones. It was later established that these were the remains of refugees who were killed in the Allied bombardment of Alipasin Most.

alipasinmost

Image: Aerial  picture of Alipasin Most bombardment 1944. Source unknown.

Video: Ustasa propaganda video, images of Alipasin Most can be seen after 1.35 min.

is

Image: Isak Samokovlija, Bosnian Jewish doctor who helped and treated Bosniak refugees from Eastern Bosnia.

Popular Bosnian Jewish writer/doctor Isak Samokovlija, was transferred by the Ustasa (the Croat fascists) to Alipasin Most. Isak was born in Gorazde. He, like others, loved the Drina river. He shared the fate of the Bosniak refugees whom he treated in the camp as a doctor. Fortunately he survived the war and Holocaust.

I was born in Goražde (he writes in the autobiographical piece ‘Sun over the Drina,’ dating from 1947), in that small town in eastern Bosnia through which the magnificent and hot-tempered Drina flows. I spent almost my entire childhood on that river. The Drina is one of my most profound experiences. It enthralled me like some god-like, living creature. Its clear, magical, green coloration, full of sunshine, which poured into my soul every summer without fail in those years, filled me with a lifetime of serenity, purity, and wondrous power…I fell in love with the Drina. It was that same well-nigh incomprehensible love with which Klindžo, the hero of my story ‘Drina,’ loved it.

His Drina “fell sick” because of crimes on the river, spoiling all of his childhood memories and poisoning his life. As soon as the Ustaše came, they put Samokovlija in prison and then transferred him to a refugee camp that was located in Alipašin Most, near Sarajevo. He worked there as a doctor, torn away from his children. And, as a Jew, he lived in constant fear of the Ustaše.

Meša Selimović, Sjećanja: Memoarska proza. Beograd: Book-Marso, 2002, pp. 201-4., Duh Bosne, issue: Vol.2,No 4 / 2007 — ISAK SAMOKOVLIJA, Translated by John K. Cox © 2007 John K. Cox,

The seige of Gorazde ’92-’95

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on May 30, 2009 by visegrad92
Map showing ethnic cleansing in Eastern Bosnia. Author is unknown.

Map showing ethnic cleansing in Eastern Bosnia. Author is unknown.

Watch a short documentary about the seige of Gorazde ’92-’95:

The Grebak journey:How Goradze survived during the siege

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on May 30, 2009 by visegrad92
Bosniaks from Eastern Bosnia crossing mountains to Grebak to buy food and supplies.

Bosniaks from Eastern Bosnia crossing mountains to Grebak to buy food and supplies.

Above: In order to survive the Bosnian Serb Army siege of Gorazde. Bosniak civilians had to make a daring journey to Grebak, a Bosnian Army outpost near Sarajevo, where they bought much needed food and supplies and brought it back to Gorazde on foot. The journey took several days and it was through Bosnian Serb Army territory. The columns consisting of several hundred, sometimes more than a thousand people took place mostly during night. The journey was filled with ambushes, landmines and freezing temperatures. Dozens of people were killed, injured or froze to death. Their only aim was to survive!

During the winter, dozens of Bosniaks who dared to travel to Grebak to buy food froze to death.

A civilian who attempted to reach Grebak froze to death. During the winter, dozens of Bosniaks who dared to travel to Grebak dies due to low temperatures.

Above: In order to survive the Bosnian Serb Army siege of Gorazde. Bosniak civilians had to make a daring journey to Grebak, a Bosnian Army outpost near Sarajevo, where they bought much needed food and supplies and brought it back to Gorazde on foot. The journey took several days and it was through Bosnian Serb Army territory. The columns consisting of several hundred, sometimes more than a thousand people took place mostly during night. The journey was filled with ambushes, landmines and freezing temperatures. Dozens of people were killed, injured or froze to death. Their only aim was to survive!

Bosniak children stand by remains of a  cluster bomb which was aimed at civilian objects in Gorazde.

Bosniak children stand by remains of a cluster bomb which was aimed at civilian objects in Gorazde.

Above: In order to survive the Bosnian Serb Army siege of Gorazde. Bosniak civilians had to make a daring journey to Grebak, a Bosnian Army outpost near Sarajevo, where they bought much needed food and supplies and brought it back to Gorazde on foot. The journey took several days and it was through Bosnian Serb Army territory. The columns consisting of several hundred, sometimes more than a thousand people took place mostly during night. The journey was filled with ambushes, landmines and freezing temperatures. Dozens of people were killed, injured or froze to death. Their only aim was to survive!

