A MULTIMEDIA DOCUMENTARY PROJECT ON THE MILLENNIAL GENERATION: THE LAST GENERATION TO REMEMBER A TIME WITHOUT THE INTERNET.
There is a bridge in the city where I come from, a bridge so breathtaking one would never believe that within its many layers of hard white tenelia stone, there lie millions of eggshells. If someone had told me when I was a child that I, like that beautiful bridge, would become a victim of war, I never would have believed it possible. The void of the ancient bridge is now charged with desire to get to the other side, to find hope reminiscent of the time when each and every household brought the eggshells that helped glue and build the Stari Most bridge. This is just a small fragment of the ancient city-- the ‘Bridge Guardian’ city. It is a path of survival, and it is my hope that what I've written of will never happen again.
One Bullet, 9 am
It had been a year and a half already.
The Croatian Government had already taken over half of Mostar, and the lull in violence helped to highlight the absence of the missing.
Surprisingly, silence became the norm.
My parents lived in the center of this city, along the shifting lines of what was claimed as both Croatian and Bosnian. The demarcation line was visible from the balcony of our home.
as gold, jewelry, women, men, children and other
Unannounced visits from soldiers were standard, as gold, jewelry, women, men, children and other valuables, were often indiscriminately removed from homes.
One never knew when they would visit or what they would take.
I don’t remember his face anymore, but once, a soldier who worked as an apprentice for my grandfather stopped them from taking us to a camp.
It was a favor, made as a gesture of gratitude to my grandfather.
The apprentice said: “You are lucky, today.”
The lower part of my abdomen was burning. I looked at my legs and could not feel anything.
My brother ran towards me, a naïve child who thought he could save someone still under fire. My mother jumped on him and kept pleading for help.
The peace was again broken, as thoughts of the chemistry exam I was on my way to take in this ghosted city slowly faded from my mind.
I just kept shouting what seemed louder than the noise being made by the bullets.
I was fourteen years old when I was wounded by a bullet from a sniper.I saw my knees bleeding, and in my mind I knew it couldn’t be serious since the middle of the body and the head were the most vulnerable parts.
I saw two soldiers crawling towards me. One was a Serbian in the Croatian Army, the other was a Croatian in the Croatian Army.
They dragged me to the front of a neighboring building where we were safe from the continuous path of the bullets. One was holding me in his arms as he placed me in the back of a car with white seat covers.
My abdomen felt like burning flames.
I thought this was not possible.
The soldiers sat in the front. One was driving as the other kept turning his face towards me, cursing frightened obscenities, as the covers diffused dark red along both sides of my hips.
This red river would not stop and my skin color became pale, becoming one with the white of the covers.
I thought this was not possible.
I listened to my parents most of the time. I never had a boyfriend, always received good grades in school, didn’t try to smoke or drink alcohol, and always had good manners.
“Why would this happen? What did I do?”I asked myself.
I was fourteen years old when I was wounded by a bullet from a sniper.
Once in hospital, I only saw the ceiling and fragments of the doctors’ masked faces.
The bullet entered my left hip, grazed my right ovary, cut through my abdomen and exited through my right hip.
They said it went straight through, but the jagged tip created larger wounds in my stomach and pelvis, leaving shrapnel powder inside.
My father kept saying I was okay and that everything would be fine.
“Nothing happened,” he told me.
I realize now-- although I still don’t understand this fully-- that sometimes people reject reality in the hope that it's not true.
Even though I lived under a cloud of war for a year and a half—from the initial Serbian occupation of Mostar—I don’t think I understood what war meant until I witnessed the insides of a hospital.
The smells and cries knew no limits. I remember asking myself how could people do such things to one another?
They began to cut my clothes off with scissors. My undershirt was soaked red against my chest.
They opened my legs and began to cut the underwear, now completely unrecognizable in this new, wet color.
I had to trust that they would save this repulsive
proof: my mother had stitched gold in it, in case something happened to one of us and we were separated (as I was now) in the hope that it could help us to survive.
This gold would not save me anymore or buy my way out of the bullet that had already passed through me.
“Please, don’t throw it out, find my parents, it has gold in it.”
My first surgery lasted nine hours. The bullet cut open the small intestine in five places, the large one in four, the ovary was stitched, and the hips were left alone.
I thought that one surgery was all that was needed to save somebody.
I thought I was saved.
I wanted them to take the bricks off of my stomach.
I had visions that they assembled a tower. Its auburn serrated edges reached the sky, and though in my mind I knew this couldn’t be true, I still saw the bricks that formed this tower; I felt them as clearly as I could feel their weight.
The nurses kept telling me to think of happy memories. It was these thoughts that would make the bricks disappear.
I remember growing up as a very happy child.
I was raised in an old Ottoman house more than three hundred years old. Every step creaked, precisely identifying sounds based on one’s weight, speed, and exact location.
We had a dog, two cats, and an overgrown yard.
I was my parents’ first child.
My mom was a successful lawyer and my dad headed his own department in a local hospital.
I remember my grandfather making furniture in his shop. He would show me his drawings, and let me help as much as any five-year old child could.
I don’t know what happened, but all these memories could not erase my pain.
In a year and a half, the twelve years of life I knew before the war had been completely forgotten.
I could only remember the present. My memories could not be found to help make these new visions disappear.
The nurses knew I could not move myself to remember, as they seemed to have lost their memories as well.
They said: “Your daughter has a five percent chance to survive. ”
See following page for more info on the Bosnian War...
The Bosnian War followed the breakup of the Republic of Yugoslavia. Mainly a territorial conflict, the war, which lasted three years, from 1992-1995, was fought between various religious and ethnic factions. Some calculations place casualty figures in the hundreds of thousands. For more go here.
To be continued in a fortnight...