wasbecame palpable in the comingover the following days. Every time I went to town, I saw more checkpoints and more soldiers, especially so-called “volunteers”, who looked frightening in their black uniforms and their long knives hanging from their belts. They were dishevelled, and had long bushy beards. Instead of ordinary military caps, they wore some funny-looking black fur caps with large metal emblems. I had seen the same uniforms in my history books when I was in primary school. They had been worn by the Serb nationalists, called Chetniks, who had committed horrific crimes in the Second World War. They never kept prisoners alive, and they would usually cut the throats of their victims, or torture them in the most barbarous way. My father told me how he had escaped their knives by a hair’s breadth. It felt surreal, that after so many decades, they were back again. They had come to my hometown like vultures smelling death.
One day, the local government requested that all the weapons of the Territorial Defence be returned to the military. There were lively discussions in my suburb about what should be done. Some hotheads wanted to fight, even if they had just a few rounds in their old rifles, but in the end,
thesanity prevailed, and all the weapons which my neighbours heldpeople in my neighbourhood kept in their homes were dutifully returned to the barracks. But some villages did not want to recognize the new government, and they kept their weapons. That played straight into the hands of the Serb authorities. The military surrounded the villages and then started shelling them. I stood on my balcony and heard shells whistling right above my head, and I was so angry. Many villagers had been working abroad in Germany, Austria, Switzerland and other countries. They had sacrificed much to build their houses, and to make a better future for their families. Now everything was turning into rubble and dust. I thought of women and children, huddled in their cellars, and of the groves of oak and beech trees. The people were screaming, crying, and becoming hysterical while their ill-armed men awaited the assault of the soldiers who did not obey the Geneva Convention or any other international rules of engagement.
When after a few hours the shelling finally stopped, I knew that the beardy men dressed in black, whom I had seen in town a few days before, were now taking their large knives and getting to their bloody work. They killed the men, raped their wives, daughters and sisters, and plundered their homes before setting them on fire. The men who had been spared death were transported to prison camps, where they were imprisoned for months in the most appalling conditions. Village after village met the same grim fate. They were erased from the surface of Earth as if they had never existed. The river, which meandered gently through and by them, now carried corpses downstream, as a warning to everyone who opposed the new order.
I listened to
thelocal radio, which merely spread onlylies about the villagers. They were pictureddepicted as thedangerous terrorists and monsters who plotted against the Serb people. It was unbelievable that journalists could have behaved in such a disgraceful and dishonest manner, but their bosses must have been pleased. Their propaganda was hugely successful, and many Serbs started to believe that their Bosniak and Croat neighbours really wanted to kill them. The newsreader on the radio hadsaid that the Bosniak doctors gaveintentionally gave the wrong medicine to theSerb patients, and that they killed thenewborn Serb babies. And people believed what they had heardwere hearing because they had believedhad been programmed to trust/believe the radio and newspapers since the Communists came to power, after the end of the Second World War. For the majority, it was always easier to swallow all the lies than use their own mindrational judgement to search for the truth.
I felt it was only a matter of time before we suffered the same fate as the surrounding villages. The Serb authorities would find a reason to get rid of us soon. They
had beenwere in a hurry to implementexecute their plan of ethnic cleansing before the world reacted. Unfortunately, I did not need to wait long. At thedawn on 30 May, of 30th May,I jumped out of (my) bed; awakened by explosions and heavy gunfire from the town centre. Father switched the radio on, and we heard a hectoring voice telling us that the Bosniak Green Berets had attacked the town. But the newsreader assured us that they would be defeated by the brave Serb soldiers. He went on to call all the Serbs to arms and to the defence of their homeland and religion. He was ecstatic and spoke for hours. His text must have been prepared months in advance, and now the time had come to incite the Serbs to more hatred and violence.
TO BE CONTINUED
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