Bosniaks walking by night through Bosnian Serb Army territory towards Grebak to buy food and supplies.

Bosniaks walking by night through Bosnian Serb Army territory towards Grebak to buy food and supplies.

Above: In order to survive the Bosnian Serb Army siege of Gorazde. Bosniak civilians had to make a daring journey to Grebak, a Bosnian Army outpost near Sarajevo, where they bought much needed food and supplies and brought it back to Gorazde on foot. The journey took several days and it was through Bosnian Serb Army territory. The columns consisting of several hundred, sometimes more than a thousand people took place mostly during night. The journey was filled with ambushes, landmines and freezing temperatures. Dozens of people were killed, injured or froze to death. Their only aim was to survive!

This 13-year old girl carried 18kg of flour from Grebak to Gorazde. The journey took several days.

This 13-year old girl carried 18kg of flour from Grebak to Gorazde. The journey took several days.

Above: In order to survive the Bosnian Serb Army siege of Gorazde. Bosniak civilians had to make a daring journey to Grebak, a Bosnian Army outpost near Sarajevo, where they bought much needed food and supplies and brought it back to Gorazde on foot. The journey took several days and it was through Bosnian Serb Army territory. The columns consisting of several hundred, sometimes more than a thousand people took place mostly during night. The journey was filled with ambushes, landmines and freezing temperatures. Dozens of people were killed, injured or froze to death. Their only aim was to survive!

NEVER FORGET GORAZDE ’92-’95!

*Note: Author of the pictures is Heimo Aga. Pictures published in “Grihota je ubijanje tvica” by Mehmed Bradaric.

Congressman John Olver: Genocide in Srebrenica, Bihac, Zepa, Gorazde and Visegrad

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , on February 27, 2009 by visegrad92

REMEMBERING BOSNIAN GENOCIDE VICTIMS

HON. JOHN W. OLVER of Massachusetts
in the House of Representatives
Thursday, July 10, 2008

Mr. OLVER: Madam Speaker, as we commemorate the 13th anniversary of the Srebrenica genocide, perpetrated by nationalist Serb forces predominantly against Bosniaks, Bosnian Muslims, it is time to pay tribute to the tragic episodes not only in Srebrenica, but also in other less-known places in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

In the spring of 1992, a deliberate, centrally planned, and well-organized campaign of ethnic cleansing, mass murder, rape, torture, and intimidation terrorized the civilian population throughout Bosnia and Herzegovina and took the lives of 200,000 men, women, and children. Out of those, 8,000 perished in Srebrenica alone during a period of less than five days in July of 1995. In the end, 2 million Bosnians were
displaced from their homes, and the country’s rich cultural and religious heritage and monuments were deliberately destroyed. Shattered state institutions remain dysfunctional from the chaos and are struggling to cope with the significant loss of Bosnia’s population.

Today, survivors are battling post-traumatic stress disorder, orphans are still searching for their parents’ remains, and new mass graves continue to be discovered. The entire western Balkans region has still not fully recovered from the violent break-up of Yugoslavia.

The human tragedy that befell Bosnia and its citizens in places less known such as Bihac, Zepa, Gorazde, and Visegrad needs to be revisited and marked in its proper place in the memory of human experience and history. If the international community had possessed the will to protect the UN-designated “safe haven” of Srebrenica, it would have prevented the tragic outcome and thousands of innocent lives would have been with us here today. The world had said “never again” to
genocide, only to abandon the people of Bosnia to an unspeakable nightmare.

Today, let us remind ourselves of the consequences: Srebrenica was the worst single atrocity in Europe after World War II. We cannot pretend that Bosnia’s struggles are simply in the past, nor that the country has fully stabilized. The people of Bosnia are still trying to rebuild their country, to reform the institutions that were responsible for the genocide, and to move beyond ethno-territorial divisions into a functional democratic state.

As we mark July 11th, we must always remember the innocent people who lost their lives while the international community failed to act. We must acknowledge that justice will prevail only when General Ratko Mladic and Radovan Karadzic are apprehended, and we must never forget the horrors that befell the people of Bosnia and Herzegovina.